Mystery of cup: a piece of Australian military history?


Les de Bonde with the mystery  trophy.
Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au   d445525
Les de Bonde with the mystery trophy. Picture: Martin Kennealey www.communitypix.com.au d445525

A Tapping married couple has baffled naval historians with an antique military trophy that dates back to the 1800s.

Judith and Les de Bonde came into possession of the alluring cup late last year after it was discovered during the cleaning of an abandoned Department of Housing property.

One of the cleaners passed it on to the Ballajura RSL, of which Mr and Mrs de Bonde are members.

Mrs de Bonde explained the trophy very nearly ended up on the scrap heap when the workers discovered it during the clean-up.

“Their boss just told them to throw it out,” she said.

But one of the cleaners had a father in the RSL and handed it to him before it eventually found its way to the de Bondes.

Intrigued by the piece of history they had acquired, Mrs de Bonde contacted the Weekender in the hope of finding relatives of the seamen whose names are etched into it.

Four names appear on the cup dated in 1880.

While difficult to read, it appears the names are Lieut Bennett, Seaman Dawrey, Seaman Levers and Seaman Leevers.

Levers and Leevers could possibly be the same person with a spelling mistake.

The Wanneroo Times contacted numerous sources, including the Military History Society of WA, the Australian War Memorial, the Royal Australian Navy’s Sea Power Centre, the Naval Association of Australia and the Naval Historical Society of Australia.

None could identify the trophy or had seen anything similar.

Those who saw it were taken by its exotic design, with one history buff believing it could have an Indian connection, while another considered it more Egyptian.

Naval Historical Society of Australia senior researcher John Smith was confident it was associated with a shooting competition.

“As the same person won it twice, it must have been for a recurring event such as a monthly marksman’s shooting competition,” he said.

“We were also intrigued at the design of the cup, which seems very Egyptian.”

The Sea Power Centre’s Maree Whittaker-Jones, based at the Department of Defence in Canberra, made a similar deduction.

“Beautiful trophy… especially if it was cleaned up,” she said.

“1880s Colonial Navy, possibly Royal Navy.

“Trophy obviously an award, possibly for marksmanship or skill-at-arms due to accumulation of points.”

The identity of the military members named on the trophy could not be discovered.

The engraving on the trophy

Presented by Lieut Bennett

2nd Class

Won by

Seaman Dawrey, May 29, 1880 40pts

Seaman Levers, July 31, 1880, 40 pts

Seaman Leevers, August 21, 1880, 46pts