June 30, 2016 – 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.
Great Britain / £5 / .925 silver / 28.28g / 38.61mm / Design: Jody Clark (obverse), John Bergdahl (reverse) / Mintage: 4,000.
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.
An early model British Mark I “male” tank, named C-15, near Thiepval, 25 September 1916. Photo: photograph Q 2486 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 1900-09) via Wikimedia Commons.
“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.”
Sculptor, John Bergdahl
John Bergdahl’s association with The Royal Mint stretches back many years. His recent work includes the £2 coin marking the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and he also designed a coin commemorating the 100th anniversary the Battle of Jutland, which features alongside this coin in the First World War 2016 Six-Coin Set.
For more information on the Royal Mint and their products go to the Mint’s website.
The BBC has prepared a comprehensive article on the Battle on the Somme.
You can see original footage material in this 1916 documentary and propaganda film by two official cinematographers who visited the British Army.