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The Battle of the Somme

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Introduction

GCSE History Coursework: Assignment 1 Question 1 1. In 1916, the Germans launched a major attack on the French fortresses in Verdun. The French were close to defeat but were determined not to surrender. They knew the British were about to launch a major attack on the Western Front which would take pressure off them. They also knew that the Germans were likely to call off the attack at Verdun if they were to defend against the English. The Battle of the Somme was known as the 'Big Push' that was hoped to end in a British victory- the breakthrough that would end the stalemate on the Western Front. The generals in charge at the Somme were Haig and Rawlinson. Haig was responsible for the planning of and directing the attack. He used very old-fashioned tactics. He believed that the machine gun was overrated and that we could win the war using cavalry alone. The principles of the attack were heavy artillery bombardment followed by mass infantry assault. The plan was to constantly bombard the German trenches with shells in order to destroy the front line and create a gap in the barbed-wire for the infantry to pass through It was hoped that if ...read more.

Middle

The rapid fire meant the well-armed Germans just cut through the soldiers until they were all dead, The Somme was also such a disaster because of the Generals' tactics. The horrific 1st day did not deter them from continuing for 4 months, knowing there was nearly no chance of a break-through. They were slaughtering the men with no results, Haig, especially is thought to be mainly to blame for the disaster. He used old-fashioned tactics which had failed miserably before, only this time on a much bigger scale. Basically, he was gambling with men's lives. Theoretically Rawlinson was in charge. Possibly, Haig disagreed with the plan but he was reluctant to overrule him. Overall, the Allies gained only a small amount of land, often lost immediately. This did not justify the loss of 420,000 men. GCSE History Coursework: Assignment 1 Question 3 3. The British Army at the Somme being described as 'lions led by donkeys' was a very clever statement as it is true on many levels. This quote was spoken by the German General Ludendorff. The fact that he was German is very significant, as by saying this, he is showing true respect for the British soldiers. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, describing the Generals as donkeys is not always correct or accurate. The Allies were ultimately victorious which wouldn't have been possible if the Generals were totally incompetent Also, the German army at the Somme was extremely good, therefore it wasn't necessarily the tactics that had failed, it was just bad luck. The Generals at the Somme were put under great strain. It is very likely that no other British General could've withstood the pressure. The General particularly in question when discussing the Somme is Haig. He wasn't as incompetent as people think and being known as the 'bungler' or 'butcher' is rather harsh. He often varied his tactics to cope with the problems encountered and was devoted to his men. Also, he was trusted by the soldiers, a thing which many Generals lacked. When people cheered for him at the end of the war, he showed great modesty, claiming it was the soldiers they should be cheering for. In conclusion, it is clear to see there is a lot of evidence both agreeing and disagreeing with General Ludendorff's statement. I however, agree overall with the quotation 'lions led by donkeys'. Even though the Generals were not as incompetent as people often think, they made some stupid mistakes that cost Britain thousands of innocent men. ...read more.

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