WWI The Great War 1914-18 Coin Display Set
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The European 'war to end all wars' of 1914 to 1918, on the western front saw the mass slaughter of both allied and German forces.
During the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on July 1st 1916, sixty thousand British soldiers were killed or injured. Modern research indicates thirty thousand in the first hour.
The display contains eight coins, namely: halfcrown, florin, shilling, sixpence, threepence (all struck in 92% silver), penny, halfpenny, farthing plus the 2004 Canada Great War commemorative quarter dollar with a coloured remembrance red poppy (the world's first coloured coin issued for general circulation).
All of the British coins are dated between 1914-18 and are in Fine (or better) condition with the exception of the Canadian red poppy coin which is in uncirculated Mint condition as issued.
The item is housed in a display protection case. The set can be removed from the case for framing if so desired.
The display shows the inscription "At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them".
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Summary of World War One
On 28 June, in Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip (a Slav nationalist) assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the killing and because Europe was linked by a series of diplomatic alliances - Austria-Hungary/Germany/Italy (Central Powers) and Britain/France/Russia (Triple Entente/Allied forces) - the affair escalated into full-scale war.
On 4 August, Britain declared war after Germany invaded neutral Belgium (Britain declared war on Austria-Hungary on 12 August). The British government had previously promised to defend Belgium and felt that German troops directly across the Channel were too close for comfort. On 7 August, four divisions making up a British Expeditionary Force crossed to France to attempt to halt the German advance. With French forces, they were successful in achieving their objective at the Battle of Mons (August) and the Battle of the Marne (September). As each side tried to outflank the other, a 'race to the sea' developed and this meant that huge trench systems took shape from the Swiss border through all of northern France. With these trench systems and weapons such as the machine gun, defending was considerably easier than attacking, and so within months of beginning, the war was already showing signs of stagnating.
Although the war in Europe was the main focus - as with the first battle of Ypres (October) - the conflict soon truly became a 'world war': Japan was allied to the Entente forces and the Ottoman Empire soon joined the Central Powers. Conflict between the imperial forces of these competing power-blocs in Africa and South America aggravated the situation.
Like previous continental wars, confrontation was not confined to land. Prior to the outbreak of war, there had been an arms race orientated towards the building of the most up-to-date battleships. Although the British fleet was still by far the largest in the world, the German fleet was new and well equipped. By December, German warships were regularly bombarding the English coast. Only after a naval skirmish at Dogger Bank (January 1915) did further German coastal bombardments cease.
Many had assumed that 'it will all be over by Christmas', but as the year turned, competing countries increasingly came to realise that the conflict was going to be drawn-out. They had to prepare for such a prospect and, in Britain, this was done by an extension to the Defence of the Realm Act in March 1915 and by the negotiation of loans from the United States. The DORA gave the government emergency powers to censor the press, requisition property and control workers' jobs, pay and conditions. The government was not really prepared for war and complaints from the army that they had insufficient supplies led to the formation of a coalition government in May (thus ending the last ever Liberal government in the UK). By October, women were being recruited to undertake traditional 'men's work' at home, such as working on trains and buses.
On the Western Front the stalemate continued and although innovations were introduced to warfare - such as the use of poison gas by both sides at the second Battle of Ypres (April) - little was achieved except the killing of more men. Throughout the year, battles such as Loos (September) were indecisive and led to little movement in the lines of trenches. In the east, Austria-Hungary was joined as a Central Power by Bulgaria and attacks continued on Serbia and Russia. Italy, however, changed sides and from April 1915 fought with the Allied forces. Late in April, French and British imperial forces attempted to open a new front in Turkey at Gallipoli. Although the Gallipoli campaign continued for nine months, little was achieved and, in January 1916, the battered and bloody Allied forces (largely Australian and New Zealand troops, or ANZACs) withdrew.
