Haig is one of the most controversial figures in world war one and the last century. Many think of his him as a national hero, where as others think of him a blundering fool who was not fit to lead an army. There is one thing that is not disputed though and this is the fact that he led 60,000 men to their deaths in the first few hours of the battle of the Somme this horrific especially considering the little land he gained.
The reason why Haig has a reputation as the ‘Bungler and Butcher of the Somme’ because of the fact that he seemed totally impassionate about the lives that had been lost.This is the reason why he had a reputation as a butcher. A source that suggests this is: ” The nation must be taught to bear losses. No amount of skill on part of the higher commanders, no training, however good, on the part of the officers and the men, no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great will enable victories to be won with sacrifice of lives.
The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualties lists. ” This quote is from Sir Douglas Haig and was given before the battle of the Somme.This suggests that he was a butcher as he is saying that it doesn’t matter that the allied armies have any superiority the inevitable fact of the matter is lives will be lost. So this shows that he didn’t really care about the lives of his soldiers and also because it was before the battle of the Somme it shows that he was prepared to sacrifice the lives of his men.
But some people would argue that although he was impassionate when it came to the lives of his men, he had to b otherwise he would be terrible at his job.If he wasn’t impassionate he would defiantly be the wrong man for his job. It also suggests that Haig was really a very brave man, because he was telling and preparing the country for the losses that were inevitable because when fighting a war it would be ridiculous if a commander expected that hardly anyone would lose their lives If soldiers lives being lost help to determine whether a general was good or not then a think that we will find that we most probably we will never regard any general as good.Also the number of casualties in the war for Britain was not disproportional to the other participating armies.
However the number of lives Haig was talking about could be questioned as in the battle of the Somme there were 60,000 casualties and this was in the first few hours, and Haig did not receive the amount of men he would have liked for the Somme offensive. The simple truth of 1914-18 trench warfare is that the massing of large numbers of soldiers unprotected by anything but cloth uniforms, however they were trained, however equipped, against large masses of other soldiers, protected by earthworks and barbed wire and provided with rapid-fire weapons, was bound to result in heavy casualties among the attackers The realities of war are that people shall lose their lives.This is source is from John Keegan who is a very well respected world war one expert and defends the number of casualties that there were, however it could be argued that numbers he was talking about where not the numbers of casualties and deaths that were in the battle of the Somme. Some people will also say that he was also brave as he was prepared to take responsibility for the lives lost.
Another source that suggests that he was a butcher but also a bungler is: ” Very successful attack this morning all went like clockwork.The battle is going very well for us and already the Germans are surrendering freely. The enemy is so short of men that he is collecting them from all the parts of the line. Our troops are in wonderful spirits and full of confidence.
” This is from Haig’s report on the first day attack. This source suggests many things. One thing it does suggest is that Haig is a butcher. It suggests this, as he seems unfazed by the amount of casualties suffered on the first day.
Also it shows that he Haig was more concerned about the prime objectives of the battle and he didn’t really care how many men he lost if he achieved the prime objectives of the battle, which were to gain territory, draw German troops away from Verdun and while trying to achieve these they should kill as many German troops as possible as a part of the war of attrition. But it also could suggest that the information Haig was getting was wrong. This then either suggests that he was a bungler as his sources communication weren’t as good as they should have been.This would have been corrected if he was actually on the front line seeing what was happening.
But then if he was on the front line it would have been extremely difficult for him to command the western front as a whole because of this he can be viewed as a bungler. It would have taken an extremely skilled commander to be able to take command of a large army spread out across a long distance and be able to command the army from one point of the front. So this suggests that he had incorrect information relayed back to him.Another source that helps support that he was a butcher and a bungler is: “Haig was as stubborn as a donkey and as unthinking as a donkey.
The principle that guided him was if he could kill more Germans than the Germans could kill his men, then he would at some time win the war. This is an appalling kind of strategy at all, it’s slaughter. The Somme was criminal negligence. He had no chance of a break through but still he men to their deaths.
” From a book called ‘British Butchers and Bunglers of the World War’ and it was wrote by John Laffin.This source suggests that Haig is a butcher and a bungler. He is a butcher as the source suggests that he still sent men to their deaths knowing that there wasn’t a realistic chance of a breakthrough. It suggests that he was a bungler as he used a terrible strategy.
However this source is subject to bias as the title of the book suggests that the author is more likely to be over critical. “I believe that the value of the horse and the opportunity for the horse in the future are likely to be as great as ever.Aeroplanes and tanks are only accessories to the men and the horse, and I feel sure that as time goes on you will find just as much use for the horse – the well-bred horse – as you have ever done in the past”. This was written by Haig in 1926 10 years after the battle of the Somme.
This source suggests that Haig was a complete bungler as he wrote it 10 years after the Somme. The significance of this was that it shows that Haig didn’t learn much form the battle of the Somme.Mistakes were made by Haig in the battle of the Somme, which was understandable as in the first couple of years of World War One were the first of their kind due to the drastic changes in warfare. But ten years after you would expect any half decent commander to have not only learnt from his own mistakes but also others.
But due to what Haig wrote it appears that Haig didn’t learn anything. So this suggests that he was a complete bungler. It also suggests that he was stubborn as he was not willing to accept the fact that cavalry were becoming of less and less use.This makes him a bungler as it shows that he is not willing to adapt with the times.
A characteristic of s good commander is the ability to adapt and it appears from this source that Haig had the inability to adapt. “The way to capture machine guns is by grit and determination. ” Haig – 1915 this again suggests that he was a bungler as it is a terrible strategy. The proof of this is what happened at the battle of the Somme where many men got mowed down by the machine guns.
This also show that he was a butcher as he didn’t care that men’s lives would be lost as long as the machine guns were captured.A considerable portion of the German soldiers are now practically beaten men, ready to surrender if they could, thoroughly tired of the war and expecting nothing but defeat. It is true that the amount of ground we have gained is not great. That’s nothing.
We have proved our ability to force the enemy out of strong defensive positions and to defeat him. The German casualties have been greater than ours. ” This is a part of the report written by Haig in December of 1916 and is about the aftermath of the battle of the Somme.This shows that Haig could be described as a butcher as he doesn’t even refer to the number of men who lost their live or got injured.
All it does is talk about the positives. However this could be regarded as a good trait to have for someone who is a command of a lot of people as it can lift the morale of the troops he is in command of. “If the battle of the Somme had no great importance in the strategic sense, its consequences nevertheless were great, particularly as regards morale. It gave the Western Powers confidence.
Their armies had accomplished an achievement that gave good promise for the future.The confidence if the German troops in victory was no longer as great as before. A great part of the best, most experienced and most reliable officers and men were no longer in their places. This was the more marked as the heavy losses made it necessary to send to the front a great number of young soldiers whose training was poor.
” This shows that the battle of the Somme was not a total disaster as something was achieved in the battle of the Somme. What was achieved was that the German’s most experienced and best troops were killed and had to be replaced by younger more inexperienced troops.Also the morale of the German troops was drastically changed from being high going to low. But I don’t think that Haig intended it as much as to gain territory.
I think that it was caused as a consequence of Haig trying to capture more territory. Overall I think that it is unfair to label anyone as a ‘butcher and bungler’ including Haig. Although that death of soldiers is inevitable in war I think that no matter what the number casualties suffered cannot be justified even though some progress was made towards winning the war. Overall I think that Haig was more of a ‘Bungler’ that anything else.