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Field Marshall Haig: 'The Butcher of The Somme'?

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Introduction

9.3.1 The First World War. Field Marshall Haig: 'The Butcher of The Somme'? A) Study sources A and B. How far does Source A prove that Haig did not care about the lives of his men? Source A is a piece of writing by Haig suggesting that the nations will have to bear heavy losses in order to obtain victory. It is quite possible that this was an attempt to justify the attack he was about to commit so many of his men to. Haig writes that no matter how much equipment and training the army has it will still suffer losses. This cannot however be taken to mean that Haig did not believe in giving his troops every advantage of arms and numerical superiority. It is quite possible that after the experience of the French army at Verdun, Haig knew there would be high casualty figures. Therefore source A is probably designed to cover himself in the political side of things, as it is so ambiguous as to be able to mean several things at once. He held a very senior rank and to get there would require political as well as military skills, this piece can be shown as saying that Haig wants to give his men every advantage to crush the enemy, but in addition to this there is the clear message that to do so will inevitably cost lives. Source B on the other hand is a piece he wrote on the day before, and on the day that the attack at the Somme was launched. ...read more.

Middle

Coppard's piece is also only the experience of one man. It was not necessarily the same all the way up and down the line. However the facts concur with Source C, there were huge casualties, and Coppard tells us about them. Haig says the attack was a success. Yet the only success anybody else seems to think it could have been was with regards to how many of Germany's experienced men it cost them. The evidence is greatly against Haig's report in this instance, and so I conclude that source C is the most reliable as it concurs with what can be proven as fact, that being that large casualties were sustained, the wire was uncut, and that with better preparation many casualties would not have been incurred. C) Study Sources D and E. These two sources are not about Haig and the Somme. How far do you agree that they have no use for a historian studying Haig and the Battle of the Somme? Sources D and E are both comical and are both intended to make people smile as their primary objective. However source E is a politically motivated cartoon from the time, and will also have the intent of putting across a drinks cabinet in Blackadder's opinion. To a historian studying Haig and the Somme, both sources would be of considerable use. They both show popular opinions about Haig, one at the time of the event and the other 80 years later. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is also a possibility that by the time he wrote it, his own memories had become influenced by those of others. And if he rose to the level of General, some of his superiors while he rose through the ranks were most likely supporters of Haig, and would have planted their opinions alongside his own. He begins by saying that the German armies were broken by the courage and resolution of Haig's armies who had complete confidence in him. If this is to be taken at face value, then it is only fair to say that the men would not have had faith in Haig, if he were the donkey portrayed in source F. He also writes that if Haig had not had the moral courage to shoulder the burden of the attack, the war would have turned into a disaster. This is an admission that Haig had to choose between the loss of life his armies suffered, and the loss of the war, and ultimately more loss of life. However that it supposedly took him moral courage to do it does show that Haig thought about it, and that he cared about it. So he was not a stubborn unthinking donkey, who willingly sent his troops to the slaughter. Both source G and H disprove source F.valid political point. Both however agree that Haig would send his men to attack while he was happily tucked away, probably by his ...read more.

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