The Royal Mint honours Edith Cavell
27 May 2015
As the world continues to remember the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, The Royal Mint has chosen to honour one of the most prominent female casualties of the First World War - Nurse Edith Cavell - on a new coin.
To mark the release Edith’s niece Dr Emma Cavell, and her ten month old daughter also called Edith, visited The Royal Mint to strike one of the special edition coins in her honour.
Available to order from 27th May, it is one of a set of six £5 coins forming part of The Royal Mint’s five-year programme of commemoration of the First World War, telling the story of the emotive journey from outbreak to armistice.
The coin depicts a scene with the ever-vigilant Edith tending to a wounded soldier with a portrait-style design of the selfless nurse in her uniform as the background. Inspired by the words of Laurence Binyon’s moving poem, Edith Cavell, the coin’s inscription reads ‘SHE FACED THEM GENTLE AND BOLD’.
Dr Emma Cavell said, “My great, great grandfather and Edith’s father were brothers. The family has been in Australia since at least Nurse Cavell’s time but, growing up, we have always known about Edith Cavell. My grandfather used to talk about her all the time and had memories of a postcard from Edith to my great grandfather in Australia. It is fantastic to know that her bravery and courage is being recognised in this way, and to have the opportunity to strike and accept one of these special coins on behalf of my family. I look forward to telling my daughter about her famous namesake one day, and am sure that she will treasure this coin which honours her relative.”
The design has been created by sculptor David Cornell who has undertaken a number of commissions for The Royal Mint, including a coin honouring British Army officer Walter Tull which featured in the introductory First World War six-coin set which was released in 2014. He also created the design for a coin to honour the flying ace, Albert Ball VC, which also features in the new six-coin set alongside coins paying tribute to the nerve of the Merchant Navy, the underwater menace of the submarine, and the devoted animals thrust into the horrors of war.
David said, “This is a brave, devoted woman, who chose to sacrifice herself to help the injured and the dying. My design shows Edith caring for an injured soldier but also looking over her shoulder to make sure the coast is clear to help the wounded soldier escape. I captured a little sadness in her expression, as I am sure seeing so many young men suffering must have been an awful experience for her.”
Five leading artists, including David Cornell, have been selected by The Royal Mint Advisory Committee to design coins for The Royal Mint’s First World War commemorative collection.
Each year until 2018, a set of six coins will be released that cover a range of themes; key battles, the armed forces and support services, technological developments of the period, the cultural impact of war and stories of some of the heroes of the time, including Edith Cavell. The final set will be a poignant reflection on armistice and the on-going legacy of the war.
Shane Bissett, The Royal Mint’s Director of Commemorative Coin and Medals said: “For over 1,000 years The Royal Mint has been producing coins that have recorded the passing of history, documenting changes in monarchs, customs and national events. We have a long association with military honours, having made medals for military campaigns since 1815 including those for the Great War, and believe that heroes should be acknowledged for their bravery. Edith Cavell was devoted to her faith, and her humanitarian work was based on her belief that she should help any man without distinction, and we wanted to recognise the important part that she played in the conflict and the ultimate sacrifice she made for others.”
The six-coin sets are presented with detailed information on the theme, the design and the artist, helping to tell the story behind the coins. They are struck to Royal Mint Proof standard and available in a choice of 925 sterling silver, limited to 1915 sets, or 22 carat gold crowns strictly limited to just 25 sets. They follow the issue in 2014 of the first six coin set of special-edition £5 coins that told the story of the outbreak of war.