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How useful are sources A, B, and C to a historian studying the attitudes of British soldiers to their commanders during the First World War?

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Introduction

Coursework Assignment One Question One How useful are sources A, B, and C to a historian studying the attitudes of British soldiers to their commanders during the First World War? Firstly, Source A is a cartoon from the British magazine 'Punch'. It shows a Maj. General addressing his men before a practice exercise. The text beneath the cartoon describes the General telling the men that there a three essential differences between a practice and the real attack; firstly the absence of the enemy and them he asks a Sargent Major for the second to which he replies 'the absence of the General'. This source takes a very satirical view of the hypocrisy of the First World War commanders. It shows a General telling men about battles of the kind he has never participated in. This highlights the way many soldiers felt, particularly those of ranks such as Lieutenant and Captain, who tell their men the wire was cut and that everything would be alright, despite what they knew, because those were the orders of the Generals. The problem with this source is that it was drawn in Britain, most probably by someone who had not been to the front. ...read more.

Middle

Finally Earl Haig would probably have editorial control over the article in exchange for his views. This quote would support Keegan's interpretation about Haig being an 'efficient' commander when he says "It is high time my father was given credit for... the victories he achieved... which brought the war to an end." It is true that Haig achieved many victories but at an immense cost of human life, which I believe does not reflect an efficient or highly skilled soldier. Source D is a poster appearing in the book 'General Haig's Private War.' The information I have about this source is limited since I do not know when it was drawn, who drew it or what type of book it is published in. Regardless of this lack of information we can still learn a great deal about Haig from it. The poster shows Haig's absolute and unshakeable self-confidence, which, on the Somme, led to his inability to recognise defeat. It was his absolute self-belief which led him to promise a great victory on the Somme and subsequently led him to make continued attacks over the 142 days of the battle when most would have seen that his objectives could not be achieved by this. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, there is still the example of Haig's inefficiency and lack of skill in the art of modern warfare that was the Battle of the Somme, and this must be taken into consideration. It is seen by some as a victory, but there were 20,000 dead 40,000 wounded on the first day and many of these casualties were taken in the first half-hour of the battle. This cost on the first day amounted to just one advance of just over a mile to seize the village of Montauban. During a five-day attack on the Somme, on the ridge marked by Delville Wood, only 758 men of the 3000 strong South African Brigade were left alive, and many of these had suffered wounds before relief arrived. During the 142 days between 1st July and 18th November that was the Battle of the Somme, 1.2 million men were dead or wounded. Surely these would be hugely unacceptable losses to an efficient and highly skilled commander as Keegan suggests Haig was, but still he pressed on with the attack, and for example, in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps alone, 23,000 men died to gain just one mile of mud. A.J.P. Taylor sums up the Somme in these words, "The Somme set the picture by which future generations saw the First World War: brave helpless soldiers; obstinate generals; nothing achieved." Mark M Addison Page 1 5/9/2007 1 1 ...read more.

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