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Does General Haig Deserve to be remembered as 'the butcher of the Somme?'

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Introduction

Does General Haig Deserve to be remembered as 'the butcher of the Somme?' On the 28th of July 1914 Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in revenge of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. By the 4th of August all the major European powers were at war, the Triple Entente; France, Britain and Russia and the Triple Alliance; Germany, Austria and Italy. The war on the western front had reached stalemate in November 1914 and trenches stretched 100's of miles across east France. Generals worked hard on many new strategies to break the deadlock. One of these generals was the British General Haig. He is one of the most controversial generals of the war. He was given command of the battle of the Somme, the bloodiest battle of the war. The battle lasted from 1st of July to the 18th of November and a strip of land about 25km long and 6km wide had been taken. But these small gains cost the British 420,000 casualties, the French 200,000 and the Germans 500,000. After the battle Haig was heavily criticised by politicians, soldiers and the media. Private P. Smith, writing in his diary said 'It was pure bloody murder. Douglas Haig should have been hung, drawn and quartered for what he did on the Somme.' It was from the newspapers that he gained the title 'The Butcher of the Somme'. ...read more.

Middle

Other things he says also agree with my own knowledge. He did stay away from the front line. But he does admit he is bitter. This is also 50 years after the battle. Not only may his memory have faded over time but his opinion may have been influenced by the opinion of others. Haig should have learned from these statistics and changed his tactics. He did not. This led to devastating losses and was primarily Haig's fault. Lloyd George said in 1935 'Haig was a second-rate Commander in unparalleled and unforeseen circumstances... he was incapable of planning vast campaigns on the scale demanded on so immense a battlefield'. This opinion is quite credible because Lloyd George was the prime minister of Britain during the war and would know Haig very well. It also agrees with sources 1a and b. However this was written in his 'War Memoirs' and could be biased to sell more books. Others say that the generals, and Haig in particular just saw soldiers as expendable and many soldiers lost faith in them. Source 8, written by John Laffin in his history book British Butchers and Bunglers of World War One. He makes the point that the British generals, including Haig '... knew what they were doing.' However just from the name of the book it's obvious that it is a biased book. ...read more.

Conclusion

It isn't mentioned if he fought at the front lines at all although it is very likely. But Cooper was a family friend of the Haig's and was invited to write his biography by family. Haig's family would have had some input into the book and Cooper certainly wouldn't have written badly of him. Haig's family would have made sure he didn't. However he also says that Haig did his job and broke the German lines and that cant be denied whether you think Haig was a butcher or not. There will always be people who think that Haig was a terrible general and person, and those who think that he was someone who did the best that could be done in the situation. Haig seriously overestimated the effectiveness of the artillery and was very slow to adapt to new tactics. He also should have ended the battle after the initial devastating casualties. However Haig was tasked with winning the war and any breakthrough would have cost huge casualties. Many other generals in the war faced similar problems. It is understandable to see why people believe that Haig was a butcher. The amount of losses was the worst in all British military history. France had double the casualties of Britain, and Germany even more. But I believe that Haig did his job and although it came with huge losses it was a sacrifice that was necessary to win the war and was definitely a big factor in the German defeat. Word count: 1,421 Sean Coffey 3046 ...read more.

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