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How far was General Douglas Haig Responsible for the Failings of the British war Efforts on the Western Front 1916 - 1917?

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Introduction

How Far was General Haig responsible for the Failings of the British War Effort on the Western Front 1916 - 1917? The British war effort on the western front, 1916 - 1917 are widely viewed as an awful failure. The efforts and tactics of General Douglas Haig have been the subject of many arguments over the past eighty years. Some regard him as the figure who led Britain to victory, whereas others see him as the "Butcher of the Somme" who led thousands upon thousands of men to their death. Whether he is solely responsible or not remains undecided. However, by analysing his mistakes and failures, it may be possible to form a strong conclusion and decide whether or not Haig can be entirely blamed. General Haig was born to a wealthy family in 1861. He was educated at Clifton and Brasenose College, Oxford and entered the Royal Military College at Sandhurst straight afterwards. He fought in the cavalry in battles such as the Boer war. This, it would seem, provided him with the experience to lead troops into battle; but was it the relevant experience that the job required? His old fashioned style of training was not compatible with the development of technological weapons and his out of date tactics did not consider the technology used by the opposition or the onslaught of the arms race. ...read more.

Middle

As no one knew how to fight like this, the old tactics were relied on. This was much the same as the situation with the new weaponry. No one knew how to use these new weapons and a lack of understanding lead to contempt of the weapons. As no one knew how to use them, there was no one to teach the skills. This meant that advances in technology were put aside and the old way of fighting was used against the highly trained Germans. This, also, is not Haig's fault, although he did fail to adapt his tactics after many failed battles. Haig, therefore, only played a small part in this failure. Haig was appointed Field Marshall at the age of 54. This means that his training was extremely out dated (particularly due to the arms race), and this was likely to affect the tactics that he used. His experience was in wars such as the Boer war. These were won easily due to the oppositions lack of organisation and lack of what was then, modern weaponry. This suggests that Haig was not ready for the modern way of fighting. Also, most of Haig's experience was with the cavalry. ...read more.

Conclusion

Is it fair, therefore, to blame Haig completely for these failures? Is it possible to view Haig as a failure considering that Britain did win the war? Some would argue that he was a failure due to the mass loss of life that occurred under his instruction. However, Haig had warned people of this: "... The nation must be taught to bear losses... The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists..." This would suggest that Haig was not a complete failure. It seems that the British people just didn't comprehend the extent of the loss of which they had been forewarned. He cannot be seen as responsible for this. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that Haig was responsible for the failings of the British war effort on the western front 1916 - 1917. However, it is impossible to lay the blame solely on Haig. His superiors failed to act despite the intolerable death toll and despite the loss of life, Haig was allowed to continue using his costly tactics. Also, it is impossible to identify Haig as a complete failure as he did eventually help Britain to win the war. However, his failings were unacceptable and he was unworthy of the gratifications he received when he returned from the war. He was, however, worthy of the title "The Butcher of the Somme". ?? ?? ?? ?? Oliver Newland History Coursework ...read more.

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