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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 Battle of the Somme was fought from June to November of 1916, and is one of the most significant events in the war for British history. Overall for the British army, there were about 420,000 casualties, 60,000 of those on the first day alone. The battle was originally planned as an attack by the French with British support, but the German attack in Verdun altered these plans. The French were under immense pressure at Verdun, and the Germans were heavily attacking them. The French couldn't last much longer, so they had to somehow create a diversion. So it was agreed that General Haig would lead a mainly British offensive in the area around the River Somme. The Plan Apart from trying to distract German troops away from Verdun, the aim was to kill as many German troops as possible in the 'war of attrition'. ...read more.

Middle

Attitude of Officers Despite the horrific casualties and the apparent failures of the first day, he insisted that the attacks should continue through July and August. He was heavily criticised for simply throwing men at the enemies. But he despised criticism and opposition. He had very high ambitions and was an arrogant man. He was also very single-minded in his offensive. But the most costly mistake he made was when it came to hearing reports. Because of his strong opinions and character, he took little notice of the discouraging reports of failures, and concentrated on the positive reports. This was crucial, as there were only few positive reports, so most of the mission he was turning a blind eye to. Another factor that didn't help is that there was clearly tension between him and General Rawlinson. They disagreed on many decisions, and didn't want to co-operate fully with one another. Because of his strong character, the war battle went on for much longer than it needed to, costing thousands of lives. ...read more.

Conclusion

Aftermath Haig called off the attack with winter approaching, and the battle ended on 18th November. Despite the huge cost of 420,000 casualties, only a strip of land about 25km long and 6km wide were gained. Haig was brutally criticised, and was nicknamed 'The Butcher' even by his own troops. The battle also damaged the leaders' confidence. In the chaos and confusion after the first day of battle many of the reports were misleading and over-optimistic. The high expectations and the confusion about what had happened made the press and public suspicious of their own leaders. Conclusion The reason was clear why this was labelled a tragedy - a horrific amount of casualties, yet the country does not seem in a much better position in the war. Although Haig said the price of victory was lives, nobody could have expected just how high the casualties would have risen. For me, that is the main factor for why the Battle of the Somme was a tragedy; a huge amount of young brave men, led by cowards to their certain death. Candidate Name: Sam Fiske Candidate Number: 6235 ...read more.

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