Somerset-based artist Harry Brockway's name will be familiar to many numismatists. Trained as a sculptor at the Royal Academy in London, he has produced a number of designs for The Royal Mint over the years, including the 2019 Lunar Year of the Pig design. For the Remembrance Day 2019 coin, he said the biggest challenge was coming up with "a clear design that was at once decorative and pleasing to the eye but also respectful and had a certain amount of solemnity."
"My main inspiration was the poppy," he explained, referencing the single poppy that dominates his design.
"The story goes that the red poppy grew in abundance on the churned-up soil of the Western Front," he continued. "I cannot be the only one to notice that red poppies seem to be everywhere in our hedgerows and fields 100 years later. When the Royal British Legion decided to adopt the red poppy as the symbol of Remembrance, I imagine that they had in mind the delicacy of the flower, on its long, elegant stem, and I wanted to emphasise that feature in my design. I thought the best way to do that was to have a single poppy, so there was space to show the long, winding stem with the seemingly oversized flower head.
"From a purely design point of view I liked the shape of the poppy leaves. This feature is not often used when the poppy is illustrated, with more emphasis usually going to the red colour of the flower. I felt as though the characteristically digitate leaf lent itself to a clear, decorative design that would register well at the scale of a coin."
The Remembrance Day 2019 coin also incorporates the phrase ‘We Will Remember Them’, which comes from the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon's poem ‘For the Fallen’. The fourth stanza is often read on its own at remembrance ceremonies – to the extent that it is often referred to as the ‘Ode of Remembrance’. The phrase is so closely tied with commemorations that Brockway saw it as a natural fit to his design.
"It struck me as the best line of poetry to use; it is short and complete in itself," he explained. "Though written in 1914 it cannot be said to only apply to those killed during the First World War. As this coin is intended to commemorate 100 years of remembrance and not the First World War, it seemed very appropriate."
When asked how he hopes people will respond to his design, Harry Brockway returned to the themes of clarity and respectfulness.
"I am hoping that the coin will be welcomed as a simple and elegant expression of remembrance," he said. "I hope the design will be easy to decipher at first glance."