Field Marshall Haig: The Butcher Of The Somme?

Table of Content

a) Study sources A and B. How far does source A and B prove that Haig didnot care about the lives of his men?In source A it seems as though Haig doesn’t care for his men. He isn’tvery sympathetic. He says ‘The nation must be taught to bear losses’. He issaying that even though someone in your family may die, you will just haveto forget about it and get over it straight away. He also didn’t train hisarmy and there was ‘no superiority of arms and ammunition’. How could heexpect them to win? If he cared about them then he would train them andgive them decent weapons. He doesn’t necessarily have to care but if hewants them to win the battle, then he must show some sort of caring. Butwas it Haig’s job to care? He wasn’t a nurse or anyone who had to care. Itwas his job to send them out to the battlefield to win and not care if theydie. If he wants them to win then he must show a bit of care. They willonly go out and do their best if they feel confident that they will win,and to feel confident they need to have good weapons and be trained. Wedon’t know how he would have felt in this source, because he would bewaiting for tomorrow to come and may be feeling nervous about the battlethat he will have mixed emotions and may not be writing the whole truth.

In source B it is about all of the good things of the Somme. Hedoesn’t mention any bad things. He says ‘The men are in splendid spirits’,but that doesn’t necessarily mean the people who go over the top. Hedoesn’t mention the soldiers which shows a sign of not caring. Another partof the text that shows this is ‘the commanders are full of confidence’, butit doesn’t say that the soldiers are.

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Source A was written before the first day of the attack and it isreally negative, but source B is from the first day but is very positive,even though lots of people got killed. He says ‘Very successful attack thismorning ‘, even though 20,000 people got died, which isn’t very successful,but may have been less than the Germans. He says that the enemy is short ofmen, but he doesn’t know how many Germans were killed, and neither do wenow. He is also getting a bit big headed because he says ‘Severalhave…never been so instructed and informed.’ Because he is the FieldMarshall he would tell them what to do and if they say that then he musthave done a good job. If he was being big headed then it shows that he musthave done a good job. If he was being big headed then it shows that hecares more about himself than his soldiers.

We can evaluate source A by using source B. in source A it says ‘Thenation must be taught to bear losses’. In source B it says ‘Very successfulattack this morning.’ The whole point of the war is to achieve militaryobjects and the number of soldiers killed is irrelevant. A battle can besuccessful despite the high loss of life.

Overall, I think that Haig didn’t care that much about his men. Thisis because whenever he is writing he never mentioned how they were feeling.

He also didn’t give them any training or decent weapons, and how could heexpect them to fight properly. In source B I think that he is trying toforget what the soldiers feely think, because if the soldiers wrote it thenit would probably be very negative. If he tries to forget what the soldiersthink and lie then it shows that he can’t care that much. But the questionwe still need to find out is was it Haig’s job to care and we cannot answerthis question properly until we have found out the answer.

b) Study sources B and C. Which one of these sources do you trust more?Source B is written by Haig. It is a source that you can’t trust now,but you may have done in the wartime. It is hard to believe now because20,000 people got killed in the first day but he says ‘Very successfulattack this morning.’ People would probably have believed it in the wartimebecause you didn’t know how many people were killed, and we still don’tknow. We know that people must have trusted in this source a bit becausepeople were signing up for the war even after the Somme, but it may nothave been released until after the war.

We could trust this source because if you had no knowledge of historythen you would trust it because you wouldn’t know the number of peoplewhich died and if it did go ‘like clockwork’ or not. Also with it being thefirst day you would think that even the start of the plan was going Haig’sway. You would trust it when it says ‘the men are in splendid spirits’because after one day they shouldn’t be that sad.

Source C is probably a more realistic source. It is written by privateGeorge Coppard. It gives the truth of the war. We all know that the warwasn’t perfect, and in fact it was the opposite. We know this because itsays ‘Hundreds of dead were strung out on barbed wire’. He was verydoubtful about the whole battle. He says ‘How did the planners imagine thatTommies would get through the wire?’ that is very trustworthy because weknow now that the wire was thick and hard to get through so he would havebeen telling the truth.

Source B was written by Haig and source C was written by PrivateGeorge Coppard. I would trust source C more because Haig would not havebeen in the battle but Private George Coppard was. This makes us trustsource C more because it is primary evidence.

Only one of these sources can be the correct information, because itcan’t have been totally positive on day and then really negative the next.

