• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Battle of the Somme

Extracts from this document...


Describe the conditions that British soldiers experienced on the Western Front 1915-1917. In terms of both warfare and technology, WWI was a unique war. It was far longer than any war that had preceded it, and advances in technology introduced several new weapons to the arsenals of both the Allies and the Germans. Trenches dominated the war from 1915 to 1917, which turned it into a war of attrition - a stalemate. The trenches developed into a complex network, allowing information and supplies to be delivered from reserve and support trenches to the front line, via a series of communication trenches. Owing to the fact that trenches were very hard to attack and easier to defend (due to defences such as barbed wire), battalions could spend weeks, perhaps months, without advancing. Wooden 'duckboards' were used in an effort to keep soldiers' feet from coming into excessive contact with wet mud, though this did not stop many soldiers from developing an ailment known as 'trench foot', caused by prolonged exposure to moisture. Soldiers' feet became sore, blistered, and in some cases began to rot. The machine gun played an integral part in WWI. The Lewis gun in particular was used extensively by British soldiers, as it was lighter, and therefore more portable than its predecessors. It also comprised fewer parts than any previous machine gun, allowing easy repair and assembly. ...read more.


There was also a lot of pressure from the public, Parliament, and the Royal Court on the British army to obtain a victory, after their disastrous failure at Gallipoli (Haig, after all, had been appointed because he believed he would be a more appropriate leader of the BEF than John French - he once referred to French as "a source of great weakness to the army"). Haig's connections with both Parliament and royalty - he was known to be in contact with both George V and the Prime Minister - further encouraged him to begin progression. Haig was obliged to provide a victory for Britain. Haig, and his subordinate Henry Rawlinson, had a strong conviction that an artillery barrage followed by advancing troops was one of the most effective ways of attacking the enemy. They believed that a strong barrage would knock out front line posts, enabling troops to advance relatively unharmed. The British army in the spring of 1916 was armed with an adequate number of munitions to fight a large battle, and, with the aid of Lord Kitchener's volunteer army, was also large enough to fight. This, coupled with the absolute confidence in the supremacy of the artillery barrage of both Haig and Rawlinson, enabled Haig to plan a battle that, in theory, would grant the English the victory they wanted and would also confirm Haig as a superior military leader to his predecessor, French. ...read more.


Haig, along with his subordinate Henry Rawlinson, have also fallen under criticism for giving the order for troops to advance slowly across No Man's Land, rather than 'rushing', that is to say, having small parties of troops dash out, using shell holes as protection. Haig and Rawlinson were of the opinion that because many of their troops were volunteers, they would not be experienced enough in 'rushing' for it to be beneficial to the attack. However, Haig had intended his artillery barrage to have knocked out much of the German forces, and walking across No Man's Land would therefore not have been nearly as deadly as it proved to be - so it may not be correct to blame Haig entirely for this mistake. However, his tactics were largely inflexible, and this inflexibility forced Haig to continue with the attack although he knew it had failed. Many historians argue, however, that Haig ignored many viable, more adaptable alternatives to his plan of attack. I do believe it is fair to say that the Battle of the Somme was largely a failure, although it was certainly not a complete one - although the British failed to take significant ground from the Germans, Haig succeeded in removing German forces from Verdun, and led to a large reduction in the number of German troops. Whether achieving these objectives was worth the massive loss of life, however, remains a controversial issue. ?? ?? ?? ?? George Adje 11Latymer The Battle of the Somme 31/10/06 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Britain 1905-1951 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Britain 1905-1951 essays

  1. The Battle of The Somme.

    These are the worst losses in British history for one single day. Source A: (From Sir Douglas HaigÆs despatch, 23rd December 1916) This source shows us the objectives that Haig had defined for the Battle of the Somme, It is however dated after the battle had ended, on 23rd December 1916.

  2. Were Lions led by donkeys in World war one?

    troop to certain death?'. Both of these sources were written about the French army, and both imply that the French army were bad. If these sources are true, then in my opinion, Haig must have been very desperate for help in the war. Basil Liddel-Hart, a tank expert and military historian, said, in 1936:

  1. Describe the conditions that soldiers experienced on the western front in the years 1915-1917.

    Comments from a British soldier, 1916. Question two: Why was there a stalemate on the western front during the much of World War One. War first broke between the countries, when Germany decided it was time to expand its empire to try and match the British Empire that ruled a third of the globe.

  2. How Far was Haig responsible for the failings of the British War effort on ...

    The Allies initially made small gains but any further gains became almost impossible with extremely heavy rains turning the battlefield into a muddy swamp. The bombardment, which Haig ordered, had destroyed the drainage system. Haig still pressed on but was unable to launch any major offensives until 16 August which saw the British make small gains but take heavy casualties.

  1. Introduction of Technology - WWI

    At first it looked like it would work but the Germans had moved much faster than their supplies and pretty soon the morale of the soldiers had dropped again. Very shortly the Americans joined the war so the Germans were attacked from the sides and were pushed back.

  2. The Battle of the Somme.

    of doubting neutrals in the invincibility of Germany. ... We have inflicted heavy losses on the enemy... In another 6 weeks, the enemy should be hard put to find men... the maintenance of a steady offensive pressure will result eventually in his (the enemy's)

  1. Dunkirk and the battle of Britain.

    It is quite detailed. "The machine guns cutting through those columns of soldiers like a reaper slicing through corn. This is an eyewitness account of how the Germans seemed in control. This was also made public to show Britain's that they are in war and the dive-bombers might actually hit next time so this time it was a lucky escape.

  2. The great war: The battle of the Somme.

    But they made little impact as many broke down even before reaching the battle area and others soon got bogged down in mud or knocked out. Apart from this, the preliminary artillery bombardment always warned the enemy of an attack in advance and mass attacks of infantry did not work,

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work