Author Topic: Philadelphia and Normandy and London and Tilburg  (Read 344 times)

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Offline Figleaf

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Philadelphia and Normandy and London and Tilburg
« on: May 31, 2017, 12:08:21 PM »
It looks like a common Dutch coin, doesn't it? Maybe it still looks ordinary after you have spotted the date and mint mark. However, it symbolises an era that seems to be dying today.

In a few days, it will be 6th of June again. In 1944, that was a special day. A day that would decide the life expectancy of many thousands of people. Soldiers, resistance fighters, jews, fugitives. The day was called D-Day and it turned out to be a spectacular success. It was the beginning of the end of an evil regime that had spread throughout Europe. It was also a stormy, bad weather day. Today, the weather forecast for Arromanches for 6th June is cloudy, dry, 19 C (66 F). Global warming?

The role of the Netherlands was modest. Its army had been demolished in May 1940, when the country was overrun in a "Blitzkrieg". Its air force, heavily out of touch with the technology of those days, was ineffectual and destroyed mostly on the ground. Only its navy and its queen had escaped the onslaught of the nazi forces.

It was enough to keep a government in exile going. Much of the credit goes to queen Wilhelmina. Churchill famously called her "the only real man among the governments-in-exile in London". Her unflagging courage matched that of Churchill, to the point where her son in law, of German birth, flew military missions against the Luftwaffe.

Wilhelmina was convinced that the Allied victory was inevitable and she planned ahead. Her main policy goals were a return to normalcy as quickly as possible and no private revenge killings. One tool to reach the first policy goal was the return of pre-war coins in circulation. Mint personnel had been able to ship much of its reserve of silver and gold with the queen. It was transferred to the US. A royal decision of 20th July 1944 changed the law that forbade minting of Dutch coins abroad. Another of the same date allowed minting of colonial coins abroad.

Minting was the responsibility of the Minister of Finance in exile, who delegated his responsibility to the Dutch embassy in Washington, in practice, to trade secretary Adams. Mr. Adams family used the coat of arms of the British family Badham-Thornhill, as the families were related. BTW, captain (temporary major) Desmond Badham-Thornhil did his part in the Punjab regiment, fighting in Italy. The family crest included an oak tree. Adams decided that the US struck homeland coins would carry the mint master mark acorn. The mint marks were P, S and D, depending on which US mint struck them.

I don't doubt that it was Wilhelmina's influence that was responsible for the decision that Dutch soldiers would also land on the Normandy beaches. However, that participation was wholly symbolic, as the Princess Irene brigade landed only in August 1944. Of more consequence was Sumatra, one of the last large ships of the Dutch navy, sunk as breakwater (corncob) near Sword beach to form a temporary port.

My coin was minted too late for those events. However, the last action of the Princess Irene brigade was near Tilburg on 25th October.

Such actions cleared the way for the introduction of the US struck silver coins. They disappeared as quickly as they were circulated. Inflation in the occupied territories and Gresham's law conspired to drive the good silver coins out. Too bad for the Dutch authorities, but good for collectors, who can still find unc coins.

In spite of the remains of the Dutch military being largely ignored and mostly symbolic (though real Dutch soldiers were killed for real), the Alliance was secure and the leadership of the US acknowledged and admired. How sad it is today to see Mr. Trump trying hard to demolish NATO, pull back from free trade and trans-Atlantic agreements, to the point where Ms. Merkel is slowly preparing Germany and Europe for going alone. Let's have a, perhaps last, hurray for trans-atlantic co-operation this 6th of June.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Afrasi

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Re: Philadelphia and Normandy and London and Tilburg
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2017, 01:55:09 PM »
I love those threads about "ordinary" coins telling history. Many thanks! :D