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Does Haig deserve to be remembered as the butcher of the somme?

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Does General Haig deserve to be remembered as "The butcher of the Somme?" On the first of July 1916 at 7:30 am, the order was given for 60,000 British soldiers to go 'over the top.' It was the biggest offensive so far of World War One. Out of the masses who obeyed this order many wouldn't live out the morning. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig had planned and schemed, for this one day, over many months. The battle of the Somme was developed to relieve pressure on the French troops at Verdun. General Haig, who had replaced Sir John French as the leader of the war effort on the western front, was pressured into it by Sir Joseph Joffe, the French high commander. There was to be a seven day bombardment designed to wipe out the Germans and their defences, followed by wave upon wave of heavily laden inexperienced soldiers crossing no-mans land to capture the unoccupied German trenches. But the Germans were not wiped out, their defences not shattered, but Haig seated 50 miles behind the front line, listening to deceptive reports from advisers, was none the wiser. He allowed thousands of men to go to their death, for little gain, yet for three months he failed to break off the attack. Back home when the true amount of the dead was known, the population was shattered. ...read more.


This distrust greatly affects the reliability, as this source was written after Haig's death Lloyd George could have been trying to push the blame onto his arch-enemy Haig. Historian John Laffin wrote in his book, British Butchers and Bunglers of World War One published 2003, 'Haig and other British generals must be blamed... for wilful blunders and wicked butchery.' This obviously reflects the author's opinion of Haig which is that of dislike, Laffin believes Haig to be a stupid murderer to whom 'There can never be forgiveness.' This is a trustworthy source as John Laffin is a historian who has greatly researched into World War One, taking evidence from all the sources not just one. But he is a historian who researches mainly from the soldier's point of view not a strategic one. The other side of the argument is that Haig was not a Butcher just a ill-fated general who did all he could for the war and the soldiers themselves. One source that supports this view is source eight written by Historian John Terraine in his study of the Somme, The Smoke and the fire published 1980. He says 'The truth is that those... generals rose to challenge after challenge.' This shows Haig not to be a butcher but a hardworking general who as I have said rose to the challenges thrown at him. ...read more.


The plan for attack was that of Haig and General Sir Henry Rawlinson, tracing the whole incident back to Haig. Many are angry as Haig was never at the battle but was sitting comfortably 50 kilometres behind the front line safe from danger and basing all his strategies and opinions on information told to him by incompetent advisers. However those who say Haig was just a general doing his job think so as from a overall viewpoint he did learn from his mistakes, embrace new technology and do his best for the soldiers. Diary exerts from soldiers and generals, people who were there, reports and tables of dead and wounded have all helped people reach their own conclusions on Haig. In my own opinion I think Haig was not a butcher but an ill-advised general who has had both time and common opinion against him. I believe he did not purposefully sacrifice all those people instead he wanted to do the best he could for them. At the time no one new how to fight this kind of war. His informants did not tell him the whole truth and most of his methods were outdated. Haig can not be solely blamed for the tragedy that was the battle of the Somme many contributed yet fate has left them free from blame. I believe it is unfair to call Haig the butcher of the Somme as he was as much a victim as anybody else. ...read more.

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