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The great war: The battle of the Somme.

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Introduction

GCSE HISTORY COURSEWORK ASSIGNMENT: SPRING 2000 THE GREAT WAR: THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 1. Describe the conditions that soldiers experienced on the Western Front in the years 1915-17. In the years 1915-1917, the soldiers on the Western Front had to experience the most horrendous and horrifying conditions, unbearable to imagine to others, which made the soldiers morale plummet down and often lead to drastic action. The trenches the soldiers had to live in were dangerous, dirty, and unhealthy and many of the illnesses and problems the soldiers encountered added to the numerous amount of casualties. Soldiers were often knee deep in mud and water and caught illnesses such as 'Trench Foot' from standing too long in cold, dirty water. Most of the soldiers' legs went dead, but for those who didn't, their feet would swell up and cause such pain, they had to be amputated. Many drowned when they slipped into flooded shell holes and mental illnesses such as 'Shell Shock' and 'Trench Fever' meant that the soldiers were always shaking and could not cope with the incredible noise and type of life they had to live. Also, when the temperature dropped, frostbite occurred, and this was a major problem as over 74,000 British soldiers were sent to hospital for treatment. One of the worst experiences for the soldiers must have been to see their fellow comrades blown to pieces when they were shot or hit by shells aimed at the trenches. ...read more.

Middle

There were quite a few reasons why Haig decided to fight the Battle of the Somme in 1916, but there were three main reasons in particular. The first and probably the most important reason, was connected to the politicians. The politicians wanted to relieve the pressure of the town of Verdun, where the German army had heavily covered and fortified the whole French area. It was seen as a symbol of the French struggle against the enemy, but some people, such as the French commander-in-chief, Joffre, questioned whether it was actually strategically necessary to protect Verdun. But others, such as the Prime Minister, Briand, were persistent that Verdun had to be protected no matter what. In order to do this, pressure had to be taken off Verdun and put on other places where the Germans would want to defend themselves, therefore, forcing the German troops to divert and leave Verdun. This would allow the chance of opening up supply routes to the city so that it would not have to give up and surrender. The politicians compelled Haig into agreeing for an Allied attack, where the British would launch an attack at the Somme, as well as the Russians launching an attack at Lake Naroch on the Eastern Front and the Italians fighting on Isorzo. Therefore, one reason Haig decided to fight the Battle of the Somme was to protect Verdun, relieve pressure off the defenders at Verdun and to please the politicians. ...read more.

Conclusion

It was due to misunderstandings such as this, which contributed to the numerous amounts of soldiers killed and the 58,000 casualties. The overall role of the infantry was not that great. Inexperienced soldiers who flawed the basic tactics were sent to war, as there were not enough soldiers on the front in the first place - due to the Generals' rules and tactics, ending in hundreds of thousands of soldiers dying. The lack of secrecy and surprise was another disadvantage for the British. The Germans had the technology and spotter planes to see what the British were doing, and when and where they were going to go 'over the top'. The end of any artillery barrage signalled to the Germans when the British were going to begin their attack and paths marked with tape signalled to the Germans the exact location of the British advance. The Germans also had lookouts and commanding view of No Mans Land, and therefore could easily spot the British troops. The Germans used certain things to their advantage, such as using the gaps in the barbed wire to place machine guns to directly fire and hit the British. The unsuitable location, with the Germans uphill and the British in bad places of attack, and the bad weather which halted any progress that may have been made were also some of the many reasons as to why the Battle of the Somme failed to achieve British objectives. Reena Sodha 1 ...read more.

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