Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The first day of fighting on 1 July 1916 was the most costly in the history of the British army. By mid-November, when the bloody First World War battle had run its course, more than 1 million men from both sides had been killed or wounded.
The Battle of the Somme refers to a series of battles that took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916, during the First World War, in which more than 1 million men from both sides of No Man’s Land were wounded or killed. During the battles, the British and French armies fought against German troops alongside in the Somme region of northern France in an effort to break the deadlock of trench warfare and restore the fighting to fluid, mobile warfare.
The gun crew of an Australian Howitzer Battery, in an emplacement behind a steep bank near Lavieville in the Somme area. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
The first day of fighting on 1 July was the most costly day in the history of the British army with almost 60,000 casualties, a third of whom were killed. Despite enormous losses, the offensive continued on for another four and a half months. Australian troops consisting of men who had fought at Gallipoli, as well as new volunteers from home, arriving on the Somme to take part in the fighting from late July.
King George V, holding telescope, observing the fighting at Pozières from captured ground. The Prince of Wales is behind the King talking to two officers. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
The Australian contribution to the Somme was the capture and defence of the fighting around Pozières and Mouquet Farm between 23 July and 3 September. Like their British allies, the Australians also suffered great losses with 24,000 casualties, including 6,741 who were killed. Such heavy losses on an all-volunteer army put pressure on the recruiting system and resulted in a referendum for the government to try and introduce conscription. Narrowly defeated at the polls in October 1916, the issue polarized the Australian nation along political, sectarian and class lines. A similar strain was felt in Britain, which was forced to rely on conscription after the bloody battles of 1916.
Troops of the 24th Battalion gathered at a memorial erected in memory of members killed at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. Image courtesy Australian War memorial.
The Battle of the Somme resulted in 430,000 British and Dominion causalities, plus 200,000 French troops. Heavy losses were also felt by the German army with 650,000 casualties resulting in a tired and dispirited force that would never fully recover.
The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series
Be Worthy Of Them – 2016 1oz Silver Proof Coin
This significant addition to The ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series depicts a group of soldiers as they charge out of the trenches along the Somme Valley in France and the inscription ‘Be Worthy of Them’.
The Perth Mint will release no more than 7,500 of these coins, each accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity.
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