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The Somme Offensive Failure - analysis of the sources.

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Introduction

´╗┐Assessment Task One ? Source Analysis Essay Zahra Chamberlain The battle of the Somme began in July 1916 during World War I as an attempt to break the stalemate and mitigate some of the pressure on the French at Verdun. The British attack was aimed to sidetrack German attention from Verdun in defence of the Somme. General Douglas Haig planned to heavily bombard the German frontline and create holes in the barbed wire. The Infantry would then advance to take hold of the German positions and a charge of Cavalry would sweep through the villages, splitting the enemy line in two. Unfortunately, this approach did not go quite as planned. The German trenches were well constructed and heavily fortified. The Germans were able to shelter in their underground bunkers in reasonable safety until the Infantry attack started. The bombardment had churned up the ground badly, spitting out barbed wire and tangling it up further. This made the advance difficult for the Allies and many of their shells failed to even explode, leaving the German defences virtually untouched in parts. The battle came with a deathly cost, seeing the British lose around 420,000 casualties, the French 200,000, and the German approximately 465,000. It is arguably one of the bloodshed-riddled and horrific battles of all time. ...read more.

Middle

Difficulty being on the offensive (British) as opposed to the defensive (German) side was not taken into account during the initial stages of this battle. General Haig?s tactics remain controversial as some claim them futile and indiscriminate slaughter. Ensured rapid advance and a week of 1.6 million shells fired gave confidence to British commanders, so they ordered their troops to walk slowly towards the German lines. Once they had been seized, cavalry units would pour through to pursue the fleeing Germans. However, about a third of these were ?duds?, and there were too few large calibres to be effective. ?It might be said that the Allies chose to separate fire and movement, using infantry to exploit the effects of artillery rather than the German style of combining fire and movement simultaneously; thus failures to exploit breakthroughs were partly caused by limitations on movement caused by the effects of protracted artillery fire upon wet terrain, turning many battlefields into literal seas of mud.? Source 1.3 (Haythornthwaite 1992, p. 79). The Germans were undeniably prepared, using an impregnable and sophisticated wall of wire, deep dugouts, and machine-gun posts on favourable locations. Source 1.3 admits to the British who underestimated the circumstances and lacked in preparedness. This extract is reliable with much evidence to support the points included. ...read more.

Conclusion

From a heavily researched book on history, this source proves to be reliable and based on factual events. The close proximity of all these health-degrading factors greatly aided the failure of the Somme Offensive. Were the British Generals ?Lions or Donkeys?? Asks Nigel Jones, author of 1914: Britain in War and Peace. Will we ever see war banished from this horrendous carnage? The British Telegraph reporter and author of The War Walk: A Journey Along the Western Front remarks: ?None of this has had the slightest effect on the popular conception of the Somme, which will always remain a vision of skylarks singing across summer skies, while on the torn earth beneath, the flower of the nation?s youth fell.? (Nigel Jones N The Telegraph 2013). What was supposed to break the stalemate the French were experiencing, the Battle of the Somme turned into a five month long stalemate itself. Finally ending in November 1919, Allied forces could claim only to have taken ten kilometres of ground from the German defenders. Overall casualty figures were shockingly high ranging around the 1.2 million mark. The Somme Offensive was a tragic failure, caused by a number of key issues, which originated even before the battle had begun. To this day, General Haig remains criticised for the sheer amount of bloodshed, whilst the German army never recovered from its loss of experienced junior and non-commissioned officers. The Somme became a place ?synonymous with slaughter? for all sides. (Charles F, 1923). ...read more.

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