This year marks the centenary of the Royal Air Force, arguably the most important military anniversary to be celebrated in British history. In fact, there are numerous official events and ceremonies planned up and down the country to mark the occasion – including a service at Westminster Abbey with an RAF parade and flypast!
It has been a glorious 100 years, full of extreme courage, bravery and self-sacrifice by the men and women who served and continue to serve.
And, to mark this historic occasion, a brand new Official RAF Centenary Five Pound Proof Coin has just been issued on behalf of the Bailiwick of Jersey. In my opinion, it is one of the most striking military coins ever issued and is the perfect tribute to ensure the remarkable feats of technology and courage of our RAF are never forgotten.
So what’s the story behind the design?
For such an important anniversary, we knew the design had to be particularly special and we felt there was no better person for the job than ex-Royal Mint designer, Mike Guilfoyle.
Mike has 30 years of experience designing coins that have circulated around the world and has produced some of the most stunning British Isles coins ever minted. We were lucky enough to see the design process through with him.
From the start it was clear we wanted to include the most renowned planes from the RAF’s history and Mike came up with multiple options for us.
However, it was the idea to show the incredible changes in technology over the last 100 years that really captured our imagination. The coin features three of the most important aircraft from the last century; the Sopwith Camel, the Supermarine Spitfire and the Lockheed Lightning II which brings us right up to the present day and looks towards the future of our RAF.
Highly detailed design – intricate striking
Through careful research and communicating closely with the MOD, Mike has been able to render each plane in exquisite detail.
But this high level of detail and care didn’t just stop at design level. You can clearly see it’s been replicated right through to the striking of Mike’s design on the coins – what really took me aback is that none of the detail has been lost – that’s because the use of Modern Minting techniques used to produce the coins has resulted in one of the most intricately struck coins I’ve ever seen.
What makes it even better is that each plane has been enhanced with 24-Carat Gold Ink to really show off the detail and make it stand out against the Proof background.
The most iconic aircraft of the RAF
Here’s a bit more about why these three special planes have been chosen to feature on the coin:
The Sopwith Camel
The Sopwith Camel has become one of the most iconic fighter aircraft of the First World War.
In fact, J. M. Bruce tells us that “The total number of enemy aircraft shot down by Camels was 1,294, a greater number than were defeated by any other single type of aeroplane of the 1914-18 war”
With that astonishing achievement this aircraft continued to serve until 1923 – an incredible lifespan for a plane in this era. 
Considering that the Sopwith Camel was serving from the very beginning of the RAF’s official formation and it was such an important part of the First World War, its place in RAF history is well-secured and was a clear choice to be featured on this stunning coin.
The Supermarine Spitfire
The Spitfire has to be one of the most famous British fighter aircraft in history and it has become the most iconic aircraft of the Second World War.
In fact, this aircraft has become synonymous with one battle in particular; the Battle of Britain. Alongside the Hawker Hurricane, this aircraft helped to defeat the German air attacks during the Battle of Britain and was seen as such a superior aircraft for it’s time that The RAF Museum states “at the height of the Battle of Britain…a German ace…in a moment of anger and frustration, turned to his Commander in Chief and demanded a squadron of Spitfires!” 
With that in mind, and considering the Spitfire still astonishes the crowds at air shows today, featuring this plane was another unanimous decision.
The Lockheed Lightning II
Now, this multi-role supersonic stealth aircraft is an incredible example of just how far technology has come and is definitely a plane which will play a key part in the RAF’s future.
In fact, 2018 sees the 617Squadron, becoming the first RAF Squadron equipped with the Lightning II aircraft, of which the UK has so far taken delivery of 9. 
To me, these three incredible aircraft represent an ever-evolving RAF that is consistently at the forefront of technology, making this coin a fitting tribute to the courageous work of the RAF, the men and women who have served over the last 100 years and those who will continue to serve in the future.
If you are interested…
You can be one of a limited number of collectors to own the Official RAF Centenary Five Pound Proof Coin.
The three iconic aircraft have been highlighted in 24-carat gold ink and this stunning coin has been struck to the highest Proof standard you can find on a collectable coin.
Today, we had the honour of meeting all 9 Red Arrows pilots at the Bournemouth Air Festival to present them with a very special gift…
Karen & Alex had the pleasure of personally presenting them with a 5oz of Pure Silver commemorative medal featuring each of their 9 signatures carefully engraved onto it.
