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Why is The Battle of the Somme regarded as such a great military tragedy?

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Introduction

Q1. Why is The Battle of the Somme regarded as such a great military tragedy? The first battle of the Somme was a planned, British offensive against German positions, lead by Field Marshell Sir Douglas Haig. The military objective for the conflict was to relieve pressure on the beleaguered French forces, caught up in a war of attrition with the Germans, which were close to breaking point at Verdun. In attacking German forces along the river Somme and divert their attention away from the French, Haig believed he could break the enemy by punching a hole through their line, using massive force and large numbers of troops. Haig's strategy was two fold, start by heavily bombarding German positions with artillery, then send in the infantry to clear out the enemy's positions and secure the territory. He started the offensive on 23rd June 1916 with an eight day artillery barrage on the German lines. The intention was to 'soften up' the enemy's front line and kill as many Germans as possible. However Haig underestimated how well the enemy had dug in and the strength of the German defensive position, an oversight which had dire consequences once the initial barrage was over. ...read more.

Middle

This is a total of 620,000 human lives lost fighting the Germans. Compared to the half a million Germans that fell, Haig is actually filtering the information within his report. Overall Haig's view of the Germans being 'practically beaten men' had some truth to it. The truth however was based on the war weariness that was being experienced by both sides. Mainly because of the fact that people thought the war would have been won by Christmas 1914. Reading the provenance it is possible to find that it is 'part' of a report. This means there may be more information explaining in more detail the importance of the Somme. Secondly it is about the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme. As general and in overall command of the troops Haig will be attempting to justify his actions and the battle itself. He will not be including any information pointing out the battle was avoidable, poorly fought or pointless. This would then leave him open to dispute and possible removal from his position. Finally the report had been sent in December 1916, the belief was the war could have been won by Christmas (December) 1914. As the war had continued 2 years longer than predicted the British Cabinet would have been anxious for good if not excellent results at this point. ...read more.

Conclusion

However it does acknowledge Haig's great self confidence and ambitious nature and as an excerpt from Great Battles of World War 1 is in itself a testament to his brilliance. Source E states that Haig was a blunderer and that if he had been stopped millions may have been saved. He makes himself sound na�ve for believing Haig's promise about stopping the attack if it became too bloody. The source is written in hindsight and was probably done to take blame away from Lloyd George making it an unreliable source. Source F believes Haig was correct and did the right thing. However it is an extract from his official biography which is unlikely to criticise him. This information was written by Cooper who was a family friend who would be biased toward him and having been asked to write the book by the Haig family cannot be a reliable source. Source G agrees with Keegans statement saying that blame could not placed solely on Haig's shoulders and there wasn't anyone else for the position. It gives a Germans perspective on the Somme calling it 'the muddy grave of the German army'. His upbringing, education, training and previous experience indicate he was an efficient soldier for his time. In conclusion to the question, the majority of the sources do support the statement however due to their biased nature there is insufficient evidence to support Mr Keegan's interpretation. ...read more.

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