Lawrence of Arabia headlines the Royal Mint’s latest six-coin First World War commemorative set

The Royal Mint continues its extensive programme marking the centenary of the First World War. There’s been a large mix of formats and designs produced by this British mint over the last half-decade, but one of the best for us has always been the annual six-coin set produced in association with Imperial War Museums. Other than the overarching theme of World War One, the subjects have always been a fine mix of personalities, hardware and events, and this years is no esxception to that.

Headlining the 2018 set is a coin carrying a portrait of that enigmatic British hero nicknamed ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, but there are the usual hardware designs (RAF and tanks), events (Ypres) and personalities (women workers and widows). It’s another good selection in what has turned out to be an impressive retrospective of this terrible conflict. The tank and TE Lawrence coins are particularly good, and even though the Ypres and RAF coins would have benefitted from losing the over-large border, they remain good designs. The women at work and the widows coins deserve particular mention for highlighting facets of the conflict rarely given numismatic exposure.

Two versions of the set are available – one comprised of 28.28 gram sterling silver coins and the other of 39.94 gram 22kt gold coins. The mintage of the former reflects the year being commemorated – 2,018. The gold will only have 25 sets struck, but at £11,100 each, you can see why. The silver sells for a cheaper, although hardly cheap, £465.00. Both sets are well package and are available now.



Edwina Ellis has depicted one of the major innovations of the First World War, the tank. The edge inscription is ‘THE DEVIL IS COMING’, allegedly cried by a German soldier as the first tank entered the battlefield.

“In my designs I sought to capture the contrast between innovation and execution: the earliest Howitzers trundled into the war on huge wooden cart wheels, and it is sobering to realise that there was no communication at all in aeroplanes and the Navy used flag-hoists. These are staggering facts to discover in the internet age. It was humbling and made me appreciate the courage of those who served even more.

The rolling segmented tracks on a continuous band was innovative in the tank. I concentrated on these huge pads of metal. It must have been such a boon to develop a vehicle that could crush down barbed wire. I think the tank represents necessity as the mother of invention, more than any other contemporary advance in technology because unlike planes, submarines or dreadnoughts, they had no precedence in peacetime and grew out of that particular war.”

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.


T.E. LAWRENCE CB, DSO (1888-1935)

The design commemorating T. E. Lawrence was created by sculptor, David Cornell, who was inspired by a sense of adventure. The edge inscription reads ‘I WROTE MY WILL ACROSS THE SKY IN STARS’ and is taken from the introductory poem to Lawrence’s book Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

“I chose to show Lawrence in his Arabian headdress, flowing down to almost become part of the desert itself. The camels and riders in the foreground represent the Arab revolt in 1916 when Lawrence joins Sharif Faisal’s campaign against the Turks, tying down thousands of Turkish troops and preventing them from fighting against the regular allied troops.

I was honoured to be asked to design coins in memory of the bravery and dedication to duty of just a few outstanding people and to represent the many who gave their lives for our freedom. I have tried to capture just some of the outstanding feats of bravery shown in the most difficult of circumstances.”

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 twenty-first 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 T. E. Lawrence.



David Rowland’s design shows a Sopwith Camel. The edge inscription reads ‘TUMULT IN THE CLOUDS’, taken from the poem ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’ by W. B. Yeats.

“For me, the design represents the courage of people who had to get involved at close quarters. Their dogfights in the sky involved seeing the ‘whites of the eyes’ – not like modern combat, which tends to be carried out at a distance. It seemed a courageous thing to do, and shocking, as they saw the human result of their activity.

I have great respect for the men and women who make up the armed forces, and am proud to have been on operations, rather than having an armchair viewpoint. To have been invited to contribute to this commemoration has been a privilege and an honour.”

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 Sets honour the armed services and support services involved in the conflict.



David Lawrence’s design remembers the women who worked on the home front. The edge inscription ‘ON HER THEIR LIVES DEPEND’ is taken from a contemporary poster recruiting women to the factories.

“The image is of a woman making shells. I wanted to show a woman in what had traditionally been a man’s role and to show her surrounded by the trappings of that role, large, hard-edged machinery, potentially dangerous – many munitions workers were killed, for example.

To juxtapose the hard and soft, I focused on the face, as women necessarily wore very ‘blank’ clothes so in the face I could really emphasise femininity. I found it poignant that this woman may be making an armament designed to kill the husbands of her ‘enemy’ and in Germany there were probably women trying to do the same to her father, brother or husband, destroying people who could in peacetime be a friend.”

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.



John Bergdahl’s design remembers the conflict at Ypres. The coin carries the edge inscription ‘HERE WAS THE WORLD’S WORST WOUND’ taken from Siegfried Sassoon’s poem ‘On Passing the New Menin Gate’.

“My design shows a burial at the side of road – it was a common thing, hundreds died along the way to the battlefields, no ceremony, perhaps a few friends to lay you to rest where you fell. For me, it was symbolic of the huge numbers who died in those battles without a grave to call their own.

The ruined building in the background is the Cloth Hall. It had been the centre of the cloth trade in the whole of Belgium for centuries and was destroyed during the war, although it has since been rebuilt. It speaks of what the Western Front was all about, land passed back and fore in a futile struggle. It was a focal point, the very thing both sides had in their sights all the time. And they destroyed it.”

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 Sets explore the pivotal battles of the conflict.



This design, by David Lawrence, remembers the women left behind after the First World War.  The edge inscription reads ‘THE WATCHERS BY LONELY HEARTHS’ and is taken from the poem ‘The Cenotaph’ by Charlotte Mew.

“I thought a lot about the big battles of the war, and how so many would be receiving bad news on the same day. Nowadays we worry about our children crossing the street, but to know that someone we loved could be gone in a second, the level of anxiety at home must have been unbearable. You could lose them at any moment. I imagined that many soldiers would carry a letter in their breast pocket, probably their most valued possession, perhaps with a photograph of someone he loved and who loved him – a mother, a wife, a friend.

I have included a letter I saw at the Imperial War Museum, with the lovely words, ‘My own dear boy’. On top of the letter is her ‘dear boy’s’ victory medal, an ironic touch as he would never have received it in his own hand. I have imagined them both over some soil, as if this is all that is left. This is the price of victory. These things in a man’s pocket may be all that was left behind of him, all that love, all that striving, all that humanity. It is so very sad.”

COMPOSITION 0.925 silver 0.9167 gold
WEIGHT 28.28 grams 39.94 grams
DIMENSIONS 38.61 mm 38.61 mm
FINISH Proof Proof
MODIFICATIONS Edge inscription Edge inscription
MINTAGE 1,918 25
BOX / COA Yes / Yes (for set) Yes / Yes (for set)