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Field Marshall Haig: The Butcher Of The Somme

3202 words - 13 pages

Field Marshall Haig: the Butcher of the Somme

In order to answer the main essay question on whether or not Field
Marshall Haig was the Butcher of the Somme I will include points for
and against and also quotes to sum up and give a complete answer on my
opinion of Field Marshall Haig.

When field Marshall Haig was appointed commander of the British
forces, he was 54 years old. Before this time Haig had had a long and
successful career in the military and 15 years previous he had been a
celebrated Calvary commander in the Boer war.

Haig believed that the only way you could win a battle was through
“…grit, determination…morale…”

Even though hundreds and thousands of men had been killed, in December
1915, the western front was still stalemate. It was debated as to how
well the British army was being led and in the same month, a new
commander was appointed, General Haig.

However experienced Haig was, he now encountered an even worse and
more complex problem – trench warfare. Since generals had no idea of
how to fight against trench warfare they simply used methods of
fighting and tactics that they had used in past wars.

General Haig used the same plans for this war that he had devised for
the battle of Nueve Chapelle. Haig’s plans were very thorough and used
as much intelligence that was available at the time. He used aerial
observation, photography, ground patrols and interrogation of

Haig’s plan was to-

1. Begin with an artillery bombardment to destroy the German barbed
wire in front of their trenches.

2. Then there would be a mass infantry attack over No Man’s land on
the German trenches.

3. The bombardment would then kill or deject the German front line
troops with their machine guns

4. This would allow his men to cross safely to the German trenches

5. Before they were exposed to the deadly fire.

In actual fact, however, this was not the case as in the first place
the artillery bombardment did not cut the barbed wire because of the
type of shell that was used, it simply lifted the barbed wire off the
ground and made it into an even more tangled mess.

Secondly, the German’s were able to simply mow the British soldiers
down due to the fact that Haig told them to walk towards he enemy. The
German’s had also had a lot of time on their hands and during that
time they created concrete dugouts that the soldiers were unaware of,
causing even more difficulties. Every time the British soldiers
carried out the order to attack and failed, Haig simply told them to
do it again and again. This caused even more deaths than if he had
changed his plans.

General Rawlinson had many ideas for different attacks but general
Haig didn’t listen to them and even if Rawlinson had gone ahead with
his ideas he had the chance of...

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