2 Horrific! The Battle of the Somme The Battle of the Somme started on July 1st 1916 and lasted until November The British army launched an offensive against the Germans. It is one of the most famous battles of the First World War.For many years those who led the British campaign, especially General Sir Douglas Haig, have received a lot of criticism for the way the Battle of the Somme was fought.Casualties, suffering and the human tragedy were …Horrific!
3 The Battle of the Somme60,000 British casualties on first day of battle alone.11th Cambridgeshire Battalion sent 750 ‘over the top’ became casualties of war.Most casualties were men in their late teens or early to mid twenties.By end of battle a strip of land 25 km long and 6km wide taken at the cost of …
4 The Battle of the Somme420,000British casualties
6 The Battle of the Somme500,000 German casualties
7 ‘The Butcher of the Somme’? Why did so many men die?Could the enormous loss of life have been avoided?Was the loss of life worth the achievement?Does General Haig deserve the title of …‘The Butcher of the Somme’?
8 Should Haig be described as the ‘Butcher of the Somme’? Haig had been ordered to launchthe offensive to let theFrench recover at Verdun,where there was heavy fighting.
9 ‘Going over the top’ at the Somme was the first taste of battle many of these men had. Many were part of Kitchener’s Volunteer Army’ persuaded to volunteer by posters showing Lord Kitchener himself summoning these men to arms to show their patriotism.Britain had never experienced aWar of stalemate before.Living in trenches and fightingin No Man’s Land was anew experience.
10 Haig genuinely felt that this tactic would work. He had been advised The Battle of the Somme started with a weeklong artillery bombardment of the German lines. 1,738,000 shells were fired at the Germans. The logic behind this was that the artillery guns would destroy the German trenches and barbed wire placed in front of the trenches.Haig genuinely felt that this tacticwould work. He had been advisedthat barbed wire in No Man’s Landwould be destroyed by the shells.
11 Haig had been a successful British Commander many times. Using The Allied troops climbed out of their trenches and moved over no mans land towards the German front lines. Many were gunned down in no man’s land. However, due to the huge number of troops attacking the German line soldiers did get through. They were followed by cavalry. This was not a great success. The muddy conditions made horses a slow and riders easy targets. The man to man combat that followed was bloody and horrific.Haig had been a successful BritishCommander many times. Usingcavalry was a traditional andsuccessful method of attacking.Nobody was used to this newmodern warfare.
12 More German soldiers died than British soldiers at the Battle of the Somme. Surely this showsthat Haig’s plan was partiallySuccessful!
13 Did Haig see the soldiers of the British Army as nothing more than pawns in his vain search for glory?Was Haig unbending in his belief in the 'big push' theory that one major victory would end the war?The loss of hundreds of thousands of soldiers was simply a statistic of war in the mind of this man.The Battle of the Somme was not the first time Haig had tried the tactic of bombardment.Haig continued to send men into the Somme battlefield for four months even when it was obvious that the plan was a disaster.
14 Haig was faced with an impossible dilemma Haig was faced with an impossible dilemma. This was a war that no-one was prepared for or able to win on the battlefield.Haig was under constant pressure from the British Government for a morale boosting victory over the Germans.It was not considered acceptable to simply sit in the trenches of the Western Front and wait for the Germans to give in.In 1916 the Germans were attacking the French fortress of Verdun. By attacking the Germans on the Somme, Haig was able to relieve the pressure on the French at Verdun and give them time to reorganise.The British Army captured 70 square miles of land
15 CONTROLLED ASSESSMENT 2 Some people have the view that British generals like Haig were incompetent leaders.How far do your sources support or contradict this interpretation?Haig’s leadership during the Battle of the Somme is just one example of possible incompetence and many generals lead in a similar way. Many historians hold the view that the soldiers in World War I were…“Lions led by donkeys”From what you have learned so far, draw up a table of arguments FOR and AGAINST this statement.
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