The fourth of the Royal Mints commemorative six-coin sets marking the First World War launches
The Royal Mint has an extensive programme of coins marking the centenary of what was meant to be the war to end all wars, the First World War. In amongst a plethora of intriguing designs there sits an annual six-coin set produced in association with Imperial War Museums. Each of the five sets features subjects from the war as it was a century ago.
This latest set takes a wide range of subjects yet again; not choosing to concentrate on a single aspect of the war, but rather taking a broader look. In the mix this time are individual bravery, equipment, medical services and many more. Apart from a pair by a single artist, each coin is designed by a different designer and as a whole the six coins are loosely tied together. Some have borders with inscriptions, some don’t. Some are stylised and some depict their subject matter realistically. The end result is a great mix that is tied together by what they depict, rather than how.
There will be 1,917 of the six-coin set produced, each selling for £465.00. With each coin weighing a standard ounce of sterling silver that seems a little on the pricey side, although it is in line with other Royal Mint issues of this size. A gold version will also be available, although there will be only 25 of those and it will sell for a hefty £11,000. These are struck in 0.9167 gold, more commonly known as 22-karat. Both sets come in a good quality display box and are available to buy now.
NOEL GODFREY CHAVASSE VC AND BAR, MC
Noel Godfrey Chavasse was born on 9 November 1884, and after studying at Oxford, read medicine at Liverpool University, qualifying as a doctor.
Commissioned with the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1913, Lieutenant Chavasse quickly proved himself to be an officer who was concerned for the welfare of his men, introducing a number of innovations in medical treatment on the battlefield and showing a sympathetic attitude to cases of shell shock and self-inflicted wounds. In June 1915 Chavasse was awarded the Military Cross and promoted to captain in August that year.
During the Battle of the Somme in August 1916, Chavasse tended the wounded under heavy fire, saving at least 20 lives, for which he was subsequently awarded the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. On 2 August 1917, during the Third Battle of Ypres, popularly known as Passchendaele, Chavasse was gravely wounded by shellfire but continued to care for other casualties. He was taken to a ‘Casualty Clearing Station’ where he died on 4 August, aged 32. For his bravery, Captain Chavasse was posthumously awarded a Bar to his Victoria Cross, the only man to receive this double honour during the First World War.
David Cornell has depicted Noel Chavasse in a portrait-style design, with a scene at the forefront showing him tending a wounded soldier. The coin’s edge lettering reads ‘DUTY CALLED AND CALLED ME TO OBEY’ – Noel’s own words, taken from a letter he dictated to his fiancée following his fatal injuries.
“My research showed up some interesting facts about this exceptional man. He would cross the battlefields under heavy gun fire to tend the wounded, even within 25 yards of the enemy, and drag them back to the trenches, burying the dead where he could. After reading this about Noel, and selecting the best photographic reference I could find, my portrayal, I hope, shows the character of the man. I wanted to keep it simple but emotive. Noel wears his hat and battalion badge, looking into the distance as if he could imagine the scene before him.”
Sculptor David Cornell has completed a number of commissions for The Royal Mint including the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Coin and the coin struck to celebrate the 21st birthday of His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge. David’s designs for this series of First World War Six-Coin Sets explore the human element of the conflict and the bravery of individuals like Noel Chavasse.
The First World War presented new challenges for the medical services of all the nations engaged in the combat and proved to be a catalyst for great progress in the treatment of patients. Success in the war depended on soldiers being kept fighting fit and an emphasis was put on providing the best medical services.
Medical support work and nursing were some of the most significant ways in which women could directly contribute to the war effort and they volunteered in their thousands. Many wartime developments in medical treatment went on to benefit public healthcare once the war was over, including blood banks, splints, and plastic surgery.
