General Haig: Butcher or War Winner? Essay
In this piece of writing I am going to compare sources 1 to 7 and see if they prove that General Haig did not care about the lives of his men. I will start by answering the question and then I will talk about each source, commenting on its good and bad points and how reliable the source is. Do decide how reliable a source is we need to look at who wrote it, when it was wrote and what the source was meant to do, for example it could be to entertain. I think that these seven sources are not enough to prove that Haig did not car about the lives of his men.
Source 1 is a photograph of Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig; he is wearing military honours, showing that he was a knight and that he had fought in earlier wars. This picture is not very helpful to this particular question, but still I will try and explain it. A helpful thing it does have on is the fact that he is wearing military honours which tell us he had fought in earlier wars. This is helpful because we can tell that he had experience and that if he wasn’t a good soldier and leader he would never have made it that far up the British ranks.
On the other hand though this photograph is not very helpful because it does not show us or tell us of how Field Marshal Haig treated his men. The source would most likely not be bias because the photograph just shows what he was wearing, and he must have earned those medals. Source 2 says, ‘The nation must be taught to bear losses. No amount of skill on the part of the higher commanders, no training, however good, on the part of the officers and men, no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great, will enable victories to be won without the sacrifice of men’s lives.
The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists. ‘ This is an extract written by Haig on the 30th June 1916, the day before the Battle of the Somme began. When Haig starts out by saying, ‘The nation must be taught to bear losses. ‘, we immediately think that he did not care about his men, but he then explains himself, saying why men must die to win a war. The source probably is very bias because it would be very weird if Field Marshal Haig had not made himself look slightly better than he actually was, I don’t think he would make him self sound like a butcher.
In source 3 we are told, ‘The men are in splendid spirits. Several have said that they have never before been so instructed and informed of the nature of the operation before them. The barbed wire has never been so well cut, not the artillery preparation so thorough. All the commanders are full of confidence. ‘ Now to someone who has never heard anything about the war may think this is true, but I and many others no that this is not. This is a very bias piece of writing, and as you can imagine it was written by Field Marshal Haig after the first day of the Somme in June 1916.
Something which makes the source more into comparison is another extract from a soldier who was at the Somme, it read, ‘In many places the wire was not cut. The artillery had failed. Thousands of lives would be lost because the men could not break through the barbed wire and had no cutters with them. In other places the Germans concentrated all their firepower on where the wire was cut, knowing the British must come out that way. ‘ Depending on which one you believe answers the question, one tells that Haig was a war winner, and one tells the opposite, he was a butcher.
Although this extract may also be biased but in the other way, because the man who wrote it was bound to feel hatred towards the commanding offices for the war and battle its self. Source 4 people think is a very reliable source, I think it is probably reliable but I still think it would be biased becuse as I mentioned earlier, the soldiers would feel resentment towards the commanders. Also this was written years after the battle and with the effects of war, like shell sock, the man may not have got all the facts right. Hundreds of dead were strung out on the barbed wire like wreckage washed up on a high water mark.
Quite as many died on the enemy wire as on the ground. It was clear that there were no gaps in the wire at the time of the attack. The Germans must have been reinforcing the wire for months. It was so thick that daylight could barley be seen through it. How did the planners imagine that Tommies would get through the wire? Who told them that artillery fire would pound such wire to pieces? Any Tommy could have told them that shell fire lifts wire up and drops it down, often in a worse tangle than before. ‘
Source 5 is probably on of the most reliable sources because it was written by Gerard De Groot, who wrote the biography of Haig. This is a reliable source because the biography would have done a lot of research and tried to make his point as not bias as he possible could. An extract form the book is, ‘While Haig slept in a cosy bed in a quiet country chateau and dined on the best food available, his men lived in muddy, noisy trenches sharing their bully beef and biscuits with big, bloated rats. It apparently did not bother Haig that his war was so much more comfortable that that of the men he commanded.
I think that this source shows that Haig didn’t care about his men, I think that not one pit of it says he did. Source 6 is a still from a recent BBC television series call ‘Blackadder goes Forth’. For six episodes Captain Blackadder and Private Baldrick try to avoid going over the top. Their fellow soldier Lieutenant George is much more enthusiastic. This deffinatley tells us that Haig didn’t care about his men but we have to keep in mind that the episode was made as a comedy and if we do not in to account that if it didn’t make people laugh then it wouldn’t have been so successful.
Therefore I do not think that it is reliable, but is till think that we have to take in to account that the makers of the series probably tried to portray as much of the truth as possible. The final source, which is source 7, is another fictional piece of information. Although this one was from Punch Magazine in 1917. Obviously this is going to have fiction in it to make it fun for the readers to read, but I think that Punch tried to put the truth across in their cartoons to the British public which were left in the dark to the true horrors of the war, so I think we can use it as a reliable source.
Although the source doesn’t specifically talk about Haig, form it we can tell that, generally Generals did not care about the men under their command. Overall I think that we do not have enough sources to say whether General Haig did not care about his men, but I do think from my contextual knowledge that Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig did care about his men, he just didn’t really put into action the things, which I believe, were right.
I also think that people purposely forget the good things that he did at the Battle of the Somme, and I think they only concentrate on the number of the dead, and so people call him the Butcher of the Somme who did not care for his men, which I strongly disagree with. make it fun for the readers to read, but i ource 4 people think i r the war and battle its self. her way, because the man who wrote it was bound to feel hatred towards t