Did the Battle of the Somme change British attitudes towards the war?
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Did the Battle of the Somme change British attitudes towards the war? When considering this question there are two types of attitudes to be considered: military and civilian attitudes. To many, the Somme is seen as a turning point for both the military and the civilians. It is seen as a wake-up call. It is made out as if support for the war, both in the army and back in Britain faltered after the Somme. It is a fact that in the early part of the war both civilians and soldiers were under false illusions about the war. Patriotism was the overwhelming feeling everywhere, and recruitment was amazingly high. People were enthusiastic to join the war.
There was a slight increase in executions for military offences, from 94 in 1916 to 102 in 19171. However, this increase is negligible and this is still a minute proportion of the army. There was also some opposition from 'War Poets' such as Sassoon, Owen and McCrae. However, 'War Poets' were also a small minority, and were not all against the war. Sassoon's opposition came in June 1917, seven months after the end of the Somme. But it emerges that military attitudes did change, but not necessarily for the worse. Referring to the British Army, "...it was aware of the awful realities of war, yet grimly determined to fight on to victory."2 The Somme was a harsh awakening.
There were some organized protests, such as 'The Women's Peace Crusade', but the fact that they were "making house to house calls"3 somewhat restricts the scale of this protest considerably. Perhaps "The Battle of the Somme did seem to change the mood in Britain", but it did not really affect the attitudes towards the War. In conclusion, the Battle of the Somme did not change British attitudes significantly against the war. It did have an affect in changing the military attitudes, but not for the worse. Civilian attitudes remained constant. If there was a turning point in attitudes towards the war, it was in 1917, after Passchendale, and not after the Somme. Amar Radia _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1 Figures taken from 'For the Sake of Example' by Anthony Babingdon 2 From 'The Somme 1916; Crucible of a British Army' by Michael Chappell 3 From 'The Great War' by Peter Fischer
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