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A prove that Haig did not care about lives of his men? By the summer of the 1916, there had been stalemate on the western front for more than a year. Both sides were struggling to break the deadlock. At the end of 1915, Field Marshal Haig was appointed as Commander-in chief of the British forces on the Western Front. In February 1916, Germany began a campaign against the French at Verdun. Five months passed, 700,000 men had become casualties, and the French were only just hanging on. The British decided they had to relieve the pressure on the French. The British high command, led by Field Marshal Haig began a major attack along the line of the River Somme; he hoped to lure the Germans away from Verdun. He wanted to help the French who were under heavy attack from Germans there. On the first day of July 1916, the battle of the Somme started and British troops went over the top. The battle lasted for five months and the allies lost 620,000 men most of them were British. The Germans line had not been broken. What this battle achieved was a few miles and the pressure on Verdun had been lifted. There has been much disagreement about Haig and the battle of the Somme. For instance, after the war Haig was often criticised for issuing orders, which led to excessive casualties of British troops under his command, particularly on the Western Front. This earned him the nickname "Butcher of the Somme". Haig's critics included many younger officers who served in the First World War. Haig himself never actually visited the main front, though in his dispatches he described the appalling conditions of the Somme accurately. Source A is a piece of text written by Haig just before the battle of the Somme (July 1916 to Nov 1916), It explains that in Haig's opinion the nation has to accept the losses of warfare, “the nation must be taught to bear losses”. He believes that however well an army is trained, and led, they will have to bear sacrifices, “No amount of skill on the part of the higher commander, no training, however good, on part of the officers and men, no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great, will enable victories to be won without the sacrifice of men’s lives”. This is true but not to the extent of the Somme, where the allies alone lost a massive 620,000 men.
Haig wrote this extract a month before the first attack suggesting that he knew there was going to be a large amount of casualties. This also implies that he hadn't made much of an effort to change the tactics and save the lives of men but lazily chose to prepare the nation to heavy losses. Source A can be used as proof, to say that Haig doesn’t care about his soldiers lives. On the other hand, source B shows Haig does care about his men’s lives. He is happy about the training and instruction of his soldiers and their confidence. He describes the attack as successful, “All went like clockwork”, but the problem with this is, that he was miles away from the front line. He was only hearing from his officers about the battle. Therefore, he couldn’t be aware of what exactly was happening. B) Study Source B and C Which of these two sources do you trust more? Source C could be more reliable than B, because source C is an interview with George Coppard, who actually fought in the world war. He saw everything with his own eyes unlike source B where Haig said what he heard, not what he had seen himself “several have said that they have never before been so instructed and informed of nature of operation before them”. Some parts of the source are obviously not true "Very successful attack this morning". What kind of success is that this? Tens of thousands of soldiers were killed. Source C is an eyewitness, so it should be more reliable than B however, the problem with source C, is that this source may not be 100% reliable, as this soldier (George Coppard) could not possibly see all the front line which was miles long and perhaps put his own personal opinion on his report. In some ways, Source B can be trusted as well, as Haig received information from people like Coppard. Source B and C are completely in contrast, because the officers who collected information for Haig could have tried to bring positive news. The interview with Coppard was many years after the war, so he could have only remembered the bad events, because people remember bad news more than good news or he maybe influenced by other people opinions and picked the negative points and ignored the positive ones. I think Haig wrote what he heard form his chain of command and source C is slightly unreliable because it is written years after the battle so is probably not entirely accurate.
C) Study sources D and E. These two sources are not about Haig and the battle of the Somme. How far do you agree that they have no use for the historian studying Haig and the battle of the Somme? Both of these sources (D and E) were written as comedy, Source D is from the TV series 'Blackadder Goes Forth' it shows two officers discussing an imminent attack on the Germans. I think this source is less useful because it was not written at the time. Although it was not written about the Somme it does talk about the strategy Haig used at the Somme and suggests that it was inevitable that lots of people would die, "Are we all going to get killed? Yes." This highlights the fact that Haig did not change his strategy because they are talking before a battle and know that many will die. Source E is a cartoon from a British magazine published in February 1917, it is more relevant because it was written at the time of the war, so automatically we know that source E is going to bias source D. As source D is a comedy film it can’t be trusted, it’s made to make people laugh, “My instincts lead me to believe that we are at last about to go over the top”. Source D shows Haig is more interested in himself than his men’s lives, “Field Marshal Haig is about to make another giant effort to move his drink cabinet six inches closer to Berlin” which reflects popular opinion and there is no mention of the Somme. It does however; keep the memories of the battle alive in younger generations, who may not have heard much about the battle. Source E does not mention either Haig or the Somme but it shows British soldiers and tells us about the battle. It says that generals were never present at battles, only during practice, so it criticizes the Generals for being absent, “absence of the General” as this source is in 1917, therefore we know it is criticizes Haig, as he never visited the Somme during the battle. Overall, I think they both sum up views of people. We can say that both sources are about Haig, source D clearly mentions Haig and the Somme, and source E indirectly criticizes Haig. They criticized Haig indirectly because he was a military General at the time and an important man with much power and this could have made problems for the magazine publisher. D) Study Sources F, G and H. Do sources G and H prove that Source F is wrong?
