Lions led by donkeys - How valid is this interpretation of the conduct of British soldiers and generals on the Western Front, 1914-1918? Free essay! Download now
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Lions led by donkeys - How valid is this interpretation of the conduct of British soldiers and generals on the Western Front, 1914-1918?
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| Words: 1900 | Submitted: 15-Oct-2006
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DescriptionIs this a valid interpretation of the leadership of the British forces during World War II?
Sir Douglas Haig became Commander in Chief of the British army in 1916, two years into the war already. He was an upper class man, and good friends with the king. This is seen in Source C, a letter to Haig from King George. It is very informal and this shows how close they were as friends. A lot of people think Haig wasn’t just appointed because he was a good soldier and leader; some believe his selection for this position was influenced by his relationship with the king. It was also thought that a lot of the other generals had gained there positions due to their status in society rather than their actual commanding abilities. This would, and did, have a disastrous effect in a war.
Another argument against the generals was that they were responsible for the huge casualties that occurred. Statistics like 420,000 men killed at the battle of the Somme in 1916, the year Haig was appointed Commander in Chief, with 57,000 killed on just the first day. 300,000 more were killed at the 3rd battle of Ypres in 1917. With statistics like this being held against them it is almost impossible to see any but blundering, careless idiots, rather than generals. Source H is a poem written by a soldier who served on the Western Front, it shows what the soldiers thought of the generals, that they were ‘cheery old cards’, yet completely incompetent with no worry for the consequences of their bad orders and plans because ‘he did for them both by his plan of attack’. Despite being written by men who were on the front lines, these poems validity is questionable, as with most poems. Poets like to exaggerate and be more graphic with their writing as it makes a better poem.
If something good came from all these deaths to balance the tables a bit, then they might not have seemed so outrageous. But other than winning the war after a lot more time, and a lot more deaths, very little did come of them. For all the 420,000 men that were lost at the battle of the Somme only 10kms were gained, that means for every man that died 2cm of ground was taken back from the Germans. This is not a pleasing statistic, and as Source B shows nothing else was any better.
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