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Battle of the Somme was a four and a half month battle from
June-November 1916, where more than a million men were killed. The
aim of the battle was to draw German troops away from the French
town, Verdun, where a massive assault had previously been launched.
General Haig, a war hero, was to be the leader for this mission. The
outcome was catastrophic, but even so some people call Haig a hero,
rather than a donkey. The German trenches were guarded by miles of
barbed wire and hundreds of concrete machine gun posts. Deep
Dugouts protected soldiers from even the heaviest of shellfire. Even so,
British soldiers, having primitive knowledge of the German trenches,
`were in splendid spirits' (Haig before the battle) determined that
nothing could stand in the way of a giant barrage of shellfire that could
smash through any obstacle.
The attack started with a wave of two million shells fired into German
trenches that took over a week. Meanwhile, twenty-one colossal mines
that had been buried underground previously were detonated. The
British were sure that this would wipe the Germans out; `you will find
the Germans all dead, not even a rat will have survived' (Haig before the
battle). The few survivors would be captured, and the line would be free,
leaving the cavalry to charge to victory.
However, when the soldiers came to attack, the Germans emerged from
their dugouts and covered them in a blanket of open fire. Many men
were tangled in the barbed wire, even though Haig had said that `never
before has the wire been so well cut.' He should have known that
`artillery fire only dumps the wire back in a more tangled position'
(Private George Coppard) and that was the last thing soldiers needed. At
the end of the day, 60,000 British soldiers suffered serious injuries, a
third of whom died. In total another 105,000 British men died in the
Battle of the Somme. Haig had expected heavy casualties, `The nation
must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.' (June 1916) But not as
heavy as this. Nevertheless, with his belief that God was on his side and
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continued to send in troops for another four and a half months.
Haig should be called a hero because he successfully drew most of the
German troops away from Verdun, which was the whole reason for the
battle, so you could say he was victorious. Also he had had many great
victories before the Somme (source 10). If it wasn't for Haig, Britain
could have lost the war. It was not his fault that the battle was not as
successful as planned.…read more