• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

'Lions led by Donkeys' - Is this a fair assessment of British generals in the Great War?

Extracts from this document...


'Lions led by Donkeys' - Is this a fair assessment of British generals in the Great War? Ever since the first world war the quote 'lions led by donkeys' has been used to describe the British army, and refers to the brave troops as 'lions' that are being led by stupid 'donkey' generals. It came about as much of the public and soldiers opinions stated that the generals were incompetents who led their men to the death regardless of whether the battle they were fighting was a lost cause. The quote originated from the German troops, who respectfully commented on the British soldiers' bravery and upon how their lives where so carelessly wasted by their 'idiot' generals; many modern books, films and tv shows, for example hilarious 'Blackadder Goes Forth', still echo this belief. Is this however a just assessment of the British generals of World War 1? This portrait of moronic, heartless generals was rather popular and actually stemmed from many very real facts. Evidently, the main reason for these opinions is the alarmingly great number of casualties that each battle produced; the worst such example would be the Battle of the Somme that had raged from the 1st of July 1916, when over 19 000 British soldiers were killed and around 57 000 were wounded during the first day alone. ...read more.


Another method that was used was the infamous 'creeping barrage' that proved very effective upon many occasions, and using aircraft together with other techniques in order to determine the enemy's whereabouts. New effective tactics and weapons only came into full use in 1917, but continued to play an important role. It is true that some generals, such as Haig, were over confident at the start of the war, relying too much upon the power that they attributed to their artillery and becoming practically blind towards the negative reports streaming in from the trenches. However, perhaps these generals' optimistic faith was what helped keep the people's morale up, and what helped them to continue aiding the war effort through till the end. This arrogance though also caused several of the leaders to underestimate their opponents - and the machine gun, which only worked to cause more unnecesary casualties. Also, a lot of the 'slaughter' was simply unavoidable as the British army was just unacustomed to fighting in 'new-age' circumstances or using new techniques and methods, so it is really no surprise that for the first portion of the war the British tactics were mainly limited to firing at the enemy before sending the infantry 'over the top' at an almost egotistical walking pace as if expecting no opposition - this is one of the occurances that would justify the 'donkey' alias. ...read more.


Also, not all the battles fought were failures; for instance, the 'Hundred Days', the last of the war that caused the Germans to call for a cease fire, was a spectacular final achievement for the allies. The First World War omitted countless lives on all sides, and though the generals were indeed responsible for a portion of that loss they ultimately achieved their goal by winning the war - therefore, they musn't have been complete 'donkeys'. It is wrong that these men were reffered to as beasts - if not for them, if not for leaders, there would have been no strategy at all and the entire conflict would surely have been won by the Germans. In order to fight effectively there must be strategy, for there to be strategy there must be order, for there to be order there must be leadership; whoever the leaders are must be able to make difficult decisions and choices of literally life and death. Mistakes cannot be avoided, but they are important to learn from and to better the strategies from. The soldiers of the First World War were indeed lions; but their generals were far from donkeys. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level War Poetry section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level War Poetry essays

  1. "'Lions led by donkeys.' How valid is this interpretation of the conduct of British ...

    Source A4 is an article from a newspaper. This is a useful piece of evidence as it was published publicly, however it was published very early on in the war and the views are very extreme, which could mean that the views in the article are too rash and published

  2. Were the British Generals like Sir Douglas Haig responsible for the high casualty figures?

    This quote shows us that the British soldiers were ordered to walk in waves towards the German trenches. Rosemary Rees wrote this quote. More quotes, which suggest that the British walked to the German trenches, are 'It was the senselessness of sending up to eight waves if heavily laden men across open ground'.

  1. I need to produce a marketing strategy for a new or existing product. I ...

    �m Gains �m Losses �m Total net gains/ (losses) �m Gains and (losses) as at 1 January 2000 33 (23) 10 3 (14) (11) Arising in previous years that were recognised in 2000 (26) 19 (7) 11 7 18 Gains and (losses)

  2. The Battle of the Somme 1916

    Raws mentions in his letter someone who he calls 'Goldy'. After my own research, I have found that he was referring to his brother, Robert Goldthorpe Raws. This is what John Raws wrote about him: ''...Goldy and the other officers were murdered through the incompetence, callousness and personal vanity of those in high authority.''

  1. 'Lions Led by Donkeys'. How valid is this interpretation of the conduct of British ...

    Also because he is well known, this affects his interpretation because people will read his work and believe it. Another case for the interpretation is that too many lives were lost for too small a gain. A source that supports this is a piece of dialogue from 'Blackadder Goes Forth' series 4 - episode 1.

  2. History Coursework: ''Lions led by Donkeys

    The trenches were crammed with soldiers, wounded or alive, and they had to share their living quarters with lice and rats. We are told about the state of the trenches in source C1, written by Siegfried Sassoon who was a captain on the Western Front.

  1. Is it fair to argue that the Medieval Papacy reached the apogee of its ...

    One must consider that the medieval papacy throughout the middle ages lacked the bureaucracy, financial resources and political apparatus to effectively be an international authority body, Chaney points out that despite this, Innocent III unlike popes before him, was successful in having international influence despite the fact that a message

  2. The Battle of the Somme 1916 - source related study.

    Source H, the Somme as it is today, suggests that progress for the Allies was probably quite slow. This was likely due to the Allies having the lower ground and soldiers being ordered to walk across mo-man's land. With such poor conditions over the winter months, the soldiers would have been walking across very muddy ground.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work