Officially licensed and approved by the Royal Air Force and the team who helped us create this superb piece, just 450 have been issued worldwide and we reserved issue number 1 of 450 of these pieces to present to them today (and, so they didn’t have to share, we also presented them with a Red Arrows 2017 Display Season Medal each).
Each signature on the 5oz Silver Medal is meticulously engraved above their team number. Then to complete the piece, each member’s iconic Hawk jet with the RAF roundel at the centre is highlighted in vivid colour, surrounded by an altimeter inspired pattern – the most fitting piece to present to the Reds today. (Details below on how you can own one.)
It’s not the first time The Westminster Collection has had the chance to chat to one of the Red Arrows – in fact you can find out if being a Red Arrow is just like being in Top Gun straight from Red 9 himself in our previous blog here >>
You have the opportunity to own the official Red Arrows Signature 5oz Silver Medal. This is a rare chance to own an item so closely and personally linked to the Red Arrows themselves and we only have a few remaining so you’ll have to act quickly to secure yours. Click here for more information and to order yours now >>
Today we are excited to announce the brand new Red Arrows commemorative. It’s the FIRST EVER Collector’s Ingot to be officially licensed and approved by the Red Arrows and features a stunning full-colour photograph of the Red Arrows in their famous Enid formation – taken by aviation photographer James Biggadike.
In the build up to this exciting release and the 2017 Red Arrows display season Flight Lieutenant Emmet Cox, a.k.a. Red 9, gave us an exclusive interview telling us what it’s really like to be part of the world renowned Red Arrows. I revealed part one of the interview in my last blog (If you missed the first half of the interview you can read it here >>). Now, in part 2, Red 9 tells us just how hard it is to be a Red Arrows pilot…
How long does it take to prepare the display and train to public display level?
“It is a year-round job. We take a couple of weeks off after the season finishes and then it’s straight back into it. Typically, we incorporate the new pilots in small formations of three aircraft from September and, as experience grows, we add more to make it a five then a seven-aircraft formation and eventually the full nine, which normally happens late February/early March. Once the nine are together, we spend most of March and April in Greece to put the ‘polish’ on the show and take advantage of the good weather. So you can see it takes well over half the year to get the display to a standard that we are happy to show to the public.”
“Each person has their own way of preparing”
What happens if one pilot is unable to take part in the display? Do you have reserve pilots?
“We have no reserves in the Red Arrows. The positions are too specialised and it would be next to impossible for one individual to remember and perform to the level required for all the different positions. We do, however, rehearse ‘loser plots’ where minor shape or smoke alterations are carried out to cater for a missing aircraft.”
Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do before each display?
“The way we prepare for a sortie is very procedural, starting with a time check and then a briefing in a certain format. Each person is different and has their own way of preparing, such as mentally rehearsing, visualising the upcoming show or carrying points forward from the previous show.”
“The flying is incredible”
What’s the best thing about being a Red Arrow?
“The flying is incredible and there are few other places in the world where you have the opportunity to perform the aircraft in such a manner. The people are also what makes the job; to work alongside such a talented, focused group, whether it is the aircrew, engineers or support staff it makes it a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”
How does the Hawk T1 compare to other fast jets you’ve flown?
“The Hawk T1 is often referred to as the sports car of the RAF’s fast-jet inventory, its small size and simple avionics make it a real pilot’s aircraft. Compared to something like the Tornado GR4 there are few similarities – the Tornado is far bigger, carries more fuel, has more complex avionics and is more focused on weapons employment. Its stick and controls are heavier, the cockpit itself is far bigger and it is surprisingly quiet inside.”
“To put the red suit on for the first time…is a very special moment”
What has been your proudest moment as a Red Arrow?
“To put the red suit on for the first time after being awarded Public Display Authority is a very special moment. You are only a custodian of the red suit for a short time and when you put it on you realise the history and responsibility that comes with it – to represent not only the RAF and the armed forces but the UK as a whole, I could only imagine it feels similar to representing your nation in a sport.”
If you are as excited as I am to see the 2017 Red Arrows display make sure to catch them at an air show this summer. Their full display schedule can be found here >>
Let us know in the comments if you’ve already seen them this year!