Study Sources 7,8 and 9

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Use Sources 7, 8 and 9 and your own knowledge.
Do you agree with the view that the `battle of the Somme was a defeat' for the British (Sources 8,
line 44?
I disagree to an extent that the battle of the Somme was a defeat for the British army, although the
conflict cost the British about 420,000 casualties. The campaign did achieve its primary objective of
relieving German pressure on the town of Verdun; it was not a victory in the classic sense, but a
victory nonetheless.
Source 7 disagrees with notion that the battle of the Somme was a defeat. Source 7 states "initial
attempt" of Douglas Haig was the only the failure of the battle and that "nonetheless it was a success
for the British army". Haig's initial attempt to break through the German lines was in act a failure.
Following a seven day bombardment of the German lines with light artillery shells, the British
attempted an offensive on July 1. Advancing behind a creeping barrage, British troop's encountered
heavy German resistance as the preliminary bombardment had been largely ineffective (due to the
wrong types of shells being used). In all areas the British offensive achieved little success or was
repulsed outright. On July 1, the BEF suffered over 57,470 casualties (19,240 killed) making it the
bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. This ultimately proves that despite the fact that the
source was published in the 21st century, the evidence is accurate enough. This attribute to the
reliability of the Source as its portrayal of the battle seems to be correct. The source continues to
present the battle as an overall success, it states that "German army was not prepared to endure
another such battle on the ground, suggesting that the British eventually gained the upper hand and
the Germans retreated. This is also true as in March 1917, the German armies on the Somme carried
out a strategic withdrawal from the Somme. They destroyed everything on the ground that they left:
flattening villages, poisoning wells, cutting down trees, blowing craters on roads and crossroads,
booby-trapping ruins and dugouts. The withdrawal was to an immensely powerful and shorter line,
positioned to take every tactical advantage of ground, the fact that the Germans withdrew,
destroying everything thing left behind supports the statement that they "were not prepared to
endure another such battle". The fact that the source is written by Gary Sheffield, a revisionist
historian attributes to its reliability as it unlikely to be inaccurate.
Source 8 counter argues with Source 7 as it supports the idea that the Somme was a defeat. A.J.P
Taylor states that the "battle of the Somme was a defeat"; this ultimately concludes that the overall
tone of the writer conveys the idea that the battle was a defeat from a British perspective. However
some aspects of the source have correct depictions of the battle. The use of the trench warfare
system by military commanders proved to devastating as mass casualties from it. Those who were
witnesses such as John Coppard knew the ineffectiveness of the over the top system used in trench
warfare. "The next morning (July 2nd) we gunners surveyed the dreadful scene in front of
became clear that the Germans always had a commanding view of No Man's Land. (The British) attack
had been brutally repulsed. Hundreds of dead were strung out like wreckage washed up to a high
water-mark. Quite as many died on the enemy wire as on the ground, like fish caught in the net. They
hung there in grotesque postures. Some looked as if they were praying; they had died on their knees
and the wire had prevented their fall. Machine gun fire had done its terrible work". Coppard's above
statement supports the tone and content of the source, that the battle was a defeat.
However the fact that the source was published in the 1960s lowers the reliability of the source. The
1960s epitomised the rapid decolonisation of Britain's colonies. As a result the anti-war sentiment of

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The writer of the source could be argued biased, portraying the battle
negatively based on his own opinions; the source originates from a time when "idealism" and
"imperialism" was diminishing in the views of the British public. Taylor even states that "Idealism
perished on the Somme. The enthusiastic volunteers were enthusiastic no longer", this suggest there
is a sense of partiality in the source, therefore although we can only place a limited weight on the
argument of the source.…read more


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