One of the most important battles of the First World War, the Somme Offensive was fought by the British and French armies against the German army. It took place on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France between 1 July and 18 November 1916. Not only the largest battle of the war on the Western Front, it was also one of the bloodiest in human history, with more than one million men killed or wounded. Originally meant to be a mainly French offensive with support from the British Fourth Army, the French diverted so many divisions to the Battle of Verdun that the British comprised the majority of the attack.

Noted for the greater use of air power, and the first use of the tank in combat, this brutal battle led the British Army to have the worst day in its history; over 57,000 casualties in a single day, 19,240 of them killed. At its end, the Allies had penetrated the German lines by just six miles, and deaths on both sides had topped 300,000. For many years the battle was seen as badly led and pointless, but extensive review has been more forgiving and positive of the outcome.

This sterling silver coin from the Royal Mint is one of dozens they will issue to commemorate the First World War. The reverse face by artist John Bergdahl depicts a personal favourite; the Mark I tank. Used for the first time on the Somme in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on 15 September 1916, the limited use of these innovative weapons was pretty successful, but the army failed to capitalise on it by exploiting the breaches that were made in the German lines. Incredibly unreliable, uncomfortable and crude, the Mark I was a rhomboid vehicle with a low centre of gravity and long track length, able to negotiate broken ground and cross trenches. The main armament was carried in sponsons on the hull sides, 6-pounder guns in the case of the “male”, and machine guns on the “female”. Weighing 28 tons and with a crew of 8, it was a taste of what was to come a little over 20 years later.

It’s a nice design. We’ve commented before on the inscription border on these coins being a little large, but what is there is neat enough and doesn’t intrude on the artwork. The tank and Tommies are well proportioned, the perspective is excellent, and the whole looks very good, if not hugely detailed. It’s a British coin, so as you’d expect the Queens mugshot adorns the obverse. It’s Jody Clarks fine new fifth effigy. All comes with a booklet including a Certificate of Authenticity and some good-looking packaging. Priced at £80.00, the coin is available to buy now.



One hundred years on from The Battle of the Somme, The Royal Mint is to commemorate the anniversary with the creation of a £5 silver proof commemorative coin depicting poignant scenes from the terrible event.

Produced in collaboration with The Imperial War Museum, the coin has been designed by sculptor and coin designer John Bergdahl, and portrays infantrymen trudging through muddy terrain in no man’s land, as a tank rolls alongside them. It was this new piece of military technology – the tank – that helped to change the nature of the conflict, and was to mark the battle out as a turning point in the First World War.

Anne Jessopp, The Royal Mint’s Director of Commemorative Coin said: “The Royal Mint has marked occasions of national importance for over 1,000 years, and we have a long association with the military, having made medals for military campaigns since 1815. The Battle of the Somme £5 coin marks a conflict that casts a long shadow on those communities who lost so many of their men, and is respectfully remembered in this centenary year.”

The Battle of the Somme coin has been released as part of The Royal Mint’s five-year programme of commemoration of the First World War that will tell the story of the emotive journey from outbreak to armistice. The battle took place in the summer of 1916 British and French forces attempted to break through the German lines, but the offensive would exact a terrible human cost.

This design for the Somme by coinage artist John Bergdahl depicts the debut of a new piece of military hardware, the tank, with infantrymen advancing behind it. The coin’s edge lettering, ‘DEAD MEN CAN ADVANCE NO FURTHER’, is a quotation taken from Major-General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle, Commander of the 29th British Division.

“My design is inspired by the technology that changed the nature of the war in 1916. Tanks added protection as well as firepower. Rolling across no man’s land, troops could advance behind them, a vital breakthrough. Getting the look right in low relief was a challenge, along with accuracy and detailing. This particular tank has a lot of rivets, but look closely and they’re all there.”




£5 UKP 0.925 SILVER 28.28 g 38.61 mm PROOF 4,000 (1,916 as here) YES / YES