Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig: War hero or butcher of the Somme?
Many historians see the Somme as one of, if not the most, significant
events of the war. The devastating casualties and deaths of the war
left thousands without their loved ones, a whole generation was lost
at the Somme. After the devastation of the war, many soldiers blamed
Haig. It was thought that Haig's leadership was to blame for the
tremendous amount of casualties and deaths of the Somme. The soldiers
were thought to have followed their orders courageously, precisely and
so that everything went exactly as planned, but they were let down by
However, many historians now believe that General Haig was not
entirely to blame for the failure at the Somme, and that it was not a
military disaster, but why?
There are many arguments for General Haig being the butcher of the
Somme, but also many for him being a hero.
Firstly General Haig was in charge of the attack from the British on
the first day of the Somme. This was a terrible failure. Many died due
to Haig expecting the artillery to work much better than what it did.
Barbed wire and areas of the enemy trenches were left fully intact
therefore allowing enemies much more ease in setting up weapons to
hold off attacks. The barbed wire was not destroyed mainly due to Haig
rarely visiting the front line. If he had have visited more often then
he would have seen the when barbed wire was hit by artillery it just
bounced up to fall back down in more of a tangle than what it was
originally. Also on the first day of the Somme General Haig ordered
the troops to walk steadily across no-mans land rather than move
quickly therefore getting there much later than the French troops
leaving them isolated. If the British troops had moved more quickly
then they would have been there to support the French troops and would
probably have been able to take over some of the enemy trenches.
General Haig also used tanks very badly during the war. He decided to
use tanks at the Somme when they were very slow and prone to breaking
down so he gave the secret away. He rarely used them on dry ground,
where they were much more effective. General Haig tried to use new
ideas such as the "creeping barrage" which failed killing many of the
British troops because the guns were not accurate enough. The
"creeping barrage" was when guns were fired just in front of the
troops causing a big cloud of mist and flying shrapnel which the
troops would run through, then more guns would be fired just ahead of
the troops again. This would continue right up to the enemy lines; it
would confuse the enemies so that they couldn't see who they were