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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? On 1st July 1916, General Haig prepared the battle plan for an offensive on German lines, designed to relieve the strain on French forces at Verdun and break through a strong line of German defences. While Haig would have preferred an attack further north, he was hopeful that the operation should be successful in drawing forces away from Verdun and killing as many German troops as possible as part of the "war of attrition". The location was the Somme River. The details were worked out by General Haig and his deputy, General Rawlinson. The focus of the battle plan was a huge artillery bombardment, backed up by mines, collapsed beneath enemy territory with the aim of devastating German positions. The bombardment would effectively cut through the enemy's barbed wire, while smashing fortified positions and dug-outs. Haig placed so much faith in the power of British guns, that he expected men to be capable of walking across no-man's land, carrying heavy packs with provisions and trench repair equipment to rebuild the captured territory upon arrival. ...read more.

Middle

For example, the shells supplied to British forces were not as Haig had envisaged, many of which were of low quality, or failed to go off at all. Over confidence resulted in the offensive's first major flaw; it's timing. The infantry attack began at 7.30 am on 1st July, rather than at dawn when no-man's land would be covered in a thick mist which would naturally make the task of the German gunner much more difficult. Such a time was chosen by Commanders who were confident that there would be little, if any, resistance along the German front. The attack began after the detonation of two huge mines placed under German lines, the explosion of which could be heard in London. This, another flaw in scheme, only served to inform German forces that an attack was coming. The assault consisted of twenty seven divisions, approximately three quarters of a million men, going over the top against sixteen divisions of German troops, waiting to defend their lines. French forces succeeded in capturing certain objectives after running at German lines, not weighed down with heavy packs and equipment. ...read more.

Conclusion

Haig was bitterly criticised for his role in the madness, by his own soldiers, politicians and the press. Despite warning people that heavy losses would be necessary, Haig gained the title "Butcher of the Somme." Haig argued that the objective, Verdun, was saved however this was of little comfort to British people becoming increasingly aware of the grim nature of the war and the lives it had cost. The battle brought the realisation to the home-front that the war would be a long, grim battle of attrition and not the swift outcome they were expecting. The battle also resulted in a loss of confidence in Britain's leaders, as the optimistic reports turned out to be false or exaggerated. Arguably the most tragic side to this military disaster was the sheer loss of life. Horrific casualty figures saw entire regiments lost, including many pals battalions practically wiped out. Britain lost an entire generation of young men to the battle of the Somme, a military tragedy that brought the horrors of war to Britain in a way nobody had ever witnessed. The Battle of the Somme will always be remembered as a great, military tragedy. ?? ?? ?? ?? Daniel Larrosa ...read more.

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