How far does Source A prove that Haig did not care about the lives of his men? Essay

Source A insinuates that Haig doesn’t care about the lives of his men because he predicts their will be great losses for Great Britain without considering the men or their families. This can be seen in the line “the nation must be taught to bear losses”. This seems harsh and inconsiderate towards his men and their families and suggests that Haig doesn’t care about the hurt caused by the deaths of his soldiers. This also shows that Haig still sent his men to a war even though he knew a large proportion of them would not return home.

Another part of Source A that indicates Haig does not care about any losses his men might encounter is Haig’s prediction of “heavy casualty lists”. If Haig had indeed expected such humungous losses, surely he could’ve done something to alter such a large death toll. If Haig had cared about the lives of his men he wouldn’t have put them in a situation where he knew a great number would not survive.

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On the other hand Source A also infers that Haig is just trying to be realistic about the fact that in warding off the “Hun”, Britain will have to incur some loss of life. This can be seen in the line “no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great, will enable victories to be won without the sacrifice of men’s’ lives”. Here Haig is merely stating the fact that any battle will be at the expense of at least one man’s life. Haig and his commitment to ensuring the lives of his men can surely not be scrutinised for stating an inevitably.

Furthermore Haig states in Source A that “the nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists”. Although it may seem harsh it is a fact of modern warfare that with the common use of defensive devices such as trenches and advances in weaponry (such as the machine gun, first used at the battle of the Somme) it was impossible to make ground on the battle field without incurring a heavy casualty list.

As a result it would appear in many aspects of Source A Haig is trying to be factual, rather than purposefully expressing a wish to cause harm upon his own men. Although insensitive in the way he makes his points, Source A can’t be used to can’t be used to prove that he doesn’t care for the lives of his men. In fact the piece wishes to alert his reader to the realities of modern warfare and the bravery of his men in such a death-ridden duty.

Contrastingly to Source A, Source B paints a much more optimistic picture of the Battle of the Somme. Haig’s tone changes to a much more boastful and proud one in Source B, contrary to the pessimisms he made in Source A. One such example of this is “the men are in splendid spirits”. This shows that confidence is high and suggests so has been a success, thus directly contradicting his own words in Source A.

Source B implies that Haig does care about the lives of his men because this report states “several have said that they have never before been so instructed and informed of the nature of the operation before”. This shows that confidence was high and it also suggests that battle so far had been a success. This shows Haig cares about the lives of his men because it insinuates that he has taken time to converse with the ground soldiers, thus showing Haig in a caring light.

However Source B could also be interpreted as showing Haig as not as being not caring for the lives of his men. It is quite likely that Source B is a battle report of some kind, aimed to inform others of how the battle is progressing. “All went like clockwork” evokes the impression that nothing at the battle of the Somme (during the first few days) happened in favour of the Germans, whereas with the advantage of a number of different historical resources and hindsight we know this not to be true (Britain in fact incurred 60,000 casualties in the first day).

Haig had indeed lied about, or over exaggerated, the true achievements of the British soldiers that day, thus suggesting Haig was not considering the thousands of lives he jeopardised but instead focussed his own appearance as a success in front of the sources audience. If he had reported that the British had been struggling to break German lines, and had suffered great losses, then there would have been a greater chance of gaining back-up to help ease the pressure and crushes the German defences. So all in all this source would suggest Haig valued his appearance to the public more than he cared for the lives of his soldiers.

Source A appears quite personal in comparison to Source B, and contains opinions that he wouldn’t have wanted to voice for the sake of British morale. I think Source A is a piece of journal writing and is reliable due to the fact that it would’ve been an honest opinion of what thought as it is without the pressure of possible media attention or other high ranking military peers.

Source B, however, I feel may be less reliable because it is written as if it were a report for others to read and therefore judge Haig on his progress. If others were to scrutinise the British progress Haig would have felt it necessary to exaggerate on any success his men had achieved and the confidence of which they undertook the task. Therefore Source B appears bias in terms of Haig’s true opinions and is therefore not a true depiction of how much Haig cared for the lives of his ground soldiers.

All in all I would say that neither of the sources definitely prove Haig did not care for the lives of his men. Source A may suggest he does not entirely care for the lives of his soldiers; however it is also apparent that in this source Haig is trying to paint a realistic picture of the realities of modern warfare. Source A also would appear to be reliable and seeing as Haig would’ve been involved in the planning process for the Battle of the Somme it is probable he would have had a pretty good idea of the casualties Britain would incur.


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