At sea, Britain used its superior fleet to impose a blockade on the German ports. Germany suffered shortages and, by the end of the war, food riots had occurred in a number of German towns. In response to the blockade, the German fleet embarked on a concentrated period of submarine warfare. On 7 May, the Lusitania, a luxury passenger liner travelling from the United States, was sunk off the south coast of Ireland. Almost 1,200 civilians were drowned, including over 100 Americans. The German fleet withdrew to port, fearful that a continued campaign might bring the neutral Americans (with their massive resources and manpower) into the war on the side of the Allies.
World War One was truly the first 'total war' - not only was warfare conducted on land and sea but, on 31 May, London witnessed its first attack from the air as bombs were dropped from the great German Zeppelin airships. During the course of the war, over 2,000 civilians were killed or injured as a result of such raids.
As warfare on all fronts looked like grinding to a halt, the British decided that the solution to the problem was to create a mass popular army. Previous appeals by the war minister, Lord Kitchener ('Your country needs you') had raised over a million volunteers but, on 9 February, conscription began for men aged between 18 and 41. During the course of the war, over 4.5 million Britons served in arms (in addition to over three million troops from the British Empire).
The German solution to the stalemate was to undertake a huge offensive at Verdun (February). The German intention was a war of attrition which would 'bleed France white'. Indeed, between the two armies, during the next ten months, over a million casualties occurred. In an attempt to relieve the pressure on the front at Verdun, the British and French undertook a push at the Somme and, on the first day of the battle (1 July), 20,000 Britons were killed and a further 40,000 injured. Even further innovations, such as the use of tanks (15 July) proved of little effect.
At sea, both the British and German High Seas fleet continued to strive for mastery. The one nearly decisive sea battle took place in the North Sea at Jutland on 31 May 1916. Although German battlecruisers initially caused considerable damage to their British counterparts, the engagement of the British Grand Fleet under Admiral Jellicoe caught the Germans at a disadvantage and inflicted significant damage. Although the British lost more ships and men in the battle, the German fleet was more heavily damaged and spent most of the rest of the war in its home ports. This allowed the British fleet to effectively control the seas, meaning imperial troops and supplies could reach Europe with much greater ease.
As the war raged on, changes continued to take place in Britain. In February, a scheme for National Savings was introduced to increase government access to funds and, on 21 May, a measure to ensure daylight saving (British summertime) was introduced to allow for greater production in the factories and munitions works of the industrial heartland. It was not all peace and quiet within the British Isles. On 24 April, an armed uprising took place in Dublin in an attempt to assert the need for Irish independence. An Irish Republic was proclaimed and the General Post Office was seized, but the rising was soon crushed by British forces and its leaders executed.
The year 1917 saw great changes in the course of the war. In February, the German Army executed a strategic retreat to pre-prepared positions, known as the Hindenburg Line. Major German successes in the east contributed to two revolutions in Russia where Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate (February/March) and a Bolshevik regime under Lenin was established in October/November. The October Revolution took Russia out of the war (an armistice was declared in December 1917 and a Russo-German peace treaty was signed at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918). This meant that German forces could concentrate more fully on the Western Front. The impact of this development was less than might have been expected for, as a result of German attempts to entice Mexico to invade the United States, on 6 April the USA declared war on Germany. This meant not only the prospect of new ships, troops, supplies and weapons assisting on the Western Front but also opened up the prospect of financial and commercial assistance to the depleted Allied nations.
The Allied forces co-ordinated a major push from the spring and, in April, the British pushed forward in the battle of Arras. In July, battle was again joined at Ypres (Passchendaele), where mustard gas was used in an attempt to break the lines and British casualties were severe in respect to the amount of territory gained. A different tactic was employed in November when, at Cambrai, a mass use of tanks was employed for the first time. Although significant ground was taken by the use of the tanks, a German counter-attack later in the month retook all that had been gained earlier.
