World Coins

Medal documents World War I invasion of Belgium

Readers Ask column from the Jan. 16, 2017, issue of Coin World:

Upon my father’s passing some 20 years ago, I received a number of things he had collected in his lifetime, including some medals. One medal appears to be bronze and bears designs military in nature. I’ve attached images to help in its identification.

Charles Howerton  /  Via email

The 70-millimeter gilded bronze medal is indeed military in nature. Designed, engraved and signed by Belgian engraver Pierre Theunis, its obverse and reverse designs reflect effects of Germany’s 1914 invasion of Belgium during the early stages of World War I.

The obverse depicts the city of Namur as a crowned woman standing, her arms crossed in defiance, flanked by two nude female figures, seated and resting. The seated figures personify the Sambre and Meuse rivers.

Inscribed around the top border is NAMUR BRAVE LES OBUS AUTRICHIENS, which translates from French into English as “Namur braves the Austrian shells.” A bridge and mountainscape are in the background.

The engraver’s signature, P. THEUNIS, appears above the exergue, in which is inscribed 4–25 AOUT 1914 (August 4 to 25, 1914). A circled AM monogram below the nude at right stands for the Amis de la Medaille d’ Art (Friends of the Art Medal). The dates mark the Aug. 4 start of German forces shelling Namur, using heavy artillery on loan from Austria-Hungary, and the end of the bombardment Aug. 25 with the city’s last fort leveled, forcing the evacuation of Belgian forces to Antwerp by way of Ostend.

On the medal’s reverse, in the left foreground a soldier stands while another soldier sits at right; P. THEUNIS is below. In the background, soldiers disembark from a military ship at right; the tower of St. Paul’s Church of Ostend is seen at left. Inscribed around is SA GARNISON DEBARQUE A OSTENDE (Garrison landing in Ostend). In the exergue, in two lines, appears 2 ET 3 SEPTEMBRE / -1914. (Sept. 2 and 3, 1914).

Uncirculated examples of the Belgian medal have sold on eBay for under $150.

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