The Royal Mint commemorates the First World War

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July 5, 2018 – The latest 6-coin set issued by The Royal Mint is to highlight the part played by the charismatic British Intelligence Officer Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence who fought alongside guerrilla forces in the Middle East during the First World War. His portrait is now depicted on precious metal £5 coins in gold and silver alongside a moving selection of other people, themes and events that continue the organization’s telling of the First World War story, 100 years on. These themes include the widows left behind, women in the workforce, the Royal Air Force, tanks, and Ypres. The series has been created in association with Imperial War Museums (IWM), and references some of the heroes of the time, key battles, the part played by armed forces and support services, technological developments and the cultural impact of war. 

Nicola Howell, The Royal Mint’s Director of Consumer Business said: “The Royal Mint has a long association with the military, having made medals for military campaigns since 1815, so we are honored this year to be reflecting on the wartime work of T.E. Lawrence, and focusing on other poignant First World War themes from 1918, 100 years on.”

Great Britain / 5 GBP / .925 silver / 28.28 g / 38.61 mm / Design: David Cornell / Mintage: 1,918.

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

The design commemorating T. E. Lawrence was created by sculptor, David Cornell, who has completed a number of commissions for The Royal Mint. This time he 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 honored 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.”

Great Britain / 5 GBP / .925 silver / 28.28 g / 38.61 mm / Design: John Bergdahl / Mintage: 1,918.


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 center 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.”

Great Britain / 5 GBP / .925 silver / 28.28 g / 38.61 mm / Design: Edwina Ellis / Mintage: 1,918.


Graphic designer and printmaker 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 realize 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.”

Great Britain / 5 GBP / .925 silver / 28.28 g / 38.61 mm / Design: David Rowlands / Mintage: 1,918.

Royal Air Force

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 honor.”

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. 

Great Britain / 5 GBP / .925 silver / 28.28 g / 38.61 mm / Design: David Lawrence / Mintage: 1,918.

Women in the Workforce

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 emphasize 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.”

Great Britain / 5 GBP / .925 silver / 28.28 g / 38.61 mm / Design: David Lawrence / Mintage: 1,918.

Widows left Behind

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.”

For further information on this set you can visit the Royal Mint website.

Not only the UK continues to commemorate the First World War with special coins. Other mints, too, have released coins honoring brave soldiers and remembering important battles. The Canadian Royal Mint issued a two-dollar commemorative circulation coin last year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The Perth Mint presented a gold coin honoring the 4th Light Horse Bridgade who served in Sinai-Palestine in 1917.

Last year the Royal Mint release a six-coin series on WWI too, of course with different motifs.

And in 2016 a British coin commemorated the Battle of the Somme in 1916.