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Was Field Marshall Haig the butcher of the Somme ?

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12th May 2001 Was Field Marshall Haig the butcher of the Somme ? Field Marshall Haig was born in Edinburgh and educated at the Royal Military college. He served as a chief of staff in India, was a commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium, and was a successful cavalry commander in the Boer war in South Africa before being appointed commander of the British forces at the age of 54 in 1915. Haig is often portrayed as the "Butcher of the Somme" because of the heavy casualty list on the first Day of battle and the fact that he led one of the bloodiest battles in War. 20,000 British soldiers died and 57,000 were wounded or dead on the first day of the battle of the Somme, compared to 8,000 dead or wounded Germans. Nearly 50,000 men died with hardly any increase of land in one day. He is often compared to a butcher/slaughterer because of this. Arguments that show he was a butcher: Haig was prepared to accept heavy casualties to win. ...read more.


Haig's plans for the battle of the Somme were that a week before attacking, the artillery would bombard the German trenches for a week. This was supposed to destroy German barbed wire and trenches. Huge mines were supposed to be planted under German trenches. A week later the British soldiers were to walk across no man's land (where the barbed wire would be destroyed by the artillery and mines) where they would find the Germans ready to surrender and their trenches ruined. The cavalry would then advance to join the men on foot. This all went terribly wrong. For a start, the artillery had not cut the barbed wire, it had just made it even more tangled up; meaning that the men on foot could not get through to the German trenches. The Germans had dug trenches so deep that the bombardment that was supposed to destroy them, didn't. After the British had tried to get through the barbed wire to the German trenches they found that German soldiers were ready for them. ...read more.


Yet he didn't use any of these methods, he always stuck to the technique of attrition, determination and morale of soldiers and surprise attacks, which cost dearly in the lives of hundreds of men. Arguments in support of Haig Even though Haig's methods of battle resulted in many men dead, his ideas of battle were common for the time. In all the letters written whilst Haig was Commander of the British forces complaining/criticising his battle plans, there were never any contributions of alternative methods. Haig, throughout his military career, said that wars were won through "the loss of initiative" and not having a self-protective attitude, not by having the finest artillery or latest war equipment. Conclusion Was Haig the butcher of the Somme? He was willing to accept heavy casualties, he was criticised for never being near the front line or with the soldiers, his plan backfired yet he still carried on using it (even when there were other solutions) are all arguments against Haig. Arguments that support Haig are just that his plans were criticised yet there was never a given alternative. Yes, Haig was the butcher of the Somme. The arguments for Haig being the butcher of the Somme overshadow those saying he wasn't. ...read more.

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