The design, created by David Rowlands, shows a scene in the trenches with wounded soldiers being treated among the chaos of battle. The edge lettering ‘IN ARDUIS FIDELIS’ translates to ‘Faithful in Adversity’ and is taken from the badge of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
“As always, my interest is in the human element of conflict. The perspective of the design is from the soldiers’ eye level. While we might imagine that soldiers on the front line saw the enemy, most rarely did, as they were eight feet down in the trenches. My design shows a Red Cross flag flying in the background, an international symbol to dissuade the enemy from attacking while the wounded were treated. I wanted to convey the human sacrifice and selfless dedication of the medical services, tending the wounded among the increasingly destructive shellfire and bombing.”
David Rowlands is an experienced military artist, whose realistic oil paintings record the dramatic events of war. David has been commissioned to record the activities of many regiments in their roles during the past 30 years and is still engaged in commemorative commissions. His work has taken him to Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus, Oman, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His designs for the First World War Six-Coin Set series explore the services that were involved in the conflict.
ART AND WAR
The idea of the war artist originated during the First World War, as the public tried to understand the true nature of new industrialised warfare. The work of artists who had witnessed the events became increasingly important. Young artists such as Paul Nash and C. R. W. Nevinson painted their experiences on their return from action in France; their modern approach was a refreshing change from traditional, staged battle paintings.
The ‘art and war’ coin in this set takes inspiration from artist John Singer Sargent’s Gassed, imagining the artist’s point of view as he sketched soldiers temporarily blinded by mustard gas. Sargent’s painting is probably the most well known in IWM’s art collection.
David Lawrence has taken inspiration from a famous wartime painting and combined it with an original perspective, with a hand in the foreground working on a sketch. The coin’s edge lettering, ‘WAR AS IT IS’, is a quote from the first official war artist, Muirhead Bone.
“The First World War left a vast archive of haunting visual imagery. The mass availability of the pocket camera and the relatively new medium of moving film provided a graphic record of the conflict but the war was also interpreted through the eyes of artists.
I came across some field studies made by John Singer Sargent for his epic painting Gassed. I was, of course, familiar with this iconic painting. On 21 August 1918 Sargent witnessed a ‘harrowing sight’ – the aftermath of a mustard gas attack on troops during the second Battle of Arras. The availability of the field studies gave me a direct way to show both the role of the artist – to literally record and interpret – and a depiction of the artist ‘in action’ when drawing the event.”
Sculptor, designer, artist and illustrator David Lawrence has created a broad portfolio of work in varied media since graduating with a degree in Scientific Illustration. David’s commissions for The Royal Mint include a £5 coin marking the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo. His designs for the First World War Six-Coin Sets explore the cultural impact of the conflict.
THE SOPWITH CAMEL
This British aircraft was a compact, single-seat biplane fighter biplane introduced in 1917. It was the first British fighter designed to carry two side-by-side, forward-firing machine guns, which were positioned in front of the pilot. The hump-shape over the guns gave the Camel its name.
Its combination of firepower and manoeuvrability made the Camel a formidable opponent on the Western Front, helping the Allies to win back control of the skies, photograph enemy positions and control their artillery from the air. The Camel’s heyday lasted about a year, when many Camel pilots became ‘aces’ with five or more aerial victories.
Although designed as a day fighter, it was also adapted for night fighting, ground attack and ship borne operations. Its significant contribution to the war secured the Sopwith Camel lasting fame and it remains the most well-known aircraft of the First World War.
Edwina Ellis has captured the innovative structure of the Sopwith Camel in her design. The edge lettering ‘IRRITATUS LACESSIT CRABRO’ translates to ‘The hornet attacks when roused’. This motto appears on the badge of the 213 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service.
“At the beginning of their technological development, planes had a touching naivety to a twenty-first century gaze. I often felt frivolous examining objects of such importance to the survival of their users.
I sought the help of several experts to ensure my design was accurate. I found that the hole in the top of the fuselage was for pilots to fire the Vickers guns through. The early planes were so vulnerable and slight, I could understand why early pilots’ slang for their machines was a ‘kite’ – even featuring elastic bands and canvas-covered, bicycle style wheels. This was why early existent plane wheels are often wobbly-looking on their axles, but as my coin version depicted the plane as a newly-invented, unscathed Sopwith, I opted to straighten the wheels.”