Source F is a piece of text from a book called, “British Butchers and Bungles of World War”, which suggests that Haig was “unthinking” and “stubborn”. The author of the book criticizes Haig’s strategy, “it is not a strategy at all it’s slaughter”. Source F is one person’s opinion, as it is a book and the author wants to make his book attractive and interesting by exaggerating and using extreme words, “stubborn”. Also the author has used an attractive title to attract people’s attention. This source can’t be 100% reliable as it is one person ideas and the other two sources (G&H) are in contrast with source F. Source F is strongly against Haig and is probably over exaggerating quite a lot, "He knew he had no chance of a breakthrough but still sent men to their deaths". Would Haig really have sent men to their deaths if he knew there was no chance of a breakthrough even if he was as “stubborn” and “unthinking” as is suggested? Source G is a piece of text from the German official History of the first WW, which was published in the 1930s. You would expect source G to be fill with bias against the allies as it is from the German Official History of WW1, but it does not seems to be, it even seems to be mildly praising the allied attacks, "Their armies had accomplished an achievement that gave good promise for the future". The fact that this source is not as bias as would be expected makes it very easy to trust, as the Germans have no motive to lie about the things they have said. This source suggests that the battle of the Somme had many advantages as well as being poor in sense of strategy and horrific in terms of loss of life, “If the battle of the Somme had no great importance in the strategy sense it’s consequence were nevertheless great, particularly as regards morale”. Unlike source F source, G mentions some important achievements of the battle of the Somme. This source is important, because it is from the enemy point of view and describes the impacts of the battle on the German, “the confidence of the German troops in victory was no longer as before”. Battle of the Somme was also successful in killing German experience officers, “a great part of the best, most experienced and most reliable officers were no longer on their places”. Source H is a piece of text written by a British general in 1973. He fought in both World Wars. He describes Haig one of the “main architects” of the allied victory and he links the German defeat to Haig, “Germany’s spirit of resistance was broken, mainly by the courage and resolution of Haig’s army. This general suggests that the Battle of the Somme broke German morale “both morally and physically”. He says if the battle of the Somme had not started then the French resistance would have, “crumbled”.
These two sources (G&H) are describing Haig and battle of the Somme positively and suggest that source F is wrong. However they can’t prove that F is wrong as source G also mentions some negative points of the Somme,” Somme had no great importance in the strategic sense”. Something we must remember when studying source H is that it was written a long time after the war and is by a general, not an ordinary soldier and he may have known Haig and be bias towards him. In conclusion, I think that sources G and H are much more reliable than source F and are therefore more likely to be true. E) Study source I and J Why do you think that sources I and J differ about the battle of the Somme? Source I and J, both were written by David Lloyd George, but on different dates. Source I was written in 1916, and J was written in 1930. These two sources are completely different. Lloyd wrote source I to Haig, congratulating him on his performance, “I can congratulate you most warmly on the skill your plans were laid”. He is happy about the plan and attacks. George visited the Somme at the time of the war and he made positive comments about Haig in 1916. Probably because of his position, as he was secretary for war at the time of Somme. Or maybe he wanted to show a united front (against his enemy) and to the British people. There were many reasons why he wrote this, if he made negative comments about the Somme and Haig he would have demoralised the British people and improved German morale. Source J is very different from source I as it was written in the 1930’s and at that time the public was criticising Hague for his poor tactics and performance during the war. Lloyd George spoke from a knowledgeable viewpoint. He had all the information about Haigs tactics and how those tactics affected the outcome of the Somme. In addition, public opinion had changed in the years since the war and Haigs reputation was now poor. F) Study all sources. “Haig was an uncaring general who sacrificed the lives of his soldiers for no good reason.” How far do these sources support this view? It is difficult to understand how kind of person Haig was, was he an “uncaring general”? Or was he an “architects of the allied victory”? There
