Does Haig deserve the title 'The Butcher of the Somme'?

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Does Haig deserve the title 'The Butcher of the Somme'?


In this essay, I will try to figure out what historians all over the world have been talking about for years: Does Sir Douglas William Haig deserve the title 'The Butcher of the Somme'? I will start by correctly defining the term, 'butcher', before analysing the case for and against this statement. I will finally conclude my essay by weighing up the two cases and comparing the definitions of 'butcher' to his actions.


Cutter of meat

Seller of meat

Profiteer from death


Authority to kill


Does Haig deserve the title 'The butcher of the Somme'?

Argument: For Statement

To say that Haig was the hero of the victory at the Somme, although the opinion of the people of the time, must now be looked back on with great scepticism. You cannot deny that Haig made the correct tactical decision to make an offensive at the Somme, in order to take the pressure of Verdun, and it is true to say that he achieved his target objective in doing so. However, it is inexcusable, whatever the gain, to throw away life so carelessly as Haig did. It is also to be noted, that Haig's attitude after the Somme, was that it was a worthy sacrifice, and an honourable way for a man to die. In other words, he didn't care about the loses, as long as he got the praise at the end of it all.

It is obvious that to tell the men to walk across no-mans land must be looked at as the ultimate cause for the slaughter of the Somme. It was Haig who gave the order to walk and formulated the strategy for the offensive. His plan was flawed. Firstly he didn't consider all possibilities, the only outcome that he had planned and accommodated for was that everything went according to plan. This was clearly not the case as he didn't consider that the Explosions under the German line were all going to be synchronized, or that the Germans might survive in their dugouts. Also, and even more disastrous, he didn't have a plan B. What this means is, suggesting that not everything goes well, and say the Germans did survive in their dugouts, he didn't have any alternative plan to revert to, he just kept on with the same disastrous strategy, and judging by the fact that he continued with the same plan for 2 months, it seems unlikely that he had a plan B for any outcome, which means that he was relying on everything going according to plan - a very bad tactical decision.

Haig could have easily changed his plans when he realized they weren't having any affect and he was throwing lives away, for example (and this is my plan): Began the bombardment again and this time ran across, the barbed wire was a problem but the Irish got through the first time when they ran, so it was definitely possible. And also, the whole objective of the Somme was to take the pressure off Verdun, so once the Germans had dragged half their army up to deal with the Somme, the British had no need to attack them, they could just sit and wait, the Germans weren't going anywhere because they knew that they would be vulnerable and could be attacked at any time with all the British soldiers just waiting, the last thing the Germans were going to do was just leave and go back to Verdun, and if they did, (which would be crazy) then the offensive could begin, and attack the weakened lines. However, these plans were obviously made when looking back on the battle, Haig wouldn't have had the luxury of hindsight. Although, he is to blame for not changing his tactics when the 1st day had been such a failure. When something you try clearly doesn't work, why keep doing it at the cost of lives?
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After all, the only reason that Haig gave the order to walk was because he was under the false impression that all the Germans had been killed in the bombardment and the men would be walking straight through the trenches to Berlin. It is for this reason that the men were carrying 30 pounds of pack on their shoulders, and were told that they were walking towards empty trenches. However, when this clearly wasn't the case, and it was obvious that they were not walking towards empty trenches, why carry on walking if the only reason for doing ...

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