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The Battle of the Somme: Were Lions led by Donkeys?

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´╗┐The Somme: Were Lions led by donkeys? Introduction Throughout the following essay, I will be discussing and providing evidence to debate whether ?Lions led by donkeys? was the correct phrase to use to describe the generals and the soldiers during the Battle of the Somme. "Lions led by donkeys" was a phrase used to describe the British infantry of the First World War and to condemn the generals who commanded them. The contention is that the brave soldiers (lions) were sent to their deaths by incompetent and indifferent leaders (donkeys) at the Battle of the Somme. The phrase was first used by Max Hoffman and was later used in a book describing the First World War by Alan Clark. The Battle of the Somme took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916, months before the beginning of the First World War. After the battle over 3,000,000 shells were collected and sources provide evidence that 2,000 guns were used by the British divisions during this horrific period. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from both armies lost their lives, which is the main reason why people still remember the battle to this day. Personally, I believe that the phrase ?Lions led by donkeys? is correct but the evidence given in this essay provides arguments for both sides of the case (a mixture of good and bad things which generals did during the Battle of the Somme). ...read more.


In addition, General Edmund Allenby noticed problems with the battle plan - he thought that the British troops would be open to German artillery fire. He also spotted a one mile gap between two divisions. Despite receiving such advice the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) commander, General Douglas Haig, chose to ignore it which was extremely unwise. As a consequence, casualties increased significantly. General Haig - What went wrong? General Haig (shown above in the picture) was originally pressured to bring forward the attack date from August in order to relieve the heavy casualties in Verdun, Southern France. The Germans had been bombarding this area since early in the year so it was thought that by committing significant British forces on the Battle of the Somme; the allies? forces would divert troops from Verdun. Therefore there would be a reduced rate of casualties in other affected areas further south. General Haig?s plan at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme was to use artillery fire (like bomb shells) and completely destroy the German trenches. Once the trenches were destroyed, the British soldiers would walk over no man?s land and meet little resistance. However, the shells that were fired at the enemy trenches were of very poor condition therefore the bombardment failed to destroy either the barbed wire or the concrete bunkers protecting the allies? soldiers. ...read more.


As a result of my research, I feel that the generals didn?t really consider the troops? safety when forming their battle plans. A different point of view is that on the first day of the battle, the Germans caught the British troops by surprise, suggesting why there were some many casualties on that day. On the other hand, I feel that the cost in human terms (with nearly 150,000 allied men being killed) was too high for relatively little gain in land (seven miles). As mentioned earlier in the essay, it is still remembered today purely due to the number of casualties suffered by the British and French troops, especially on the first day of the battle. In my opinion it is clearly evident that a group of people were to blame for the disaster. From my research, I have found that the generals in charge of the British army were at fault for the huge numbers of casualties during the Battle of the Somme, particularly BEF commander General Douglas Haig, who ignored advice from everybody; soldiers and other generals which could have increased their territorial gains and reduced the casualties. In conclusion, my opinion is that the stronger evidence persuades me to agree with the original statement made by Max Hoffman describing the British Infantry as ?Lions led by Donkeys?. ...read more.

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