Overall, I think that I trust source C the most. This is because itstates the reality. ‘Hundreds of dead…Many died on the enemy wire…itwas clear that there were no gaps in the wire…It was so thick that daylight could barely be seen through it.’ Another thing that makes me trustit more is the fact that it comes from someone who was at the battle. Andeven years after the battle he still remembers everything about it, so itmust have been the truth or else he would have forgotten it.

c) Study sources D and E. These two sources are not about Haig and theBattle of the Somme. How far do you agree that they have no use for thehistorian studying Haig and the battle of the Somme?Source D is a scene from ‘Blackadder Goes Forth.’ It shows twoofficers discussing an imminent attack on the Germans.

Blackadder is speaking to George and saying that they will go overthe top soon. George replies saying that they will ‘Give Harry Hun a darngood British style thrashing.’ Then Blackadder says ‘Field Marshall Haig isabout to make yet another giant effort to move his drinks cabinet sixinches closer to Berlin.’ They are sort of calling Haig an alcoholicbecause he has to move his drinks cabinet with him when he fights.

This is a good source if a historian was studying the Somme becauseit was written after the Somme, so the writers would know more about itthan at the time of the battle.

Source E is a satirical cartoon from a British magazine published inFebruary 1917. It has a Major General addressing the men before practisingan attack behind the lines. It shows what part the Generals play in thewar. This source is criticising the Generals. The Generals wouldn’tnormally go to fight. They are criticising them by saying ‘The absence ofthe General.’ This is saying that the General is never there.

This is a helpful source because it shows to us how much fighting thegenerals did, and they didn’t do any.

Source C can tell us things about the war. Blackadder says ‘Are weall going to get killed? Yes.’ He can answer his own question straight awayso they know that they will get killed, as did nearly every one who wasabout to go over the top in the war.

This source is relevant to Haig and the Battle of the Somme becauseBlackadder talks about it. He talks about Haig and moving his drinkscabinet 6 inches closer. The six inches could have something to do with theBattle of the Somme because Haig only managed to move his troops six milesin it. We can also tell that they are going to get killed and then theyrefer to Haig and they also know that the plans won’t work if the last oneswere anything to go by.

Source E can tell us information about the war. We know from it thatthe generals don’t take part in the fighting. It also shows the soldiers doall of the fighting and they even know it. That is why they say what theysay, which is ‘The absence of the General.’This can give us some information about Haig and the Battle of theSomme. We can use this information to tell us that Haig also probablydidn’t fight in the Somme. He would have just sent them to fight like theGeneral on the picture does.

D) Study sources F,G and H. Do sources G and H prove that source F iswrong?Source F is a very biased source. It is really against Haig. It isfrom a book called ‘British Butchers and Bunglers of world war. Theyprobably are so against him because of what has to be in the book, which isbad things, and if they fill it with good things about Haig then it isirrelevant.

The whole paragraph is full of bad things. They say that ‘Haig wasas stubborn as a donkey.’ They think that the strategy was ‘appalling’ andthat it isn’t a strategy but ‘slaughter.’ They also said that ‘The Sommewas criminal negligence.’ Which means it is against the law because he isjust killing people even though he knew he had no chance of a breakthrough.

Source G is the complete opposite of source F. it is all of the goodthings about Haig and the battle of the Somme. It says the westerncountries confidence and ‘their armies has accomplished an achievement thatgave good promise for the future.’ The German troops had their confidencelowered, probably because Britain were strong. ‘A great part of the best,most experienced and most reliable officers and men were no longer in theirplaces.’It was written by the German Official history of the First World War,published in the 1930’s. Because it was written sometime in the 1930’s itcould have been during World War Two. They might have said good things sothat when they were fighting, Britain wouldn’t be too harsh, or if it wasthe time leading up to the war and they sort of knew that there was goingto be a war then they may have said the things to stop the war. But itcould have done the opposite. It could have made Britain feel that they aregood at fighting, so they will go to war, but the Germans could also beimproving, so they could just beat Britain. It being written by Germans isalso quite surprising because you would expect them to be on Germanys sideand say how good they were but they say how good Britain were.

But this source doesn’t actually say that Britain was brilliant. Itjust says that they have achieved something, but the rest was about how badthe Germans were.

