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"Lions led by donkeys". How valid is this interpretation of the conduct of British Soldiers and Generals on the Western Front 1914-1918.

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Introduction

History Assignment - "Lions led by donkeys". How valid is this interpretation of the conduct of British Soldiers and Generals on the Western Front 1914-1918 The First World War took place between 1914 and 1918. It was the first all-European conflict for a hundred years. Two extremely powerful states hurled against each other everything military science at the time could devise. It was the cause of millions of deaths and was the most devastating event that had ever occurred. Much of the First World War was fought at a stalemate where both forces fought in trenches. One of the main places for trench warfare was on the Western Front where the states fought in miles of trenches, separated by a few miles of "no man's land". This was the stage for the mass butchery of millions of British Soldiers. The phrase "Lions led by donkey's" is the common term used to describe the conduct of the British Soldiers and Generals on the Western Front 1914-1918. The phrase means that incompetent, inadequate generals led brave British soldiers. In this essay I will be analysing and studying sources of past and present to conclude whether or not this is a valid interpretation. ...read more.

Middle

This source should be reliable as its purpose is to inform, therefore there should be no point in lying or exaggerating. Also the source is "Official figures" so should be reliable. Although the "missing" list is not included in the figures it should not alter the trend of there being far greater amounts of deaths in the Western Fronts than anywhere else. Therefore I think this source clearly shows that too many lives were lost, thus supporting "Lions led by donkeys". The way that troops were sent to fight in impossible conditions and how generals used wrong tactics are other factors that supports the idea of "Lions led by donkeys". Source A5 (ii), a description of a battle by Captain A. O. Pollard, describes the atrocious conditions the troops were sent to fight in and unsuccessful tactics employed. Evidence of poor tactics can be seen when it describes, after "weeks on end" of artillery bombarding the enemy's barbed wire, "Usually we ran up against large patches of uncut wire". This clearly supports the idea that the generals were donkeys and that their tactics did not work. One of the main tactics exercised by the British was to use heavy artillery to destroy the barbered wire, however, as the source shows this was usually unsuccessful. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is a clear contrast to Haig's words, therefore decreasing the reliability. Another indication that sources from Haig are unreliable is that there is some evidence that his diary entries were edited after they were written. Although in many people's eyes Haig has been seen as a murderer, "The biggest murderer of the lot was Haig", he led the British army to the "greatest series of victories in the British Army's whole history" between August and November 1918. This extract written by Peter Simkins shows how the generals were actually extremely successful. I think this idea of great success is reliable as the purpose of the source is just to inform. Also Simkins is the Senior Historian at the Imperial War Museum therefore his work should be researched and well informed, therefore meaning there must be truth in it. Also it is true that this period between August and November 1918 did exist, as it is still known today as "Hundred Days". In conclusion I feel that the interpretation "Lions led by donkeys" does have a lot of truth in it. Many sources prove that generals did lived many miles away, too many lives were lost, bad tactics were used and there were impossible conditions. However, it should not be forgotten that Britain did win and this stalemate warfare could only be won with heavy losses. ...read more.

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