The Royal Mint’s five-year program of First World War commemorations continues with a new five-ounce coin – the second in a series of five-ounce coins marking the 100 year anniversary, each revealing its own unique story.
Available in Gold Proof and Silver Proof, the coin’s reverse design is by world-respected sculptor James Butler MBE RA, and its obverse bears the new definitive portrait of Her Majesty The Queen by Royal Mint Engraver Jody Clark. It is available in 999 fine gold or 999 fine silver, and is accompanied by a booklet created in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum, which explores the wartime events of 1915 and reveals the designer’s inspiration.
Shane Bissett, The Royal Mint’s Director of Commemorative Coin and Medals said: “James Butler’s atmospheric design captures the reality of war – the devastation and the desolation experienced by those who fought on the battlefields during the terrible conflicts of 1914 – 1918.”
James Butler’s haunting scene depicts a path of duckboards flanked by war-ravaged trees, surrounded by what at first appears to be muddy ground, but on closer inspection reveals the outline of indistinct figures – soldiers having laid down their lives, lost in the mud, with no hero’s grave.
The inspiration for this design derives from James’ years of research into the First World War for the 42nd Rainbow Division, for whom he created a memorial that was inaugurated in 2011.
Placed at the Croix Rouge Farm at Fère-en-Tardenois in France, the statue depicts an American soldier carrying a lifeless comrade, in memory of the troops engaged in combat at the site in July 1918, securing a victory for the Allied forces. Photographs provided the sculptor with the most vivid insight into scenes such as these, with images of stark landscapes and boggy lands, often scattered with human remains – the aftermath of conflict.
Born in London in 1931, James Butler MBE RA is one of the most widely respected figurative sculptors of today, and boasts a prolific portfolio. Whilst renowned for his towering bronze sculptures, the artist has also earned a notable reputation in the numismatic world, creating several prestigious pieces for The Royal Mint.
One such creation was the Great Seal of the Realm adopted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2001, who granted a sitting with James to perfect his design. The design is respected worldwide as a numismatic work of art, and an original plaster model of the seal still hangs in the boardroom at The Royal Mint. The seal’s reverse featured a powerful interpretation of the Royal Arms device that later adorned the reverse of the coins in The Queen’s Portrait Set, released in 2013.
James was honored to play a part in The Royal Mint’s commemoration of the First World War as he explains,
“The First World War remains such an emotive subject 100 years on. I am not a particularly religious man, but when I have researched the subject over the years, I have been quite taken over and moved by the powerful imagery that surrounds the war. It reveals the horrors and the bravery of so many people often indistinguishable and sadly uncelebrated.”