Source h says the same sort of things as source G. This talks moreabout how good Haig was. It makes Haig look powerful. It says that Haig’sarmies broke Germany’s spirit o resistance by the courage and resolutionthey had, and they had complete confidence in Haig, which would have playedsome part in their courage. It also says that his armies were ‘inspired byhis determination.’ Haig also had the ‘moral courage’ and without that the’French resistance would have crumbled.’ ‘Haig was one of the mainarchitects of the Allied victory.’ That means that if Haig wouldn’t havedone what he did then the war could have ended up the opposite of what itdid and Britain’s confidence would have collapsed.

It is written by a British General in 1973. He fought in both wars.

He might have been there but not necessarily fought, because not manyGenerals did.

I don’t think that sources G and H prove that source F is wrong, butbecause there is more evidence saying that Haig was nice, that is what youbelieve.

e) Study sources I and J. Why do you think that sources I and J differabout the Battle of the Somme?Source I is written by Lloyd George to Haig on 21st September 1916,after visiting the battlefield. At this time he was Secretary for War atthe time of the Somme.

This source says good things about the Somme. He congratulates Haigon his skill used. He is being nice to Haig. Lloyd George can’t say badthings about Haig, because his job gives him limits of what he can andcan’t say. If he said bad things about Haig then he might have lost hisjob.

What I want to know is was this letter a personal letter or one thatthe nation could know about? If it was a national letter then he probablywould have been a bit more encouraging, so it is probably a personal letterbecause he only has one person to try and please, instead of a wholenation.

The purpose of this letter is to support Haig and all of the peoplein the battlefield. It is also to congratulate Haig for all of his efforts.

It may also be to boost morale of the soldiers.

In source J David Lloyd George has completely changed his attitude.

He is saying how bad the battle was, even though he was congratulating Haigin the battle. He is getting quite stressed out. He says ‘It killed off farmore of our best’ and he ‘expressed hi doubts’ at the time even though hesaid that everything was going fine in the war. In our textbooks, GCSEModern World History, written by Ben Walsh, there is a source on page 36.

It is from Lloyd George’s War Memoirs. It says ‘Should I have resignedrather than agree to this slaughter of men?’ he is calling the battle’slaughter’. It also shows that he was doubting whether they would win thewar.

David Lloyd George says bad things in source J because he hasn’t gota job to lose. He may be criticising so they don’t go to war again. Thereis no need to boost the morale of the soldiers. He also has noresponsibility because he wasn’t secretary of the war.

I think that sources I and J differ about the Battle of the Sommebecause of what position Lloyd George is in. It is his job that stops himsaying bad things, because if he does then he would probably lose his job.

In source J he can say what he wants.

f) Study all the sources. ‘Haig was an uncaring general who sacrificed thelives of his soldiers for no good reason.’ How far do these sources supportthis view?’Haig was an uncaring general who sacrificed the lives of his men forno good reason.’Some people would agree with this statement. From the sources we havewe can prove this.

In source A it says that the men had ‘No training…no superiority ofarms and ammunition.’ If Haig cared about his men then he would havetrained them how to fight and given them good weapons. He also said ‘Thenation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.’ This shows that Haigknows that there will be lots of casualties and he doesn’t do anything tohelp try and stop as many casualties e.g. he could give them weapons andtraining. He has no consideration for the feelings of the people at home,who may lose loved ones. He just says ‘The nation must be taught to bearlosses.’ He is just telling people to ‘get over’ losing their family. Heopens his paragraph with that and closes his paragraph with something justlike it.

Source B also shows that Haig is uncaring and wastes the lives of hismen. He mentions all of the good things and no bad things. He says ‘All thecommanders are full of confidence.’ He doesn’t mention the soldiers ortheir thoughts. This shows a sign of not caring. He also says ‘A verysuccessful attack this morning,’ but 20,000 people died, which isn’t verysuccessful. He is trying to forget what the soldiers think, which shows asign of not caring, and he also lies to himself.

Source C is realistic about the deaths of people. ‘Hundreds ofdead…many died on the enemy wire.’ Private George Coppard wrote this andhe can’t see why the planners (including Haig) could send soldiers up tothe Germans barbed wire even though ‘It was so thick that daylight couldbarely be seen through it.’ Haig wouldn’t send his soldiers out if he caredabout them, because he knew they would get killed. He would have known thatthey wouldn’t be able to get through the wire.

Source D is also a source, which suggests bad things about Haig.

Blackadder and George are talking to each other then Blackadder says’Clearly Field Marshall Haig is about to make yet another giant effort tomove his drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin.’ They are making jokesabout Haig, because in the Battle of the Somme he only managed to move sixmiles. They are showing that he doesn’t care about his soldiers because hewould be more interested in taking his drinks cabinet to Berlin instead oftaking his soldiers, who helped him get to there.

