Poland commemorates a hundred years of its airforce with a new silver coin issue

Quite a few of the Eastern European nations have been releasing commemorative military coins of late, no doubt spurred on by the anniversaries of the First and Second World War having significant dates last year. We were particularly enamoured with this new release from the National Bank of Poland (Narodowy Bank Polski), which seeks to mark the centenary of Polish military aviation.

Fortunately, Polish coins aren’t encumbered with the requirement to carry the effigy of the reigning monarch, so both faces of the coin are available for the subject itself. The NBP has taken the opportunity to dedicate one face of the coin to the beginnings of their airforce back in 1918, and the other showcases what it is today.

The reverse face features a top-down view of a Fokker (E.V) D-VIII, a late war German parasol monoplane that earned the distinction of getting the last aerial kill of the First World War. Designed by Reinhold Platz, this aircraft came from the same company that produced that icon of WWI – the Fokker Triplane fighter. After the war ended, 17 of these aircraft were captured by the fledgling Polish Air Force, although only 7 of them were airworthy. Nevertheless, flown by Lieutenant Stefan Stec, one of these shot down a Ukrainian Nieuport 11 Bébé fighter on 29 April 1919 during the Polish-Soviet War that went on until 1920 – the first ever by the Polish Air Force

The obverse face depicts an F-16. This US-designed jet fighter has been hugely popular amongst many Western Allies because of its superb ability and relatively low cost. Replacing the Sukhoi and MiG fighters used during the Cold War, they will themselves be replaced soon, most likely by the Lockheed Martin F-35. That isn’t a done deal however, and the mint rightly chose this very cool aircraft over the dumpy F-35 to adorn the coin.

This is a very attractive issue for the military coin collector and should have wide appeal outside the borders of Poland as well. Designed by Robert Kotowicz and struck in half an ounce of sterling 925 silver, it comes boxed with a Certificate of Authenticity, and a mintage of 15,000 units.

MINTS DESCRIPTION

When World War I ended in 1918, the independent Polish state was re-emerging following 123 years of partitions. This development was accompanied by the formation of national armed forces and military aviation. The defeat of the Austrian and German empires on the fronts of the Great War weakened their control over the Polish territory. This enabled the Poles to take over a number of major enemy airfields, where they captured a certain number of aircraft. Moreover, the emerging air force included airmen who had received pilot and observer training in the Austrian and German air forces.

Since its very beginning, the Polish air force joined in the fight to keep the newly regained independence. It is assumed that the first combat flight was already carried out on 5 November 1918 by a crew of pilot F/O Stefan Bastyr and air observer F/O Janusz de Beaurain, who conducted a successful bombing of Ukrainian troops during the Lvov fighting. After the first flight, more flights followed.

In these pioneering days, many Polish airmen passed into history. One of them was F/O Stefan Stec, who is regarded as the designer of the whiteand-red chequerboard sign. On 1 December 1918, it was approved as the national marking of all Polish military aircraft by order no. 38 of the chief of the General Staff of the Polish Army.

The Polish air force defended the freshly regained independence devotedly and effectively during the Polish-Ukrainian war (1918−1919) and the Polish-Bolshevik war (1919−1921). In the interwar period, it made admirable efforts to develop military aviation. Nevertheless, in September 1939 it had to yield to the air superiority of the German Luftwaffe. Despite their defeat, the Polish airmen had written some glorious chapters in the history of World War II. They had fought over France and Great Britain, in the Battle of the Atlantic, over Africa and in the bombing of Germany, until the end of the war in May 1945. After the war, the Polish air force fighting in the West was disbanded in 1946, while that operating in the East on the Soviet side became the source of the Air Force of the Polish People’s Republic forming part of the air forces of the member states of the Warsaw Pact (1955−1991). After the fall of the communist regime and the democratic transformations in the years 1989−1991, the air force of the Republic of Poland, a NATO member since 1999, is now in the process of modernisation. It is being equipped with state-of-the-art aircraft.

On 12 December 2019, Narodowy Bank Polski is putting into circulation a silver coin “100th Anniversary of Polish Military Aviation”, with a face value of 10 złoty. The reverse of the coin refers to the origins of Polish military aviation. It features the silhouette of the fighter plane Fokker E.V (D.VIII) that Polish pilots flew in the fighting against the Ukrainians for Lvov and on the Southern Front in 1918. On its wings the plane bears large white-and-red chequerboards – the national marking of the Polish military aviation adopted in 1918. Above it there is a military pilot’s badge (called“gapa”), designed by Prof. Władysław Gruberski and introduced in 1919, representing an eagle in flight carrying a laurel wreath in its beak. The whole image is placed against the background of a grid of fields, characteristic of Polish landscape, as seen from above. The obverse of the coin, referring to the contemporary Polish military aviation, features the silhouettes of two F-16 planes in flight.

Wojciech Krajewski, Substantive Advisor, Polish Army Museum

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION 10 Zloty (Poland)
COMPOSITION 0.925 silver
WEIGHT 14.14 grams
DIMENSIONS 32.0 mm
FINISH Proof
MODIFICATIONS None
MINTAGE 15,000
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes
NARODOWY PANK POLSKI