Outside Europe, Allied forces were increasingly in control. Despite major setbacks in the first two years of the war - as the Turks attempted to gain control of the Suez Canal - by mid-1917 British forces were again in control of Baghdad and Jerusalem at the expense of the Ottoman Empire. (On 2 November, the Balfour Declaration was issued guaranteeing the establishment of a Jewish homeland.) Earlier in the year, Lawrence of Arabia had helped co-ordinate an Arab attack on Akaba and, by October 1918, the Ottoman Empire had agreed to an armistice.
At sea, submarine warfare was intensified and British food reserves ran dangerously low in the spring. Two innovations - the convoy system (where ships travelled in groups with military escort) and rationing (of meat, butter, lard, margarine and sugar) - led to the overcoming of this problem. Developments on the Home Front came with equal pace: on 28 March the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was formed, placing women into the heat of warfare in a military sense for the first time; in April 1918, the junior service (the Royal Air Force) was founded. British anti-German feeling had increased as the war had gone on and, on 17 June, the British royal family changed their surname to Windsor to appear more British.
German forces released from the Eastern Front launched a major offensive on the Western Front in the spring of 1918. Despite some minor initial successes, by July the Germans had failed to break the Allied lines and, in effect, this meant that the war was reaching its endgame. Allied counter-offensives at the Marne and at Amiens (August) were successful and in the early autumn a 'hundred days' of semi-mobile warfare forced the Germans back beyond the Hindenburg line and freed much of occupied France and Belgium. On 11 November, at 11am in the Forest of Compiègne, an armistice between the Allied forces and Germany was signed and fighting stopped. Other Central powers sued for peace but across the world, millions of young men were dead - 947,000 of them from the British Empire.
At home in Britain, victory was greeted with celebrations and a return to something like normality. So many things had changed, however, and in a General Election held in December (where the coalition government were returned with a massive majority), women over 30 were allowed the vote for the first time. Although an armistice was agreed in November 1918, it was not until 28 June 1919 that the Treaty of Versailles was signed between the Allied powers and Germany, thus officially ending the war 'to end all wars'. Further treaties with the other defeated Central powers followed through 1919 and, in the victorious countries, public celebrations marked the end of hostilities.
The year that was 1914…
• On 28 June, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, is assassinated in Sarajevo by Serbian nationalists, an event that starts World War I • On 15 August, the Panama Canal opens • On 26-28 August, at the battle of Tannenburg in eastern Germany, General Paul von Hindenburg defeats the Russian army and takes 137,000 prisoners. The victory relieves German fears of fighting a war on two fronts • In France, from 5 to 11 September, the German army is stopped on the Marne river, and trench warfare begins on the Western Front • British troops occupy Egypt • Gandhi returns to India and supports the British war effort • Germany begins manufacture of stainless steel • Viennese composer Alban Berg begins writing his modernist opera Wozzeck, which uses atonal harmonies. Later performances in Berlin (1925) and Prague (1926) cause fierce controversy • Writer Wyndham Lewis, leader of the Vorticist art movement, and poet Ezra Pound edit the magazine Blast, which introduces innovative design ideas •
The year that was 1915…
• From 8 April, Turkish troops systematically massacre Armenian citizens, killing 1.3 million, the first example of ethnic cleansing in this century • On the Western Front, trench warfare results in stalemate. On 22 April, during the second battle of Ypres, poison gas is used as a weapon for the first time • On 25 April, British, French, Australian and New Zealand troops land at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles in an attempt to defeat Turkey, an ally of Germany, but fail with heavy loss of life (ends January 1916). Winston Churchill is blamed for the failure • On 26 April, Italy enters the war on the Allied side, but its armies fail to defeat Austro-Hungarian troops • On 7 May, a German submarine sinks the British liner Lusitania, killing 1,198 including 128 US citizens. The sinking results in controversy over the ethics of submarine warfare • London experiences air raids by Zeppelins. In Germany, Hugo Junkers develops the first all-metal fighter plane • Japan presents its Twenty-one Demands to China with the aim of occupying that country • Inventor Alexander Graham Bell makes the first transcontinental phone call from New York to San Francisco • Physicist Albert Einstein publishes the General Theory of Relativity, an expansion of his work on the physics of the universe • American film-maker D W Griffith makes the epic Birth of a Nation, which glamorises the racist Ku Klux Klan •
