Field Marshall Haig: “The Butcher of the Somme”? Essay

A. Source A was written by Haig himself in June 1916, 1 month before the battle started. It is biased, as it was Haig himself who wrote it. It is also a primary source so there would have been no interference over time. This source gives Haig’s views about modern warfare. This source could be used as a criticism of Haig, showing his coldness towards his troops. In some ways it proves that Haig did not care about the lives of his men but it also shows that no one else knew what to do either.

Source A shows us that Haig knows that men will die: “… e won without the sacrifice of men’s lives. ” Field Marshall Haig is prepared to sacrifice people’s lives in order to gain some land and release pressure on Verdun: “… must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists. ” When Haig says, “The nation must be taught to bear losses”, it makes it sound as though he doesn’t care about his soldiers. However, Haig is being realistic and facing the truth, that there will be heavy casualties and people should expect this as then it wont be such a shock to them. B. After studying both source B and source C, I trust source C more.

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Source B is written by Haig himself and is therefore biased. This source lets people know what Haig thinks is going on at the front line. He speaks truth in what he says at the start of the source but towards the end of the source what he says is contradicted by my own knowledge. He mentions that “The men are in splendid spirits” and from my own knowledge this is true, they were well commanded which is something else that Haig commented on. Though after that he comments on the barbed wire “… barbed wire has never been so well cut,” Haig doesn’t know this, as he has never been to the trenches.

From my own knowledge I know that the wire was not very well cut, it was incredibly thick and the shells they fire just threw them up into the air and jumbled the wire up even more. He says in the second part of the source “… very successful attack this morning” which was written on the first day of the battle. Though I know that over 57,000 people died on the first day so what he has just said was indeed a lie. He also mentions that the “… German’s are surrendering freely”, Haig doesn’t know this to be true, which begs the question who told him this?

Many of his people may have just told him as to what he wanted to hear, as Haig didn’t like criticism. Source C is also a primary source told by Private General Coppard, though it was an interview from years after the war. We don’t know as the whether Coppard was on the Front Line or not. It is biased, though it is likely to be a lot less emotional, and there has been more time to find out what happened. At the very start of the source it says there were “Hundred of dead… ” which is likely to be very true. It also says “… there were no gaps in the wire at the time of the attack” therefore proving that Haig didn’t do his research properly.

It also contradicts what Haig said in source B. Coppard also criticises the planners and Haig in this source about the barbed wire, asking questions as to who told them that artillery fire would cut through the wire. “Any Tommy could have told them that shell fire lifts wire up and drops it down, often in a worse tangle than before” If Haig had asked people about this then many lives may have been saved. C. After carefully studying source D and E, I have to say that both sources are useful for historians studying Haig and the battle of the Somme.

All cartoon strips and comedies about what has happened in history are always intended to tell the truth though make people laugh about it. Source D is a secondary source made many years later. In this source the two officers are talking about finally going over the top. The first officer believes that they are going to beat the Germans. Blackadder knew that lots of people were going to get killed and knows that they are not going to win. The first officer seems naive and talks about the stereotypical view that people have of Germans “Harry Hun”.

Blackadder jokes about how Haig just wants to move his drinks cabinet 6 inches closer to Berlin, which was an exaggeration of how little land they were going to capture, but it tells us that they never gained much land from this battle. Source E shows a cartoon strip of men practising for an attack behind the lines. We don’t know who drew it or where they got their information from, but it was published in a British magazine in 1917. It is a secondary source, which was published several months after the end of the battle. The purpose of it is to amuse people though aims to show people what actually happened.

As this is a British cartoon it implies that people obviously think the general was like this. “The absence of the general, Sir” was the punch line to the cartoon. The general is prepared to be there for the rehearsal but he stays well behind the lines when the battle is in progress. So all in all I think that both source D and E are useful for historians studying Haig or the battle of the Somme as it shows some truth in them. D. After studying source F, G and H, I have found that source F was a secondary source that was written many years later.

We don’t know who wrote it or when exactly it was written. …. stubborn as a donkey and as unthinking as a donkey. ” This is very criticising towards Haig. It also tells us that no matter how many men dies as king as more Germans are killed we will eventually win the war, “… This is an appalling kind of strategy. It is not a strategy at all, it’s slaughter” almost everyone else knew it was slaughter but Haig wouldn’t listen to what people said. “He knew he had no chance” only Haig thought that this strategy. I found out that G was a secondary source and it was written many years after the war in the 1930s by the German’s.

