How far does Source A prove that Haig did not care about the lives of his men?

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9.3.1 The First World War



  1. Study sources A and B.

How far does Source A prove that Haig did not care about the lives of his men?

After studying source A, I felt that it suggested that Haig was cold-blooded and harsh. At first glance, in my view, he came across not only to be a demanding and self-seeking leader, never taking into account the health and safety of his men. An example of this is when he says, “the nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.” The fact that he uses the words “the nation must” implies that Haig may be insensitive and therefore didn’t care about the lives of the men he was responsible for. His attitude, in my opinion, is that of if men were going to die, then there was nothing anybody could do about it.

        It was after studying source B that I became uncertain of the extent to which Haig did not care about the lives of his men because in this source, he seems to show more concern and I am more inclined to go to with the view that Haig did in fact care about the lives of his men. This is suggested also when he discusses the spirits and morale among the men. I also concluded from this that to know this sort of information he must be more involved with the men which wasn’t the impression I got from source A.

You can justify this point, which was in source A, by saying that at the time, Haig may have just been being practical whilst making sure that people really understood the seriousness of the current situation and that it was inevitable that men were going to die and people as a consequent of Haig’s actions or tactics. You could also say that by writing in this cynical way, Haig protected himself, so that if any troops were killed, it would not come as a shock to the system and as he warned people of this possible outcome, people wouldn’t blame him.

        Because of this point, I feel that Source A doesn’t actually prove that Haig did not care about the lives of his men.

  1. Study sources B and C.

Which one of these two sources do you trust more?

After first studying the sources, I compared parts of each source. Firstly Private George Coppard would have had first hand experience in the front line at the trenches. Haig on the other hand wouldn’t have had this sort of experience. Because of this, I am assuming that when he says, “the barbed wire has never been so well cut”, he has been told this and not actually gone to No-Man’s Land to check its condition.

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        This is where Coppard has the upper hand. He would have seen “hundreds of dead…strung out on the barbed wire like wreckage washed up on a high water mark.”

        I also have doubts as to the truth behind the troops having “splendid spirits”. This is because he would have had someone to answer to and you wouldn’t go and tell them that everyone’s heads are dropped and worried about the fact that they could be shot at any point. As well as having someone else to answer to, you got the hopes of a nation on your shoulders and back ...

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