Every year since 1919, on the second Sunday of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, the nation falls silent for two minutes to pay their respects to the brave men and women who have lost their lives in conflict around the world, and for those who continue to safeguard our freedom.
In this blog, we take a look at the history of UK coins issued in tribute.
History of Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day first began as ‘Armistice Day’ in Great Britain on the 11th November 1919, in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the peace agreement that ended the First World War.
After the conclusion of WWII in 1945, the British government wanted to honour those who fought in the World Wars and decided to replace Armistice Day with a new Sunday observance, which thereafter was known as Remembrance Sunday.
UK Remembrance Coins
In 2017, The Royal Mint released the first official UK Remembrance Day £5 coin, designed by Stephen Taylor to honour the fallen and ensure their stories live on through the generations.
Traditionally, Remembrance Day £5 coins were produced by The Royal Mint on behalf of Alderney and would therefore have been Alderney tender, however 2017 marked the first time this important anniversary was commemorated on a UK coin.
In 2018 The Royal Mint released their second Brilliant Uncirculated Remembrance £5 coin to honour the sacrifices of all those who have risked, and continue to risk, their lives to protect our freedom.
This £5 coin features a design by Laura Clancy, including vibrant red selected colour printing, symbolic of the resilient and determined poppies that grew amidst the destruction in the valley of the Somme.
Another UK £5 was released in 2019, featuring a design by artist Harry Brockway, incorporating the famous lines from ‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon.
The intricate design has selected colour-printing highlighting a red poppy – the recognised symbol of Remembrance to honour those who have fought.
The use of selected colour printing is normally reserved for Proof quality coins, which makes the Remembrance Day £5 coins particularly special.
The 2020 UK Remembrance £5 coin was issued to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ceremonial burial of the Unknown Warrior – the unidentifiable British soldier who was brought home from France in 1920 for ceremonial burial in honour of all those lost in the First World War.
Natasha Preece’s design of this coin pays dedication to the Unknown Warrior, with a silhouette of a sombre soldier with head hung low in reflection, set on a sea of poppies.
This very poignant £5 coin also features selected colour printing, highlighting the details of the poppies and accentuating the silhouette of the warrior.
The most recent Remembrance Day £5 coin was issued in 2021 and features ae design by Gary Breeze, which includes an inscription of the 4th stanza of Laurence Binyon’s famous poem, ‘For the Fallen’.
It is one of the most widely quoted poems from the First World War and has since been claimed as a tribute to all casualties of war. Breeze’s poignant design features a special incised design with marks to replicate the effect of a war memorial.
UK coins commemorating wartime
The Remembrance £5 coins are a poignant tribute to those who fought and lost their lives in the World Wars, and The Royal Mint have also issued a number of other wartime themed UK coins.
From 2014-2018, The Royal Mint issued a series of commemorative £2 coins to commemorate the wartime journey of the First World War from outbreak to armistice.
The first coin in the series was the 2014 Kitchener £2 which featured John Bergdahl’s depiction of Lord Kitchener’s famous call to arms, alongside the words ‘YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU’.
Kitchener was a British military leader and Secretary of State for War in the first years of the First World War. Unlike many others in the Government and the military, Kitchener foresaw a war lasting for years and he planned accordingly. He rapidly enlisted and trained huge numbers of volunteers for a succession of entirely new ‘Kitchener armies’. It was this enlistment campaign that coined the now famous phrase that appears on the reverse of this £2 coin.
5,720,000 of these coins entered circulation in 2014.
The second £2 coin in the Royal Mint’s five year programme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War pays tribute to the Royal Navy.
Renowned military artist David Rowlands designed the reverse of this coin, and it features a battleship approaching on the open sea, paying homage to the British fleet that defended coastal waters against the Germans. At the time, The Royal Navy was by far the most powerful navy in the world. The British economic blockade of Germany, afforded by the Royal Navy’s command of the sea, inflicted great damage on the war effort of Germany.
650,000 of these coins entered circulation in 2015, making it the third rarest £2 coin currently in circulation.
In 2016, the third issue of the First World War Centenary series commemorated the role of the Army.
Tim Sharp’s design marks a poignant moment in military history, honouring the ‘Pals Battalions’. As part of Lord Kitchener’s New Armies, it was realized that many more men would enlist if they could serve alongside their friends, relatives and workmates. This encouraged the coining of the term ‘Pals battalions.’ On 21 August 1914, the first Pals battalion was raised and in a matter of days, 1,600 men had joined what became the 10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.
9,550,000 of these coins entered circulation in 2016.
The fourth £2 coin in The Royal Mint Centenary of the First World War series paid tribute to the aviators of the First World War.
As technology developed, air combat became an innovative form of warfare. Fighter pilots were portrayed as noble gentleman duelists in the skies above the horror of the trenches. The edge lettering of this coin pays tribute to the first aviators to sacrifice their lives in ‘The War in the Air’ and the reverse design by Dan Flashman shows an aircraft from birds-eye view with land in the background.
This coin has not entered circulation.
In 2018, The Royal Mint issued their final commemorative £2 coin in their Centenary of the First World War series. This coin commemorated the 100th anniversary of Armistice.
Armistice marked the signing of agreements to end of the First World War and the victory of the allies on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918. The reverse of the coin was designed by Stephen Raw and features the words ‘The truth untold, the pity of war’ from the Wilfred Owen poem ‘Strange Meeting’.
This coin has not entered circulation.
Today, these coins act as a reminder of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and fought for our freedom and encourage the younger generations to learn about our country’s history.