How Valid Is This Interpretation of The Battle of The Somme
I believe that General Haig’s, statement on his interpretation of the importance of the battle of the Somme is not a valid one because of the fact that Haig had the motive to lie and some of the statements he made where untrue - How Valid Is This Interpretation of The Battle of The Somme introduction. I will back this belief up in the following essay.
The first major point that General Haig makes in his interpretation of the battle of the Somme was “German soldiers are now practically beaten men, ready to surrender”. This basically is saying that the Germans soldiers were ready to admit defeat, which inevitability sent German moral spiralling down. This could be a valid statement because the German soldiers had sustained huge casualties (164,055) and moral was low because of this; however I don’t believe that this statement is valid because there is no evidence that proves that the German soldiers were ready to surrender. There was no sign of mutiny in the German camp, which is usually a sign of surrender. Also Haig seems to ignore the fact that British morale is also low at this time.
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The second major point that Haig made in his interpretation of the battle of the Somme was “The amount of ground we have gained is not great. That is nothing”. This is saying that he admits that the British have not gained much ground. This could be an indication that Haig’s war plan was for the battle of the Somme to be a war of attrition and to wear down the Germans by killing as many men as possible. Therefore casualty figures and moral are better indicators to who are winning a war than land taken.
What he said was true not much land was taken and at the furthest point only 7 miles in months was taken from the Germans, which is nothing to be proud of. However this statement could not be valid because many people believe that Haigs war plan was a “big push” which is one huge attack that will break down the German unit and cause a British victory. The idea of the big push suggest that gaining land is vital to succeed there were many clues that a big push was planned, the massive artillery bombardment was one, the fact they trained volunteers for 2 years and the use of 750,000 troops was another. Therefore Haigs assessment must be incorrect because as gaining land is everything in a big push.
The third major point that Haig made in his interpretation of the battle of the Somme is that “We have proved our ability to force the enemy out of a strong defensive positions”. This is Haig basically saying we have made the Germans change their tactics. But there is no evidence to support this. On the other hand there is evidence that this statement was not valid, as if the Germans had been forced of a defensive position as Haig states then why did the war continue for two years after the battle of the Somme? I think Haig is trying to make out he is doing his job properly by forcing Germans to change there tactics but there is no evidence to prove this.
The final major point that Haig made about the Somme was ” The German casualties have been greater than ours” this statement could be valid because the British casualties have been estimated at 415,000 and the German casualties have been estimated at 450,000 to 600,000 and it is known to be closer to 600,000 than to 450,000. If Haig meant “ours” as in allies then our total loss will have been greater or close to the German casualties list as the French lost 195,000 and this added onto the British total gave a much larger figure of 610,000 lost allied casualties. But this again does not support Haigs understanding to the battle.
The interpretation of the battle of the Somme should be a valid one as the person in command of the British army, General Haig, wrote it. If anyone should know it should be him as he would have been receiving up to date casualties figures and reports on progress in the battle. He also should have been receiving pictures taken by the air reconnaissance that flew over the German front line trenches, so he would have known the damage done to the German lines. But his interpretation could have been a non-valid one as Haig spent most of his time 50 km behind the British front line trenches in a small castle in Valvion. Haig never made any effort to visit the front line trenches at all, which some people where not happy about, which could have affected his knowledge of the battle.
Haig’s interpretation of the Somme is not a valid one as at this time of writing it as, he was being criticised profusely by Lloyd George the British Prime Minister, Churchill an important member of the war cabinet, and the British public. A quote form Churchill’s paper, which was circulated around the British cabernet. “Penetration upon to a narrow a front is quite useless for the purpose of breaking the line… from every point of view the British offensive has been a great failure” this is just one quote of many that forced pressure on to Haig to write such a invalid statement at this time. There had been an attempt in the British cabinet to get rid of Haig in 1916 and Lloyd George lost all faith in him, which gave Haig the motive to lie.
Haig was meant to be writing this statement to the British cabinet to give factual information about the battle of the Somme. But as Haig was under increasing pressure over the amount of casualties the British sustained (415,00 men lost) and his poor tactical decisions (was it a big push or a war of attrition) and this gave him the motive to lie and the reasons to suggest that the Somme was a greater success that it actually was as his job was on the line.
In conclusion I believe that General Haig’s interpretation of the battle of the Somme is not a valid one because the amount of truth written in his statement is widely questionable ” the German soldiers being ready to surrender” for example. Also he gives us no reason to believe that any information is valid as he does not back up statements with statistics or facts ” the German casualties have been greater than ours” in this statement there should be figures of German casualties vs. British to make it a more believable comment. Haig was exaggerating to make his position look better ” we have proved our ability to force the enemy out of a strong defensive position” which again is over exaggerated and there is no evidence to prove that it is true. So therefore I personally believe that Haigs interpretation of the battle of the Somme in a non-valid one.