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Why is the battle of the somme regarded as such a great military tragedy.

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Introduction

Why is the Battle of the Somme regarded as such a great military tragedy? The word tragedy means an intensely sad, calamitous, fatal event of course of events; disaster. I think the most important reasons that the battle of the Somme is such a great tragedy are the scale of casualties, human suffering and individual loss, bad planning and leadership and the failure to achieve objectives. One of the reasons that the Battle of the Somme was such a great tragedy was due the bad planning and leadership by Sir Douglas Haig. The plans that were originally made by Rawlinson were changed this didn't have as much effect of breaking up the Germans defences. The troops were inexperienced, also there weren't as many experienced officers as their needed to be, to tell the soldiers what to do, but also to feed back to Haig quicker and more efficiently. The Somme was meant to relieve pressure from Verdun and because of this the French were only able to contribute half the men they said they would and this made it a mainly British attack. If there had been more help from Britain's ally France then the battle would have been more successful. Haig didn't think his plan through properly, he was hopeful that the bombardment would break through the German lines and bring the allies victory. It was a pointless exercise because the Germans hid in prepared dugouts and the defence line wasn't broken. Even after the amount of casualties on the first day Haig didn't' change his mind about the methods of warfare he employed. After a while Haig thought altering his plan to fight a war of attrition would be more successful, this also didn't work as the British casualties became even higher and not much land was gained at all. In the end the, after 3 months the decision was made by Haig to stop the battle. ...read more.

Middle

Later Haig was criticised for using tanks before their design was complete. Another main reason was the human suffering. The soldiers in the trenches lived in very poor conditions. The trenches were filthy and muddy and often flooded with water to around waist height, this meant the soldiers had to walk around in cold muddy water that got to freezing temperatures in the winter. Standing in the trench for a long time in these conditions gave some soldiers a disease called trench foot that causes the foot to swell up and go numb, eventually it would rot and in extreme cases the whole foot had to be amputated. Some men also got 'Shellshock' resulting from the stress of battle and due to the loud noises of the exploding shells and firing guns. They would scream, shudder and moan at any loud noise. These bad conditions made some feel down and depressed. Some men gave themselves a 'blighty' wound to get sent home, others tried to run away. If they were caught they were found guilty of cowardice and were shot by a firing squat. The trenches were also invaded by huge rats that feasted on the dead bodies in no mans land. They produced around 880 offspring a year and were a nuisance to the men living in the trenches. There was no clean water or soap provided for the men to wash with so they remained dirty, and caught lice. These lice lived in warm places on the soldier's bodies and their hair and clothes. They weren't given hot meals and cooking facilities were basic. They had no fresh fruit of vegetables in their diets and were given a non varied diet of bread, bully beef, tea, biscuits, cheese and potatoes. The failure to achieve objectives was another main factor to why the Somme was a great tragedy. The main objective was to achieve a breakthrough on the German lines. ...read more.

Conclusion

They soldiers were instructed by Haig to start with a 3 day long bombardment, by the that time they expected no one to be alive in the German trenches, and when the troops walked to the enemy trenches they only had to fire and the British troops were killed in hundreds. After this attack the battle moved on to the war of attrition that was meant to make German supplies run out over a slow consistent period of time. Instead the British lost an even larger percentage of men and also used up much of the equipment. Near the end of the battle the British army used tanks; these were meant t scare the opponent and were used to protect themselves and crushing the barbed wire and trench system at the German defence line, but once out there the advancing soldiers weren't given any support and in the end the tanks got stuck in the mud or broke down. The British were to slow to act, this gave the Germans time to build up their defences again and their chance was missed. The last reason about why the some was such a great tragedy was because of the large scale of casualties that the British army faced. On the first day alone the British had 60,000 casualties with 20,000 British troops dead and 35,000 wounded. By the end of the war in November 1916 the British had lost in total 420,000 and the French 200,000 and the Germans 500,000. I think the most important reason for the battle of the Somme being such a great military tragedy was the amount of casualties as this is what affected the outcome of the battle. I also think it would have helped if the leadership was better as there would have been more survivors if the plan of the battle had been changed after the first day. I think that the Battle could have been a bigger success if the plans were made quicker and the British army had responded quicker. ...read more.

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