The Impresa Nacional Casa da Moeda (INCM) has launched new commemorative coins which are in remembrance of the centenary anniversary of the Armistice of the Great War, later known as World War I. Despite the fact that Portugal’s closest neighbour on the European continent, Spain, was able to remain neutral, the government in Lisbon had been called upon to impound German and Austro-Hungarian ships which were docked in the Port of Lisbon by British authorities. They did so on the 23rd February 1916, which was in turn followed with a declaration of war against Portugal by the Imperial German government. Portugal reciprocated the declaration shortly, upon receiving the news. The Austro-Hungarian crown also declared war on Portugal the week after on the 15th March, and the Portuguese Republic, formally the Kingdom of Portugal and now lead by José de Arriaga, began mobilising.
With the outbreak of fighting in Europe in 1914 as a result of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Portugal had become increasingly anxious about the security of its colonial holdings in Angola and Mozambique. Even though Portugal and Germany remained officially at peace for over a year and a half after the outbreak of World War I, there were many hostile engagements between the two countries, primarily on the African continent. Portugal wanted to comply with British requests for aid and to protect its colonies in Africa, thus clashes occurred with German troops in the south of Portuguese Angola, which bordered German Southwest Africa in 1914 and 1915. In order to secure international support for its authority in Africa, Portugal would enter the war on the side of Britain and the Allies, whose participation was at first limited to naval support. By February 1917, however, the situation changed considerably and Portugal sent their first troops, which consisted of an expeditionary force of 50,000 men, to the Western Front. They saw action for the first time in Belgium on the 17th June of that year.
One particular and notable battle in which Portuguese forces took part was during the April 1918 Battle of Lys, near the Lys River in the Flanders region of Belgium. The battle was essentially one last push by Imperial German forces before their impending loss of the war and was launched that spring on the Western Front. During that battle, one Portuguese division of troops was surrounded by four German divisions with the preliminary shelling alone being so heavy that one Portuguese battalion resisted in pushing forward into the trenches. In the end, victorious Germans took more than 6,000 prisoners in that conflict and were able to push through enemy lines along a three and a half mile stretch. By the conclusion of the war, a total of 7,000 Portuguese soldiers had died in combat with civilian deaths in Portugal exceeding 220,000. This was broken down to 82,000 deaths caused by food shortages and 138,000 Portuguese succumbing to the Spanish flu, which reached pandemic proportions by 1918.
As part of the terms of the Versailles peace treaty which formally concluded hostilities, Charles I, the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was ordered into exile on the Portuguese island of Madeira on the 19th November 1921. It had been disclosed that in 1917, the emperor had tried to enter into secret peace negotiations with France. Determined to prevent a restoration attempt in either Austria or the newly separated Kingdom of Hungary, the Council of Allied Powers agreed on Madeira as a place of exile for the former emperor because of its isolated location in the Atlantic and it was easily guarded. Charles I of Hapsburg remained there until his untimely death on the 1st April 1922.
Portugal’s delegation at the Peace Conference in Versailles was led by Professor Egas Moniz, who demanded Germany cede the port of Kionga, which was part of German East Africa (now present-day mainland Tanzania) to Portugal. This was the only territorial gain acquired for its participation in World War I on the side of the victorious Allies.
The commemorative coins are designed by the sculptor José Aurelio, whose depiction on the obverse side features a red poppy, a symbol of rebirth, and an homage to the lives that fell on the battlefields. The reverse includes elements of the national crest, the year of issue, and the denomination of 5 EURO represented with a large numeral 5.
|€5||Cupro-nickel||14 g||30 mm||Brilliant Unc.||60,000|
|€5||.924 Silver||14 g||30 mm||Proof||2,500|
The silver Proof coins are encapsulated and presented in an environmentally friendly display made of native Portuguese cork with a Perspex base accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. For additional information about these coins and others offered by the Impresa Nacional Casa da Moeda, please visit their website.