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Haig - The main Allied attack on the Western Front during 1916 was the Battle of the Somme. Famous chiefly on account of the loss of 58,000 British troops

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Introduction

Haig Coursework The main Allied attack on the Western Front during 1916 was the Battle of the Somme. Famous chiefly on account of the loss of 58,000 British troops (one third of them killed) on the first day of the battle, 1 July 1916. To this day it remains a one-day record. The attack was launched upon a 30 kilometre front, from north of the Somme river between Arras and Albert, and ran from 1 July until 18 November, at which point it was called off. The offensive was planned late in 1915 and was intended as a joint French-British attack. The French Commander in Chief, Joffre, conceived the idea as a battle to depreciate the German forces of reserves, although territorial gain was a secondary aim. The plan was agreed upon by the new British Commander in Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, although Haig would have preferred an offensive among the open ground of Flanders. Haig, who took up his appointment as Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force on 19 December 1915, had been granted authorisation by the British government, led by Asquith, to conduct a major offensive in 1916. Source B5ii, Part 2; Douglas Haig This source supports Sir Douglas Haig, and we can tell this is true, primarily because it was written by Haig himself, but also from such parts of the source as "The work of our artillery was wholly admirable". ...read more.

Middle

between the 1 July and the 18 November. He also informs us that "During the same period, we captured 29 heavy guns, 96 field guns and field howitzers, 136 trench mortars and 514 machine-guns." Haig doesn't mention the losses that his army had suffered: since the 1st July, the British has suffered 420,000 casualties, and the French lost nearly 200,000. Allied forces gained some land but it reached only 12km at its deepest points. This source would be useful when identifying how many prisoners had been taken, and also for collecting statistics on how many weapons had been captured. Source B6v, Part 2, Erich Ludendorff (Hindenburg's main Military Advisor) In this source, Ludendorff admits his heavy losses when the Allied infantry got into the trenches and villages before the Germans "could crawl out from their shelters." We can tell that Ludendorff knows he was defeated in that particular attack when he says "A continuous yield of prisoners to the enemy was the result." This source is useful when showing that the Ludendorff accepted his losses and admitted them, unlike Haig who seemed to always speak of how successful he was and made excuses for his losses ("The nation must be taught to bear losses"). ...read more.

Conclusion

This enables us to imagine how 58,000 men died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. This source would be very useful when criticising Haig for sending so many men over the top. I think the source is reliable as it is written by a soldier who was fighting at the Somme. Source B8i, Part 2, William Robertson (from a letter to Haig, 1916) This source shows Robertson explaining to Haig that, firstly, casualties are unnecessarily high with no great gains, and secondly that "It is thought that the primary object - the relief of Verdun - has to some extent been achieved." Robertson informs Haig that the actual point of the attack (taking the pressure off of Verdun) had been achieved, and also that the Ministers are bothered about the fact that the casualty bill was somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000, and the allied forces hadn't made any great gains. This source could be useful when showing that the Ministers and others of higher-importance than Haig knew that there were lives being casually and unnecessarily wasted. I think this source is extremely valid and reliable as there are a lot of facts within the source. By Ross Saunders ...read more.

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