The First World War 1917 | The Royal Mint

The First
World War 1917

Pioneers of the skies

The full story of the role the Royal Flying Corps played in the First World War is rarely told. The reconnaissance work they carried out was vital to the war effort and deserves to be celebrated along with the heroism of the air ‘aces’. The £2 coin is the only official United Kingdom coin to commemorate the role of aviation in the First World War, and is endorsed by Imperial War Museums.

The Royal Flying Corps, the aviation branch of the British Army, was formed at a time when flight was new and extremely dangerous. The role of its young crews at the outbreak of the First World War was to be an ‘eye in the air’, reporting on the position and strength of enemy forces. As the war developed, these personnel fought to dominate the skies, accelerating advances in flight.

The Aviation 2017 UK £2 Coin


Shop the range

The Design and the Designers


The £2 Aviation coin is designed by the team at the design agency, tangerine. It was a particularly poignant design for the agency’s Senior Designer Daniel Flashman, as his grandfather was one of the early flyers who carried out reconnaissance missions over the trenches.

"It was important to tell the true story of the role played by the young pilots at that time. One of the essential roles of the newly formed Royal Flying Corps was reconnaissance, a fact often overlooked for the commonly-held notion of the romantic fighter ace.

Reconnaissance aircraft played a crucial role, being the eyes of the British Army, taking photographs for intelligence analysis.

In this design we see two airmen, a pilot and his observer of the Royal Flying Corps, in a Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8. They are performing a reconnaissance flight over an area of the Battle of Arras in April, 1917.

Significantly, this period of time was known as Bloody April, after the particularly heavy casualties suffered by the Royal Flying Corps at the hands of the German Luftstreitkräfte.

This design is a tribute to those brave young airmen who performed their roles successfully with great courage and skill, knowing that their life expectancy could be terrifyingly short."

Daniel Flashman, Senior Designer at tangerine

The Honourable Soldier

This is the fourth in a series of five-ounce coins that takes us from Outbreak to Armistice. This year’s edition looks back to the events of 1917, as the gruelling war continued to take its toll. Inspired by the poetry of Rudyard Kipling, artist Philip Jackson has created a design that honours the individual sacrifices of soldiers.

As the Great War became increasingly global but showed no sign of resolution, more and more men were sent into battle in an attempt to make a breakthrough. On the Western Front, heavy artillery pummelled the trenches and surrounding land. Battlefields were turned into mud baths with men trudging through sludge, carrying their equipment as well as wounded comrades. Peace and growth would eventually return to this landscape but at great cost to human life.

Silent contemplation

Internationally renowned sculptor Philip Jackson is recognised for his ability to convey the human condition through skilful use of body language. As Royal Sculptor to Her Majesty The Queen, his recent public works include the Mahatma Gandhi Statue in Parliament Square, the Korean War Monument in Westminster and the seven-figure Bomber Command Memorial statues in Green Park.

For this design, Philip Jackson has chosen to depict the soldier in his design in a ‘rest on arms reversed’ position as often seen on war memorials. After the First World War ended, it wasn’t just the graves of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice that were marked. All across the many countries that were engaged in the conflict, cenotaphs and monuments stand in memory of those who played their part. A figure that is often chosen for these memorials is that of a soldier in the ‘rest on arms reverse’ stance. This is the position taken by the Honour Guard at services of remembrance and for military funerals.

The design is also inspired by the poetry of Rudyard Kipling, particularly the poem 'A Tree Song'.

"I have read the poetry of the First World War in its many forms for some years and this, together with the war memorials that I have designed and made, helped me to create the intense sadness required for this subject.

The small but intensely-felt figure in my design is surrounded by a wreath of oak and laurel. Laurel leaves are traditionally presented to victors in the form of a wreath, while the oak symbolises England and ‘home’, which Rudyard Kipling wrote about so aptly in his poem ‘A Tree Song’.

‘Of all the trees that grow so fair, Old England to adorn, Greater are none beneath the Sun, Than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn.’ ‘A Tree Song’ by Rudyard Kipling

The figure is in silent contemplation of comrades lost and battles fought. He stands in a ‘rest on arms reversed’ position, sad but not downtrodden and ready to fight another battle. He is the symbol of our collective memory of the sacrifice and losses of war."

Philip Jackson CVO DL MA FRBS

The 100th Anniversary of the First World War 2017 UK Five-Ounce Coin


Shop the range

Honouring the British Armed Forces

back to top