Source E is a cartoon from a British magazine from 1917. It doesn’tmention Haig’s name but it is talking about Generals. It says how they arenever at the battles. If they cared about the troops then they would go outthere and fight to help them, instead of just sitting down and ordering thetroops about.

Source F is very biased. It is from a book called ‘British Butchersand Bunglers of World War.’ The book has to have lots of bad things in it,and we can tell this because this paragraph is full of bad things. It says’He was as stubborn and as unthinking as a donkey…that is an appallingkind of strategy. It is not a strategy. It is not a strategy, it’sslaughter. The Somme was criminal negligence.’ This says bad things aboutHaig’s personality and his fighting strategies in one small paragraph. Italso says that ‘He knew he had no chance of a breakthrough but still sentmen to their deaths.’ This shows that he doesn’t care and he sacrificed hismen for no reason because even though he knew they will die he still sentthen out.

Source J is the final source, which shows that Haig was uncaring andhe sacrificed the lives of his men. ‘I expressed my doubts to General Haigas to whether cavalry could ever operate successfully on a front bristlingfor miles with barbed wire and machine guns.’ Lloyd George told Haig thatcavalry wouldn’t be able to operate and Haig would clearly be able to seethat. But he still sent soldiers out to try and get past the barbed wireand machine guns, which shows he didn’t care. The battle’ killed of farmore of our best.’But some people would argue that Haig was caring and didn’t sacrificethe lives of his men.

A source that shows this is source G. Britain are winning and theGermans are losing confidence. This shows that Haig might have caredbecause for the Germans to lose confidence then Britain must have foughtwell, and to do that they need to have a good leader who teaches them well,who would have been Haig. The Germans knew they were losing. ‘The mostreliable officers and men were no longer in their places.’ The Germanofficers would either have been killed or left because they knew they werelosing.

In source H it shows that Haig was a good man and helped the troops.

‘The courage and resolution of Haig’s armies, which had complete confidencein the leadership of their Commander.’ Their commander was Haig and he musthave been caring to get the soldiers confidence so high. The soldiers werealso ‘inspired by his determination.’ It also says that the Frenchresistance would have crumbled if it wasn’t for Haig and his moral courage.

He must have cared to stop the whole French resistance collapsing.

The final source which shows that Haig cared about his men and didn’twaste their lives is source I. It is written by Lloyd George. Hecongratulated Haig for ‘the skills with which your plans were laid.’ Thisshows that Haig cared because he made good plans so he wouldn’t lose asmany lives of his men.

Overall, I think that Haig was uncaring and he sacrificed the livesof his soldiers for no good reason. In source A he can’t have cared becausehe didn’t give the soldiers any training or good weapons. He also startsand ends his paragraph with ‘The nation must be taught to bear losses’ and’the nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.’ It shows that heis expecting lots of soldiers to die and he still doesn’t give them decentweapons. Source B also shows that he is uncaring and wastes the lives ofhis men. He doesn’t mention what the soldiers think about the war, and itjust says about the commanders. He also says that it was a ‘very successfulattack’, even though 20,000 died in one day, which isn’t very successful.

If he cared then he would have sounded more upset. In source C, Haig sentsoldiers out to attack the Germans even though the barbed wire ‘was sothick that daylight could barely be seen through it.’ If Haig did careabout them then he wouldn’t have let then go out. He was just wasting theirlives. Source D suggests that Haig cares more about his alcohol than hissoldiers because Blackadder says ‘Haig is about to make yet another gianteffort to move his drinks cabinet six inches closer to Berlin.’ He wouldprobably be happy if his drinks cabinet got to Berlin and his soldiersdidn’t, which shows a sign of not caring. Source E shows that Haig wouldhave just sat down and ordered the troops about, but if he really caredthen he would have got onto the battlefield and helped the soldiers whetherthey win or lose. Source F shows that Haig had bad strategies and that hehas a bad personality. If he cared then he would have made up some betterstrategies and wouldn’t have wasted people’s lives. Source J shows thatHaig doesn’t listen to people’s advice even though he knew it was probablyright. Lloyd George said to Haig that the soldiers will never be able tostand miles of barbed wire and machine guns, and Haig knew that too butstill sent the soldiers over the top. That shows signs that he is uncaringand wastes the lives of his men.

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