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The war on the Western Front

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Introduction

COURSEWORK FOR HISTORY SYLLABUS B CSU 2: The First World War, 1914-1918 Coursework Assignment: The war on the Western Front 1. The photograph (Source B) was taken by someone who had seen the effect of artillery bombardment at first hand. Source A was written by someone who had not. Does this mean that Source B is more reliable than Source A for a study of the effect of artillery in the First World War ? Explain your answer using Sources A and B and your own knowledge. Source B, supposedly the more reliable one is a photo showing the effects of the British artillery. It is taken in September 1916 during the later months of the fighting near the Somme; it shows the remains of a German machine gun post near Guillemont after an artillery bombardment. This source shows us that an artillery bombardment can be successful, the picture shows a devastated German trench, the walls of the trench have caved in, there are dead German soldiers and the remains of the machine gun post are non-existent. Essentially the photo supports the statement that artillery usage was successful. In theory its helpful when discovering the effects of artillery and in theory it should be reliable because 'a photo can't lie'. However, this is not so, the reliability of the photo is limited by the fact that it only shows one moment in time. This photo could show the worst or the weakest of the artillery bombardment, there is no way to tell. Also the photo only shows us a small section of the Western Front, it doesn't give us a general picture of the extent of the damage made by the artillery. The photo does not give us an overall picture (we can't tell whether every artillery attack was as successful as this) and because of this the photo's reliability is greatly limited. ...read more.

Middle

Although Source E acknowledges that Haig's tactics weren't completely successful and did led to lose of life it claims that there were no other tactics at the time. Source E generally has a more positive tone about Haig, 'test of a successful general is whether or not he wins wars, then Haig must be judged a success.' although source E claims that no other tactics were used or worked at the time, Source D opposes this and states that other tactics were available. It is true that other tactics were available, however, they haven't been suggested until after the war, 'Haig could have attack without bombardments, which always warned the Germans that an attack was coming and took away the surprise. The British navy could have been used to bomb the Germans from the West and Haig could have attacked the Germans' west flank close to the cost of Belgium. When he realised the full-frontal attack were not breaking through, he could have stopped them. The Germans' advance had already been halted.' these are just some of alternative tactics suggested later on. They were developed in more recent years by historians. Therefore the different interpretations of Haig as a military commander in Source D and E are due to different to perspectives held by the two authors, but why did each author have a different perspective? Livesy (author of Source D) probably did much research (from various sources) into the battles that occurred during the WW1 period. Therefore his conclusion (he was against Haig) was probably far better than Warner's because he made it from a well-researched broad view. Warner wrote from a biographer's point of view, this would mean that he would be slightly biased towards Haig. Secondly Warner, who was supporting Haig's decisions, seems to have made his statement from a less detailed and researched view, this is probably true because in the extract Warner claims that there were no alternative tactics, however, we have shown above that there were in fact a number of feasible alternative tactics but it was just that Haig didn't think about them. ...read more.

Conclusion

side had a huge supply of weapons and men so even though Haig's method of attrition did work it was hardly effective until later on in the war because the lose of supplies due to Haig's attrition tactics were nothing compared to the total amount of supplies each side owned. Therefore the only thing that Haig achieved by using his attrition tactics at the beginning of the war was to prolong it. On a final point I have said all the good things about the sources that helped prove why the war lasted so long however I have not shown all the limiting factors which effect all of these sources. The first limitation is that the sources don't give the German viewpoints or German information (all the sources are taken from British books/soldiers). Another problem is that none of the sources mention the other fighting fronts, they only talk about the Western Front, e.g. the Eastern Front is not involved, the war in the air and the war at sea (including the naval blockades which from the allied point of view were very successful in cutting of the Germans supplies) are not discussed by any of the sources. A number of factors that are not discussed by this source are the events prior to the beginning of the war in 1914 that led to stalemate and a long lasting war. These include key events such as the failure of the Schlieffen Plan which meant that a fast moving war could not be fought and a trench war was the result, other similar key events such as the alliance system before the war were not taken into account by any of the sources. Therefore the general usefulness of these sources in answering this question is brought down quite a lot. In conclusion these source are all very helpful in showing us why the war lasted so long, however, we can also see that all these sources are limited just like any other source. Basil Adamo ...read more.

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