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Douglas Haig – “The Butcher of the Somme”

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    Haig was born in Edinburgh on 19 June 1861. He was born into a wealthy family that had good business. When Haig was younger he went to a good school and in 1884 went to Royal Military Academy at Sand Hurst. He first served as a Calvary Commander; however this experience was not useful in the battle of Somme because it was trench warfare which was a new kind of war so he couldn’t use the same tactics. He was also a celebrated commander of the Boer war, but the Africans were weaker and were poorer equipped. The Battle of Somme started in July 1st 1916.

    It was planned as a joint French and British operation. The idea originally came from the French Commander-in-Chief called Joseph Joffre and Haig accepted it. The battle was launched on the 1st July 1916. The French achieved there objective but whilst doing this there were 7000 casualties however the British weren’t successful and on the first day they had 60 000 casualties, including 20 000 dead however in the final result the British did win. The main plan of action was to kill all the German soldiers and destroy the German trenches.

    Many people give General Haig the reputation as “The Butcher of the Somme” but many people would disagree with this. I think that he shouldn’t get the reputation as “The Butcher of the Somme” but he did do a lot of things not as well as he should have done. There are many reasons why people blame General Haig for the failure of the battle. Throughout the battle Haig continued to use the same tactics over and over again even thought the tactic kept failing. The objective of this tactic was to wear the German army down.

    Another one of Haig’s failing plans was to get the soldiers to walk slowly so they could stay in a straight line towards the enemies, because of this it was easy an easy target for the German Gunners, which resulted in more casualties and deaths. The attacks weren’t very well rehearsed and said to be unrealistic so the soldiers weren’t properly ready. General Douglas Haig didn’t listen to any military ideas of experts he just believed in the way he did things because of his ignorance a lot of things went wrong. For example he didn’t listen to what any one else had to say and ordered to use the tanks in September to use them to break through.

    Instead 29 broke down before they even got to the German trenches and the rest got stuck in the mud. So once again Haig’s plan failed. In 1919 Lovat Fraser a fighting soldier stated “Haig was unimaginative and dull, nothing can excuse the casualties of the Somme” Lovat Fraser might think of Haig like this because of Haig’s plans and tactics many of his team may have lost their lives and Haigs the one to blame. In 1916 a letter was written to the Daily Telegraph questioning the way the war was fought and if they really should have won it “We are slowly but surely killing of the best of the male population of these islands.

    Can we afford to go on paying the same sort of price for the same sort of gain? ” Historians have suggested ways in which Haig could of done better and what other tactics he could of used such as ” When he realised the full frontal attacks were not breaking through he could have stopped them. The Germans advance had already been halted” As well as people blaming Haig for the amount of casualties there are people defending him saying he does not deserve the reputation as “The Butcher of the Somme”.

    German planes saw the British preparing for attack so this gave the Germans new ideas on how to defence the trenches and this was not Haigs fault. Also the Germans had hiding places which Haig did not know about, so when they bombed the German trenches the Germans were in deep shelters about 12 metres deep in result of this the Germans did not die and were able to surprise General Haig and his soldiers. Trench warfare was a new type of war when General Haig took charge no one else had been in trench warfare before so he had to come up with new ideas he wasn’t familiar with, and he couldn’t use his other techniques.

    Even though he did use his same tactic more than once at least it finally worked. In 1992 Colonel J. H. Boraston praised Haig and said how well the battle was fought “The battle of Somme was a great triumph for the genius of British leadership. ” General Haig decided to use the tanks because he hoped to end the battle sooner and so the tanks would protect them against machine-gun fire. To conclude people have their different opinions of General Douglas Haig and there different reasons.

    I don’t think he deserved the reputation as “The Butcher of the Somme” but I do think there are a lot of things he should have changed and tried differently. Even though in the end he did win with his tactic too many people were injured and killed then they should have been. It is easy to understand why people think he does deserve his reputation as “The Butcher of the Somme” and its easy to understand why people don’t think he does. So I think the name “The Butcher of the Somme” is a bit farfetched but he didn’t do as well as he could of done during the Battle of the Somme.

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