Royal Mint issues £20 coin in symbol of sadness honouring First World War troops

By Ben Miller | 04 August 2014

The second £20 coin ever created in the UK has been issued for the World War I centenary commemorations

A photo of a hand holding up a coin in front of a cliff
The Royal Mint describes its new £20 coin as a "timeless reminder" of World War I© Courtesy Royal Mint
Sculptor John Bergahl’s depiction of Britannia, watching over the first troops as they leave for France at the start of the war, is only the second £20 coin to be struck in the UK – the first, released in 2013 and also limited to 250,000 issues, has completely sold out.

“I decided to use the figure of Britannia in order to represent all of the allies who took part, most of whom were British or drawn from the British Empire,” says the artist, who has been inspired by the art deco style prevalent a century ago, adding his contemporary take to it.

The current portrait of The Queen, created by Ian Rank-Broadley, is on the obverse of the coin
“Britannia embodied the true spirit of Britain at the outbreak of war, as troops departed for France.

“She symbolised what they fought for – including everyone at home, wives, children, families.

“But more than that, the design is about Britannia’s belief in them – she watches over them as they leave Britain’s shore, placing her trust in them rather than them trusting in her.

“I combined inspiration from two sources: the South African medal for war services and the First World War memorial plaque awarded to those who died.

“In 1914 I think there was a sense of enthusiasm, of patriotism, of youthful exuberance about joining up that only with hindsight can we look back upon with sadness.”

Bergdahl’s previous commissions for The Royal Mint have included the Mary Rose £2, the 500th Anniversary of the Accession of Henry VIII £5 and the coins struck for the christening of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.

The public are being encouraged to take part in tonight’s Lights Out event, lighting a candle for an hour from 10pm to commemorate the moment the country entered the First World War.

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A photo of a large silver coin with an image of the sea commemorating the first world war
© Courtesy Royal Mint
A photo of a large silver coin with an image of the sea commemorating the first world war
© Courtesy Royal Mint
A photo of a large silver coin with an image of the sea commemorating the first world war
© Courtesy Royal Mint
More from Culture24's World War I centenary coverage:

Europeana project aims to save more forgotten First World War family histories

Scottish National Portrait Gallery reveals the painting that inspired Wilfred Owen

Curator's Choice: Legendary goalkeeper Robert 'Pom Pom' Whiting's World War I story
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