Field Marshall Haig: The Butcher Of The Somme

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Does Field Marshall Haig deserve to be viewed as the ‘Butcher of the Somme’? Field Marshall Douglas Haig was commander-in-chief in one of the biggest battles history has ever seen. The Battle of the Somme took place along a 30-kilometre front between the 1st July and the 18th November 1916 by the River Somme, in France. It was a crucial event in the First World War as this was the moment when Britain unleashed the massive volunteer army that had been recruited so enthusiastically and it seemed the ideal opportunity to break the long lasting stalemate that had gripped the war for the past 2 years. The battle claimed the lives of around 620,000 British and empire force soldiers, with casualties reaching almost 60,000 on the first day alone.…show more content…
Source 15 (people’s judgements of Haig) tells us of historian Sir Llewellyn Woodward’s opinion of Haig’s strategies, “Our high command had not advanced beyond the tactics of the Stone Age. They could not think of any other form of warfare, except to throw into battle large numbers of men, month after month.” This quote could be biased as it is not written by a witness nor is it a fact, however, you can cross-reference this with the view from Field Marshall Montgomery who was a chief for Britain’s army “Haig was unimaginative and dull.” Some share the view that Haig is the Butcher of the Somme because of his over optimistic attack and his unwillingness to change his out-of-date, useless tactics which were clearly causing the deaths and suffering of a large group of men. An argument against Haig being the emotionless and unsympathetic ‘Butcher of the Somme’ is that he was acting as a professional and obedient soldier, who, like his men, was taking orders from a higher authority and was attempting to listen to military advice. A great deal of pressure was on Haig by both the French and British government, for the attack to be…show more content…
Haig also devoted the rest of his life to the care and welfare to the Royal British Legion. This service is hardly a task that somebody uncaring would undertake. This is why some do not believe him to be the Butcher of the Somme. Finally, there are many who would argue that Field Marshal Douglas Haig was infact a heartless and stubborn leader who refused to listen to the advice given to him by other generals and therefore was responsible for the enormous death rate amongst the soldiers. Source 4 is a piece of text written by Haig in June 1916, just before the battle of the Somme began; “The nation must be taught to bear losses. No amount of skill on the part of the higher commanders, no training, however good, on the part of the officers and men, no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great, will enable victories to be won without the sacrifice of men’s lives. The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.” This quotation from Haig is primary evidence of him stating to the nation that he knows that men will die as a result of an attack and that no amount of preparation can prevent this. It is perhaps a fair thing to say as death in war is inevitable, but is it still reasonable to the extent of 620,000 men lost by the allies alone? Haig wrote this extract a month before the first
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