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

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Introduction

Were the British Generals like Sir Douglas Haig responsible for the high casualty figures? '1916 was a year of killing' - Malcolm Brown, The First World War, 1991. World war one began on August 4th 1914. 'The Great War' lased an unbelievable four years, so it did not end until the winter of 1918. No one expected it to last so long people believed that it would all be over by Christmas. Another thing people did not expect was the fantastically high casualty figures. By December 1914, 90,000 British men had been killed. That resulted in the British army being left with only 10,000 men to win the war. An average of 5509 men from all the forces were being killed each day during world war one. That is over 10 times more men being killed than in the American civil war each day. By the end of the war the British army had lost over 3/4 million men. The exact figure is 761,213 men. Although this is an extremely high figure other countries lost substantially more. The german army had lost almost 2 milliom men by the time the war finally came to a close. After the first day of the Somme over 57,000 British soldiers had lost their lives or been seriously wounded. That is 75% of the British army. Were the British Generals like Sir Douglas Haig responsible for the high casualty figures or were other factors to blame? Was it the lack of training? Was it due to the fact that it was almost impossible to cross no mans land or was t the affect of modern technology? The plan was to attack a 30km strech of German trenches. In the 10 days before the attack the British had rained an unbelievable 1,732,873 shells on the enemy lines. A bombardment so fierce it could be heard in parts of England. ...read more.

Middle

Another mistakes common in both battles, was the location. In the Somme they were attacking a piece f land that was too big. They attacked a 30km stretch of German trenches when other battles were only over 10 or 15 km of trenches. In Passendeale, it was a salient. Germans surrounded 3 slides of the place they were attacking. Although Haig was at fault and partly responsible for what happened. There is evidence, which contradicts this. A quote in Haig defence, he had doubts about the readiness of his troops. The French chose the battleground and as French army became weaker. It relied heavily upon the British troops. Joffre pushed Haig to bring forward the attack on the Somme. Haig in fairness, created a first class army from raw recruits. 58 generals were actually killed on the Somme, so not all of the generals were miles and miles behind the front lines in their big chateaus drinking wine. They took part in the battle. Also, one of the major problems for Haig was that the Germans were able to bring in reserve troops, there by lessening the effects of an allied attack. I am now going to look at Trench warfare. Three factors that made it difficult to attack the trenches are, the barbed wire, this prevented you even getting to the enemy trenches, as it was impossible to pass. The zig zag trench system meant that it was difficult to capture and attack the whole trench because if a shell were to land in the trench few people would feel the impact f the shell, the zig zag trenches prevented the enemy firing along the whole trench if they captured a small part. The dugout made it difficult to attack the trenches as, if there was a bombardment before the attack, the dug out would protect the enemy so they would be waiting for the attack. ...read more.

Conclusion

There were three types of gas used. Chlorine and Phosgene, which worked by suffocating the lungs. They killed by asphyxiation. Also there was mustard gas. This was far the worst. The affects of mustard gas did not show until hours after the attack and by this time the gas had already began to rot the body. The victim's skin would blister and the eyes would bulge out. The linings of the lungs would be stripped raw. The pain was unbearable which resulted in victims being needed to be strapped to their beds. Fortunately both sides soon stopped using gas because it was easy to counter attack with gas masks and also you had to rely on the wind to be blowing in the right direction otherwise the gas may be blown back over your own trenches. By 1917 every soldier had an affective gas mask. 3% of war casualties were due to gas. Also in the war grenades were used. Soldiers preferred grenades to bayonets. The British used the pineapple shape Mills bomb, while the Germans used stick shaped grenade known as 'potato mashers'. So in conclusion one can see that not only the generals who were in charge were responsible for the high casualty figures. The high figures were due to many different aspects. Men died due to the lack of concern of modern technology. German machine guns killed british soldiers by the hundreds. So I think that the generals were partly responsible for the high casualty figures as they were the people who gave the orders, which resulted in nearly 60,000 people being wounded or killed in just one day. Although I also think things such as poison gas, machine guns, artillery and the lack of training contributed to the amount of casualties. Machine guns wiped out thousands of people and three per cent of casualties were due to poison gas. So not only the generals like sir Douglas Haig were responsible for the high casualty figures during World War One. ...read more.

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