Remembering D-Day: The 70th Anniversary

The 70th anniversary of D-Day, otherwise known as the Normandy Landings, is marked on 6 June this year. D-Day was a significant Second World War operation that saw the landing of Allied troops in Normandy and the beginning of the Allied invasion of occupied Europe – code-named ‘Operation Overlord’.

An international effort, the D-Day Allied invasion force of more than 150,000 consisted primarily of American, British and Canadian troops but also included Australian, Belgian, Czech, Dutch, French, Greek, New Zealand, Norwegian, Rhodesian and Polish naval, air and ground support. Taking more than 7,000 ships and smaller vessels and 14,000 aircraft, it was the largest naval, air and land operation in history. Given the scale of D-Day, detailed planning was required – with the first operational plans submitted almost a year before, in July 1943.

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Whilst ‘D-Day’ is commonly recognised worldwide as the Normandy landings, there were actually many ‘D-Days’ throughout this war and others. ‘D-Day’ is in fact a general term for the start date of any military operation. It is the international scale and significance of the Normandy landings that has cemented its association with the term.

To mark the 70th anniversary of one of the pivotal moments of the Second World War, The Royal Mint has struck a specially-commissioned £5 Alderney crown. An official reminder of an important anniversary, the coin is also a tribute to those who bravely fought on the beaches of Normandy all those years ago.

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The coin was designed by Royal Mint engraver Lee Jones, who wanted to bring a personal angle to the story and show a soldier’s point of view. The design shows two British soldiers, having left their landing craft, wading through shallow water heading for the fortified beaches ahead.

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Passionate about the authenticity of the design, Lee made sure every detail was as accurate as possible; he even extensively researched details such as the insignia on the right shoulder of the solider in the foreground. With film and images of the fine details limited, Lee even modelled a similar military outfit whilst holding a broom to ensure realism of the anatomy and uniform.

The design also bears the code names of the landing beaches along with ‘Pointe du Hoc’, the operation prior to the main attack that destroyed German cannon placements. It’s not the design alone that The Royal Mint has used to commemorate the anniversary, both the date and the anniversary are reflected in the mintage, with only 1,944 silver coins and 70 gold coins to be struck.

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The Royal Mint has previously commemorated the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994, with the issue of a commemorative and circulating 50 pence coin. Although it was issued as a circulating coin, you will not find this 50 pence in your change today as it was one of the larger 50 pence coins that were demonetised in 1998.

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What is likely to be a ‘must-visit’ of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day commemorations is The Imperial War Museums’ HMS Belfast ‘Making Medals’ activity. It is welcoming visitors on board to learn about the role it played on that important day – with it having spent five weeks supporting the D-Day landings and reportedly firing one of the first shots on D-Day… You can even make your own medal on your visit!

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