are ten sources about Haig; some of these sources are suggesting that Haig was a successful commander and some suggests that he was an “uncaring general” with poor tactic, who killed hundreds of thousand of the allied soldiers for a few miles, and calling him “butcher”. The sources that are negative about Haig and support the idea that he was an “uncaring general” are A, C, D, E, F and J. I think all these sources claim that Haig sacrificed his men for no good reason. Some of these sources are criticizing Haig directly and some indirect. Like in source, E there is neither mention of the Somme nor Haig, but still this source can be used as negative point about him. According to source A Haig is an “uncaring general”. This source shows that Haig is a cold-blooded person, he doesn’t care about his men’s lives, “the nation must be prepared to see heavy casualties list”. Source C is also amongst the sources that support the idea that Haig was an “uncaring general”. George Coppard is rejecting the idea that the “barbed wire has never so well cut”. He is saying, “hundreds of dead were strung on n the bared wire”. I chose source D as negative source about Haig. Although, it is a comedy film which is made to make people laugh by exaggerating and using funny words, but it is based on the true history. Source E is a cartoon from British magazine and it’s also criticizing Haig from being absence from the battle field. One of the main reasons that people call him an “uncaring general” is because he never visited the battle field during the Somme and doesn’t knew what is happening. Haig was relying on other to bring him the news. Source F is one of the worse sources, which describes Haig as a “stubborn” and “donkey”. This source describes the Somme as “criminal negligence”. This source suggests that the battle of the Somme was slaughter not “strategy”. Haig knew that his tactics are not working but carried on, “He knew he had no chance of breakthrough but still sent men to their deaths”. Source J suggests that Haig really was an “uncaring general”. Lloyd George wrote in his War memorial in1930s, “I expressed my doubts to General Haig as to whether cavalry could ever operate successfully on a front bristling for mile with barbed wire and machine guns”. Lloyd says that Haig was an ignoring person he did what he wanted. These sources are suggesting that Haig was an “uncaring general”, but they cannot prove that he was “uncaring”. On the other hand, some of the sources do not in any way agree with the statement. The sources that suggest that Haig was not, an” uncaring general” are B, G, H and I. In source B, we see a different view from Haig. He is happy about his men’s confident, “All the commanders are in full of confidence”. This source suggests that he is not an” uncaring
general” because he is talking about his soldiers’ morale and structure, “the men are in splendid spirits”. In the next paragraph, which was written after the first day of the attack, he is also delighted about how the plans gone, “all went clockwork” and he is again talking about the confidence of his soldiers, “our troops are in wonderful spirits and full of confidence”, therefore this source is a positive source about Haig. Source G is nearly a balanced source, which is describing the Somme’s strategy very poor, but its consequences were great, especially as morale. This source is describing the Somme successful in destroying the German experienced officers. I thought this source is a reliable source, because it is from the German official history book and it’s saying that the battle of the Somme demoralised the German troops, “the confidence of the German troops in victory was no longer as great as before” and gave the western powers confidence, “It gave the western powers confidence”. Therefore, this source rejects the idea that Haig, “sacrificed the lives of his soldiers for no good reason”. Source H is one of the sources that link the defeat of Germany to the Somme and Haig, “Germany’s spirit of resistance was broken, mainly by the courage and resolution of Haig’s armies”. This source strongly disagrees with sentence that says Haig, “sacrificed the lives of his soldiers for no good reason”. Source H contains nothing but praise for Haig, it comments on his "determination" and how his armies had "complete confidence in the leadership of their commander" It also says that had it not been for him, the "French resistance would have crumbled". Source I also goes against the statement. It praises "the skill with which" Haig's plans were made. This source could be more reliable than some other sources, because it was written a short time after the Somme. On the other hand some people says it is not that important to judge Haig using this source, because Lloyd George was the secretary for the war at the time and some says maybe be he wasn’t well aware of the huge casualties but little gain. Or maybe Lloyd wanted to have a united front against their enemy. If we just consider the source I itself, this reject that Haig, “sacrificed the lives of his soldiers for no good reason”. In conclusion, the majority of the sources support the statement "Haig was an uncaring general who sacrificed the lives of his soldiers for no good reason”, this is a statement which is believed by many people. I feel that after studying all the sources at hand that this statement is both true and false. To a certain extent, I believe that there are some things that Haig could have done better. Others would say he was completely useless
and didn't do anything right in the whole time he was in charge, but some people would say he was great and probably the best “architect of the allied victory”. It is hard to decide whether Haig was a “Hero” or “butcher” reading these sources. The extra reading I did about Haig and Somme I can say that Haig was not an “uncaring general”, but he hade some mistakes on his career. I also blame the people around him who gave him wrong information and one of Haig’s major mistakes was that he never visited the Somme during the war.