The year that was 1916…
• On the Western Front, the battles of Verdun and the Somme result in huge losses of life with little strategic advantage. Although the British army uses tanks for the first time in September, the trench war stalemate continues • On 24 April, the Easter Rising by the Irish Citizen Army against British rule in Ireland begins in Dublin. By 1 May, British troops restore order and 15 rebel leaders are executed. One leader, Eamonn de Valera, is not executed because he has American citizenship • On 31 May/1 June, at the battle of Jutland, the German fleet damages the British navy but fails to gain control of the North Sea • In June, the Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire begins with Prince Faisal's attack on Turkish troops at Aqabah. Later, he works closely with the British guerrilla leader T E Lawrence ('Lawrence of Arabia') • In Mesopotamia (Iraq), British troops fight the Ottoman empire to protect oil fields in Persia (Iran). In April, at Kut-al-Amara, the British suffer a major defeat • On 5 December, British prime minister H H Asquith resigns following a dispute with his war secretary David Lloyd George. Lloyd George becomes Coalition prime minister the following day • On 31 December in St Petersburg, Grigori Rasputin, a mystic and adviser to the Russian tsar and his wife, is assassinated by a group of nobles • Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born radical activist who campaigns for black rights, arrives in New York • In Zurich, in neutral Switzerland, the Dada art movement – which revels in staging absurd performances and weird happenings and creating nihilistic anti-art – emerges •
The year that was 1917…
• On 8 March (23 February by the old Russian calendar), the first Russian Revolution ('February Revolution') begins, with the tsar abdicating on 16 March. Meanwhile, in Finland, waiting to return to Russia, Lenin writes The State and Revolution, in which he outlines his ideas about the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. In July, there is a further, abortive uprising, but on 7 November (25 October by the old Russian calendar), the Bolsheviks led by Lenin finally succeed in overthrowing the parliamentary government and seizing power – the 'October Revolution' • In Mesopotamia (Iraq) on 11 March, British troops capture Baghdad from the Turks, and establish control over the country • On 6 April, the United States, led by President Woodrow Wilson, declares war on Germany and enters the war on the Allies' side • On the Western Front from 31 July to 10 November, the third battle of Ypres – also known as the battle of Passchendaele – results in heavy losses for very little gain • On 2 November, Arthur James Balfour, the British foreign secretary, writes to Lord Rothschild, a Zionist leader, pledging British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. (This – the 'Balfour Declaration' – is confirmed at the Peace Conference of Versailles in 1919) • In New Orleans, the first jazz recording is made (by the all-white Original Dixieland Jazz Band) • Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico begins the school of 'metaphysical painting', a precursor of surrealism •
The year that was 1918…
• On 8 January, US president Woodrow Wilson proposes the Fourteen Points as a basis for peace in World War I • On the Western Front, the Allied advance uses tanks successfully during the second battle of the Marne (15-17 July) • On 16 July, the Russian imperial family is executed by the Bolsheviks. Leon Trotsky organises the Red Army during the ensuing civil war against counter-revolutionary armies • In the Middle East, British troops capture Palestine and Syria, and defeat the Turks at the battle of Megiddo. The Ottoman empire sues for peace • On 11 November, an armistice is declared as the German army surrenders and the war ends. The German kaiser abdicates, and Germany and Austria become republics • British women over the age of 30 are given the vote. They do not achieve age-21 parity with men until 5 July 1928 • In December, the Coalition wins the British general election. David Lloyd George becomes prime minister • A global influenza pandemic kills an estimated 20 million in one year, more than died during World War I • German philosopher Oswald Spengler publishes his masterpiece of pessimism Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West) • The all-white Original Dixieland Jazz Band tours Europe •
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