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To What Extent Was Poor Military Leadership Responsible For The Massive Loss Of Life On The Western Front

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Introduction

To What Extent Was Poor Military Leadership Responsible For The Massive Loss Of Life On The Western Front? On the 28th of July 1914, war broke out in Eastern Europe following a series of unfortunate rivalries and political misunderstandings. This initial outbreak led to what is now known as The First World War. The beginning of the conflict brought much jubilation; the predominant mass of public opinion was pro war and even the moderate mindsets of the Liberal Party wavered towards Britain's involvement. On August the 3rd, a pro war rally was held in Trafalgar Square on the highest level, thousands joined the procession, all campaigning for Britain to 'step unto the breech' and eliminate the threat of 'The Hun'. British Soldiers were guaranteed that war would be over by Christmas, and in many cases entire classes of schoolboys recruited together. This initial enthusiasm did not last. By the end of the first year had died on the battlefields and the rivers ran with blood. The deaths showed no sign of abating. So why did an approximated 12,000, 000 brave soldiers die? Historians give a variety of explanations including that of incompetent leadership, each varying in their significance, and in this essay I will examine some of these arguments and subsequently attempt to establish which were the most important. ...read more.

Middle

Without this a soldier had a good chance of contracting a lethal infection from the smallest of flesh wounds. The introduction of penicillin into the Second World was the difference between 2 and 10 million deaths. It Was Winston Churchill who famously said the British army were a band of "lions led by donkeys". And he was not wrong; this was an important factor in determining why so many died on the western front. The argument was and was that the British General Command (in particular that of General Sir Douglas Haig) was not capable of commandeering a war. The two most important and widely recognised examples of this are the battles of Ypres and the Somme. The Somme was originally the brainchild of French Commander in Chief Joseph Joffre (it was primarily an attempt to disable German Manpower) However, due to the German offensive on Verdun in February of 1916, it became a largely British assault, and was placed in the unsteady hands of Haig. His plan was to have an eight-day preliminary bombing to destroy the wire and then send troops over the top and into German trenches. The introductory shelling campaign was unsuccessful (any soldier could have told him that shell fire merely lifts the wire, often leaving it in a greater tangle than previously). ...read more.

Conclusion

The overall objective is to capture the enemy trench, and this can only be achieved by sending hundreds upon thousands of hapless men over the top. This inevitably endangers each and every person's life, and in the majority of cases takes it. Not only is there the danger of death in no mans land, but life in the trenches itself posed many threats. Infections, trench foot, gangrene, influenza, dysentery, the list of potentially fatal diseases is endless (as I have discussed) and a surprising number suffered at the hands of illness. Of course the number of deaths in the trenches could have been reduced had control been in different hands, but as it stands, life in the belly of the beast was unavoidably dangerous. Just to give it some perspective, the average life expectancy of soldiers in the trenches was under 3 weeks. In conclusion, it is safe to say that the role of poor military leadership was an important factor in the 12 million deaths of WW1, particularly along the Western front. However, it is not the most crucial. The events and factors all link inextricably, and one is not complete without the other. This does not create a hierarchy, as obviously some are more important than others. Ultimately, it should never be left to a few men to decide the fate of millions. ...read more.

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