The source says that there was no point particularly in the war but the consequences were definitely great. The battle gave the “Western Powers confidence… accomplished an achievement so great that gave good promise for the future” they began to think that if they could achieve this hen they could achieve anything. It tells us that the Germans were beginning to lose their confidence in victory. “… best, most experienced and most reliable men officers… ” this says that almost all the best men that Britain had were killed. “… ade it necessary to send to the front a great number of young soldiers whose training was poor. ”

This tells us that we did not have enough men so they had to send in untrained young soldiers into the war. Source H is a primary source though was written in 1973. It was written by a British general who fought in both world wars. As he was a British general he might have worked closely with Haig and he therefore might stick up for him, it was written many years later and his memory could have been altered by then from all the other things he had heard over the years.

As he fought in both world wars there might be the chance that he got the two wars mixed up. “… Haig’s armies, which had complete confidence in the leadership of their Commander” from my own knowledge this is wrong as the soldiers didn’t think that Haig was a good commander. He had never been to the front line so he didn’t know what was going on. “… never wavered from his purpose of breaking down the powers of resistance of the enemy… ” this is true but he didn’t know what was gong on at the front line, so he wouldn’t know when to stop. “… French resistance would have crumbled… this is because they knew it was going no where and would have puled back, retreated, and saved many lives. “Haig was one of the main architects of the Allied victory. ”

This may be true though from my knowledge not many people thought this to be true. So in the end I don’t think that source G and H prove that F is wrong, as it isn’t wrong, it is just another person’s way of looking at what happened at the Somme. E. Source I and J differ about the Battle of the Somme because source I was written while the battle was still going on. It is a letter from Lloyd George to Haig after Lloyd George’s visit to the battlefield.

Lloyd George is praising Haig for the skills of his plans, though we don’t know as to how close to front line he got, we also don’t know as to whether Lloyd George saw all the dead bodies or whether he knew as to how many had died so far. The letter to Haig was written only a month after he had written a personal memoir in which he said: “We have not gained in a month’s fighting as much ground as we were hoping to gain in the first two hours. … it is all open country which can easily be defended by the use of trenches” this is just contradicting what he was saying to Haig in his letter.

Whereas source J is Lloyd George’s War Memoir, which was written a lot later in the 1930s. In which his attitude to the battle was very different. “I expressed my doubts to General Haig… ” even Lloyd George, who knew nothing about war and the strategies used in it, knew that Haig’s idea about the Somme wouldn’t work. “It is claimed that the Somme destroyed the old German army by killing its best officers and men. … It killed off fat more of our best. ”

All of Germany’s best men were killed, though more of our best men and officers were killed over all in the battle. “… the stupidity of the Germans in provoking a quarrel with America… this is telling us that if the Germans hadn’t of started arguing with the Americans then there would have been a stale mate. So I think that the two sources differ as Lloyd George had had more time to reflect on what had happened. In source J he had seen all the consequences of the battle, which he had not done in source I. Also the two pieces of writing were for completely different purposes, source I was a letter to Haig himself, and source J was a War memoir. All that happened during the battle of the Somme had already been exposed so Lloyd George didn’t have to hide anything and he could say anything he wanted to.

F. “Haig was an uncaring general who sacrificed the lives of his soldiers for now good reason. ” In some ways this is true but in other ways it isn’t. Source A is biased as it is written by Haig himself, so it wont sound like he was uncaring and sacrificed the lives of his men at all. Source B was also written by Haig so it wont sound as though he was uncaring or willing to sacrifice the lives of his men either. Source C was written by a Private from the war, in which he describes what he saw and what the battle was like. This makes it sound as though Haig didn’t care about his men at all.

Source D was produced a lot later, after there had been time to gather more information about what had happened. This is more likely to be closer to the truth as to what Haig was like and as to what most people thought of him, this source seems to be against Haig. Source E was written several months after the end of the battle, so it shows us as to what people thought of Haig straight after the battle, it also seems to be against Haig. Source F criticises Haig and his planners a lot, this source is from a book, which was written quite recently, so it has all the information found. Source G was written by a German war official.

I think what he said was true though I think that his views would be biased as a German wrote it. Source H was written by a British war general that had fought in both world wars, so he would have known as to what a general should have acted like and he obviously thinks that Haig was a good general. Source I was written by Lloyd George after he had visited the battle fields, he thinks that Haig had been doing a very good job and that the battle was going well. Source J was also written by Lloyd George though a lot later, in which he thinks that Haig hadn’t done a very good job as a general.

Over all I think that these source do support this view, from looking at the above sources it seems like Haig was uncaring and he didn’t care about the lives of his men at all. Many people knew that his plans wouldn’t work, yet Haig didn’t think to ask any of the Tommy’s as to whether they thought that the plans would work, as they knew more about the front line then anybody. Haig was willing to sacrifice the lives of his men for no good reason, other wise he would have done more research and found out all the faults to his plans.


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