Edwina Ellis is a graphic designer and printmaker. She has worked with The Royal Mint on a number of commissions, including a series of designs featuring bridges of the UK for the £1 coin, launched in 2004. Edwina’s designs for the First World War Six-Coin Sets explore the technology that was developed during the First World War.
Although the Hague Convention of 1899 had banned ‘the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases’, both the French and German Armies employed tear gas and other non-lethal chemicals during 1914 and 1915.
The unpredictable nature of gas warfare was highlighted on 25 September 1915 at the Battle of Loos, when clouds of chlorine gas discharged from cylinders by the British Army blew back over their own trenches. As a result, gas shells for the artillery were developed to provide a far more reliable and accurate method of delivery than cylinders. As the war progressed increasingly lethal gases were developed, including mustard gas, first used by the Germans at Ypres in July 1917.
Gas warfare had a far greater psychological impact than a military one. It accounted for only 3% of all casualties on the battlefield but many more men suffered long-term illness, debility and premature death after the war had ended.
This coin design, by Edwina Ellis, captures the horror of gas warfare. The coin’s edge lettering, ‘GUTTERING CHOKING DROWNING’, is taken from ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, the famous poem by Wilfred Owen.
“Gas masks and their purpose reveal so much of the First World War story and its tragedy but it was a real challenge to capture the menace of gas on a coin’s small surface. The mask in my design is based on one I saw at the Chalk Valley History Festival, where an anonymous ex-soldier associated with Help for Heroes gave me valuable assistance. He was dressed in First World War soldier’s uniform and helped by putting on his gas mask and posing for me to take photographs.
This model of mask had a separate charcoal filter-bag joined at the mouth by a hose, this and the mica-covered eyepieces made breathing and visibility a bit easier for the soldiers; while adding a graphic spookiness. The design shows an ordered, fanned pattern of gas particles doing their horrible damage.”
This year’s First World War Six-Coin Set includes two of Edwina’s designs (the first features the Sopwith Camel). Edwina has also designed a coin depicting a Howitzer, which featured in the introductory First World War Six-Coin Set released in 2014 and another showing a submarine for the 2015 set.
THE BATTLE OF ARRAS
The Battle of Arras opened along a fourteen-mile front on 9 April 1917 and was fought in support of a large-scale French offensive. Backed by 2,817 guns and supported by 70 tanks, the British had a greater concentration of firepower than during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Many tactical lessons learnt during the Somme were applied at Arras. These included creeping barrages, where a curtain of shells advanced just in front of the attacking infantry, and barrages by massed machine guns, laying down long-range plunging fire onto German trenches.
Despite new infantry and artillery tactics, the British achieved little after an impressive advance during the opening two days, and it was in mid-May that the battle eventually drew to a close.
John Bergdahl designed this coin to depict the nature of the Battle of Arras. The coin’s edge lettering, ‘THE MONSTROUS ANGER OF THE GUNS’, is taken from Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’.
“As for all my First World War designs, much of my research was immersing myself in contemporary photographs. This was one of the first battles fought on such wide open planes with long range artillery. Heavy weaponry is at the forefront of my design, with men and two planes in the distance giving a sense of perspective. When I began working on this series I remember reading the inscription on the cenotaph at Whitehall, ‘The glorious dead’. Looking back at these devastating battles you can’t help but feel that there is nothing glorious about war.”
John Bergdahl has created many coin designs for The Royal Mint, marking both royal and historical events and anniversaries. His recent work includes the collection of three £2 coins that celebrated the life and works of William Shakespeare in 2016. His designs for the First World War Six-Coin Set series explore the pivotal battles of the conflict.
|NAME||2017 FIRST WORLD WAR SILVER||2017 FIRST WORLD WAR GOLD|
|DENOMINATION||£5 UKP||£5 UKP|
|COMPOSITION||0.925 silver||0.9167 gold|
|WEIGHT||28.28 grams||39.94 grams|
|DIAMETER||38.61 mm||38.61 mm|
|MODIFICATIONS||Historical strike||Historical strike|
|BOX / COA||Yes / Yes||Yes / Yes|
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