The First World War

In 2014 the engravers and designers at the Royal Mint created a series of art medals relating to the brief ‘The First World War’.

By The Royal Mint Museum

Royal Mint Museum

Who they Were (2014) by Claire AldridgeThe Royal Mint Museum

'The cemeteries of World War I left a lasting impression on me. Situated amongst the landscape around every corner you travel, gravestones breaking through the horizon.
When visiting Tynecot Cemetary you poignantly hear the names and ages of soldiers that are buried there'.

'Also letters and memorial plaques that were sent to families who had lost a loved one were on display. It was such an emotional place to visit it inspired my medal.

‘Who they Were’ is influenced by the books that are kept at each cemetery listing the soldier’s names that are laid to rest there. So many loved ones were lost, military and civilian'. Claire Aldridge

Mud, Mud (2014) by Matthew BonaccorsiThe Royal Mint Museum

'For me, the fascination of medals has always been the notion of two sides. There was life, then there was death. Each state exists in opposition to the other, and the only time that their existence connects is in that singular moment when life or death hold equal sway'.

'I can only imagine the mind of a soldier in the trenches – focused on life, and only life, until the singular moment when death arrives, and life steps away, leaving no marker of its existence. Once there is death, there is only death'.

'With this in mind, my medal is specifically one sided. The soldier fights for life. Does he survive, or is he killed? Quantum theory suggests that in a moment of pure balance, the very act of observing forces the outcome of two potential states'.

'You, the observer, write this future. Does the soldier die, or does he live? There is no ‘reverse’ of the medal to decide this for you. It is fate in a single moment'. Matthew Bonaccorsi

Barbed Wire (2014) by Emma NobleThe Royal Mint Museum

'My medal is based on the amount of death caused by the use of barbed wire in the war. Designed to keep out the enemy – it often resulted in our own men becoming entangled in it and dying a slow and painful death'.

'I found a poem based on this subject by Ernest Troller. It describes how the men in the trenches could hear the cries of someone in pain, hour after hour throughout the night, and how they wished he would just die to end his agony. The dead soldier (who was one of their own men) died through being caught in the wire'.

'On one side of the medal it shows a soldier trying to block out the cries from his trench'.

'On the other a body is draped hanging amongst tangled barbed wire – ‘like fish caught in the net.’ Emma Noble

A Lost Generation (2014) by Thomas T. DochertyThe Royal Mint Museum

'Upon visiting the War Cemeteries and Memorials of the Somme and Ypres, I was struck most by the sheer loss of life. It is estimated that there were 16 million deaths during World War I, with over 990,000 of these military and civilians being from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland'.

'When I began designing my medal I felt it was imperative that I focus on this generation of people who died as a result of the Great War. Through research I found that death notices were sent out to families and loved ones upon the death of a soldier. I decided that the obverse of my design would consist of one of these letters'.

'The reverse of the medal is a solemn, downward-looking Britannia, saddened and reflective on the loss of her children'. Thomas T. Docherty

Private Griffiths does his bit (2014) by Robert EvansThe Royal Mint Museum

'On 6th March 1915 Daniel Griffiths enthusiastically signed up for Lloyd George’s Welsh Army. On 8th July 1916 a short burst of machine gun fire ended his life'. Robert Evans

Guardian Angel (2014) by Kerry DaviesThe Royal Mint Museum

'Our research trip helped us understand how horrific the ‘Great War’ was. The troops endured daily suffering. Trudging through the mud on the waterlogged battlefield, continuous rain, head down stuck knee deep'.

'There they rest, 16 million guardian angels. Forever young'. Kerry Davies

Warfare (2014) by Lee R. JonesThe Royal Mint Museum

'My medal design focuses on the dichotomy of mankind’s need to create and destroy. I've stripped down the human head to depict it's mechanical nature which is both beautiful and morbid'.

'The Royal Artillery crest is a blunt representation to War itself and the weapons used'.

'The horror, sacrifice and sheer shame of War is represented by the nailed foot of a crucified man'. Lee R. Jones

Remember (2014) by Laura ClancyThe Royal Mint Museum

'The poppy is such a powerful symbol, synonymous with remembrance. I depicted it as a precious object saved in a box, like an exhibit in a museum'.

'The inscription ‘Remember’ is intended as a label for the box but also an instruction to the viewer'. Laura Clancy

Credits: Story

Thanks to:
Claire Aldridge
Matt Bonaccorsi
Emma Noble
Thomas Docherty
Robert Evans
Kerry Davies
Lee R. Jones
Laura Clancy

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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