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First World War Sources Questions

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5. The sources 8,9 and 10 can all be used as evidence about the role of generals in the First World War. However, the reliability of the sources can be questioned. Source 8 is in the form of a novel. This could mean, as the source is not entirely genuine, that some of the information is exaggerated. Another reason why this source may not be correct is the date that it was written. By 1989 many of the memories and much of the information has become distorted or 'hazy'. This could mean that, again, the information in the source is not wholly correct. Source 9 is a soldiers song from the war. This kind of song is usually extremely biased, as it often shows the true feelings of the soldiers who wrote and sang it. Also it maybe exaggerated and may not indicate actual information, affecting how reliable it is as evidence. However, songs and poems can give us an accurate representation of soldiers feelings about the subject. This is due to the fact that, although letters and the like are censored for content considered to be delicate or critical, songs and poems are not usually censored. This is strengthened by the fact that it agrees with sources 2 and 3, which are soldiers views of Haig. In addition, this song is primary information and the views will not have been changed over time. However, it does not agree with source 12, by Marshall Foch, who worked with Haig, and says he was "wise, loyal and energetic", contradicting evidence from the song about how Haig did not actually contribute to the war effort. Source 10 is written as a poem. It was written during the war by a soldier who fought in the war, and therefore would be accurate and unchanged. However the soldier, Siegfried Sassoon, was injured in the Battle of Arras, and therefore would have bitter feelings, and would possibly even feel vengeful of the leadership of the army. ...read more.


Source 2 says that Haig was known as the "butcher" around 1917, which would be just after the major battles. Source 3 "I don't think he knew what a trench was like", while source 8 says the General was playing a "game of soldiers, and source 9- "the men who really did the job are dead and in their grave...". The soldiers are all are very bitter and angry towards Haig and the leadership. This was because weapons were not integrated into tactics properly (like the tank at the Battle of the Somme), the tactics were poor, and bad decisions were made on the part of the Generals, such as where to fire the artillery at the Somme. Therefore this shows that the battles that were won in 1918 were won against overwhelming odds due to low morale, bad tactics, and badly integrated weapons. There were other problems with British tactics. One was that the British leader's mentality was that of offensive warfare, they had an 'attacking mentality'. This meant that they did not believe in defence, and because the Germans used the machine gun so effectively, there were huge odds against the British troops gaining any ground at all. Also, the British did not properly utilise the machine gun to its full capacity, and therefore were not as defensively capable as the Germans. As a result of this, the German Ludendorff offensive, operation Michael, very nearly succeeded, with the allies only just managing to hold their line. The allies learnt important lessons from this, and were much more defensive. Tanks were also a failure in their trial run, as sources 6 and 7 support. Source 6 says that "twenty-eight broke down... and the remaining thirty-two scurried into the mud". Overall, much of the new British weaponry was not properly blended with the tactics. This meant that it was very unlikely that any land could be gained. ...read more.


This is shown in source 7, "I shall use what I have got, as I cannot wait any longer for them". Therefore another reason can be offered to justify why the Generals sent in as many men as possible and bad tactics were repeated. Haig was removed temporarily and replaced by the French commander, Foch, who Haig collaborated well with. Haig was removed by Lloyd George, the British prime minister, who had very little experience of the war and had only visited the front line once, to see the son of a fellow politician in a field hospital. Therefore he could not really have made the decision of whether Haig should have been removed of not. Foch said Haig was "wise, loyal, and energetic". Therefore the commander who Haig was replaced by says that he was a worthy commander, meaning that surely he is. There are many arguments for and against whether the victories of 1918 were won against overwhelming odds. However, from all the evidence, and the sources, the verdict can be reached that they were not. This conclusion is reached mainly because of all the hindrances upon the German army, coupled with the changing of sides by Italy, and the joining of the United States of America. All these things added together meant that although the battles of 1918 were difficult, they were not gained against "overwhelming odds". The British army had had time to prepare, and was ready for the battles. There are also discussions about whether the Allied leaders really deserve more credit than they have already had. Again, from all the sources and evidence, the conclusion can be made that they do not deserve more credit. This is due to the fact that Haig's tactics were dated, he did not integrate new weaponry he was given, and he did not care enough for the men's lives that he sent into battle. Although he was given exaggerated information, and he could not have been sacked for various reasons, as Laffin said, "Haig did not win, he was there at the finish". ...read more.

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