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General Haig's Role In The Battle Of The Somme

1516 words - 6 pages

The Battle of the Somme was one of the most famous battles that took place during World War One. Germany had believed that a war with Russia was likely to occur and if that happened then they would also come into attack from France. In order to avoid attack from both sides Germany planned to attack France first and then Russia, believing that Russia would need 6 weeks to attack them and they could defeat France in that time. This was the basis of the Schlieffen Plan. Germany attacked France through neutral Belgium as they thought that Belgium would not fight them. Germany launched a massive attack in the French city of Verdun in early 1916.This gave a real shock to France as they did not see it coming but, to lessen the pressure on France, the British planned an attack at Somme. The British wanted to break the German lines so that all the allies could continue the war into Germany.

The Anglo-French alliance intended to wear down the German army at Verdun before engaging in the Battle of Somme however, due to the large French losses at Verdun, the date for the Battle of Somme was brought forward to the 1st of July. The battle of the Somme lasted for just 4 months from July 1916 to November 1916 but was easily known as one of the worst battles ever fought.

The Somme offensive was planned late in 1915 with the aim of draining the German forces of their reserves. The plan was agreed upon by the new British Commander in Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, although Haig would have preferred an offensive among the open ground of Flanders where they could execute their strategies more tactically. Haig intention was to carry out the attack using the ideas of both himself and General Rawlinson.

People have interpreted General Haig’s role in the Battle of Somme in different ways. Some refer to him as the Butcher of Somme because of the large loss of life during the battle. Others however argue that he was simply doing his job and doing what he was told to do.

On the one hand Sir General Haig is referred as the Butcher of Somme. One reason for this is that the battle did not go according to plan as there were a lot of casualties and from the first day alone there were approximately 60,000 men that were killed or wounded (source 3). The term “Butcher of the Somme” was given to him by those who he felt that Haig did not care of the heavy losses inflicted on the British army during the battle of the Somme.

Furthermore source 1a, written by a private on the Western Front, refers to Haig as a murderer, and talks about how he was a cruel, selfish person. This source was taken from a local newspaper in 1966; it was to inform people that he was a murderer and thought nothing of people. This source is could be considered unreliable because it was written 50 years after the war had
happened however the fact that it was still published shows that it still affected people after all that time. This source supports the idea that Haig was the Butcher of...

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