Marking The First World War Centenary

4 August 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the day Britain, having declared war on Germany, entered the First World War.

It was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on 28 June 1914 that set in motion a series of events which would lead to the beginning of the First World War. Following the assassination, Austro-Hungary served an ultimatum to Serbia; deeming the response to be unsatisfactory, they then declared war on Serbia on 28 July 1914.

So began one of the deadliest conflicts in history. It’s estimated that more than 16 million men and women lost their lives, with a further 21 million injured. The war lasted for more than four years, from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918, and involved more than 100 countries.

This year, countries all over the world will commemorate the outbreak  of the First World War. Here in the UK, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is leading a programme of commemoration befitting of this significant milestone in world history, while the Imperial War Museums London recently reopened after a £40 million refurbishment with its new First World War Galleries.

The Royal Mint will also play a part in remembering the outbreak of the First World War, beginning a five year programme of commemoration. Here are some of the highlights from our 2014 First World War collection:

The Outbreak 2014 UK £2

The first coin in our five year series, the Outbreak 2014 UK £2 coin will be released into circulation later this year. This design, featuring the familiar image of Lord Kitchener, was selected to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War because it has become so strongly associated with the recruitment propaganda campaigns that followed the outbreak of war.

The Outbreak 2014 UK £20

The second in our £20 for £20 series, this Outbreak 2014 UK £20 designed by John Bergdahl features Britannia standing on British shores, watching over the first ships carrying our troops as they set sail across the Channel.

Outbreak 2014 UK £5 Silver Proof 6 Coin Set

This six coin set is the first in a new series of annual releases that will tell the story of the emotive journey from Outbreak to Armistice. The coins in the 2014 set depict the Howitzer gun, the Royal Navy and the British Expeditionary Force, explore the impact of propaganda, honour the first black officer in Britain’s armed forces, and recognise the hard work on the Home Front.

The 1914 Sovereign

The 1914 Sovereign marked the end of the golden age of The Sovereign as a circulating coin, as they were gradually withdrawn to fund the war effort and ultimately replaced by banknotes.

First World War Outbreak Silver Proof Kilo Coin

In his moving reverse design for the Silver Proof Kilo coin, Michael Sandle has depicted soldiers creeping from the trenches into no man’s land, ghostly figures in full capes and familiar ‘Brodie’ helmets shrouded in mist, evoking the combination of camaraderie and isolation described in the memoirs of the men in the battlefield.

Over the course of the next four years, The Royal Mint will announce further circulating and non-circulating coins which will describe the journey from outbreak to armistice. These coins will tell the stories of the armed forces, individuals, key battles and cultural and technological developments of that period, before finishing with a poignant reflection on the armistice and the ongoing legacy of the war.

  • Andy Poole

    Probably the most worthy subject for a commemorative collection I’ve known and the Kitchener £2 coin looks superb. Is there a commemorative 1914 replica sovereign too? Look forward to the designs over the next few years.