The opening day of the battle on 1 July 1916 saw the British Army suffer the worst one-day combat losses in its history, with nearly 60,000 casualties. Because of the composition of the British Army, at this point a volunteer force with many battalions comprising men from specific local areas, these losses had a profound social impact and have given the battle a lasting cultural legacy in Britain. The casualties also had a tremendous social impact on the Dominion of Newfoundland, as a large percentage of the Newfoundland men that had volunteered to serve were lost that first day. The battle is also remembered for the first use of the tank. The conduct of the battle has been a source of historical controversy: senior officers such as General Sir Douglas Haig, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force, and Henry Rawlinson, the commander of Fourth Army, have been criticised for incurring very severe losses while failing to achieve their territorial objectives. Other historians have portrayed the Somme as a vital preliminary to the defeat of the German Army, and one which taught the British Army valuable tactical and operational lessons.
At the end of the battle, British and French forces had penetrated a total of 6 miles into German occupied territory. The British Army was three miles from Bapaume and also did not capture Le Transloy or any other French town, failing to capture many objectives. The Germans were still occupying partially entrenched positions and were not as demoralised as the British high command had anticipated.