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Was the label “the Butcherof the Somme” a fair description of General Haig?

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Introduction

Was the label "the Butcher of the Somme" a fair description of General Haig? In December 1915 it was still a stalemate situation on the Western front. This was because both sides were dug deep into a line of trenches stretching over 70 miles from the Belgian ports to Switzerland; neither army could gain any ground, or make any progress towards victory. The British questioned how well their army was being led. On 10th December 1915 General Haig was appointed as the new commander of the British troops, succeeding Field Marshall Sir John French. Haig faced a difficult task, as he was to try to relieve the pressure imposed on the French by the Germans at Verdun, by attacking another part of the front lines. His tactics strategies and general opinions towards war caused some to label him as "the Butcher of the Somme". Does he deserve this title or was he doing his best for the war effort? ...read more.

Middle

Haig felt that "The machine gun is a much overrated weapon". During the early part of the battle of the Somme Haig's strategies overlooked the power of the enemy machine guns. On the 1st July 1916 the British troops were ordered to go "over the top". However they were to walk, not run, they also had to carry packs weighing about sixty pounds. The fact that the British were only able to move very slowly left them like sitting targets. They were almost instantly mown down by the German's machine guns. During the battle of the Somme General Haig did not use many different tactics or formulate any new strategies. Haig did not make full use of new technological advances such as the tanks. He could have used tanks to a much greater extent during the battle. There were many other ways in which Haig could have changed his tactics at the battle of the Somme. ...read more.

Conclusion

Messages took a long time to be delivered from Haig to the trenches and the Field Marshall did not have knowledge of the terrible losses of the 1st July until three days later. In contrast to Haig's butcher like tactics at the end of the war he was welcomed home as a victorious hero. As the battle of the Somme had served it's purpose by removing the pressure of the Germans from the French at Verdun. However was this too high a price to pay for victory? The battle of the Somme resulted in the largest number of British deaths than any battle before it. It took five months for the pressure on Verdun to be lifted. At the Somme only a few square miles of blood and mud had been gained in exchange for 700,000 deaths. I personally feel that Field Marshall Haig does deserve the title of "Butcher of the Somme" as he casually sent hundreds of thousands of young men to their deaths. He did not think of alternative tactics and readily accepted the large number of deaths and casualties. ...read more.

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