Field Marshall Haig: The Butcher Of The Somme?


a) Study sources A and B. How far does source A and B prove that Haig did not care about the lives of his men?



In source A it seems as though Haig doesn’t care for his men. He isn’t very sympathetic. He says ‘The nation must be taught to bear losses’. He is saying that even though someone in your family may die, you will just have to forget about it and get over it straight away. He also didn’t train his army and there was ‘no superiority of arms and ammunition’. How could he expect them to win? If he cared about them then he would train them and give them decent weapons. He doesn’t necessarily have to care but if he wants them to win the battle, then he must show some sort of caring. But was it Haig’s job to care? He wasn’t a nurse or anyone who had to care. It was his job to send them out to the battlefield to win and not care if they die. If he wants them to win then he must show a bit of care. They will only go out and do their best if they feel confident that they will win, and to feel confident they need to have good weapons and be trained. We don’t know how he would have felt in this source, because he would be waiting for tomorrow to come and may be feeling nervous about the battle that he will have mixed emotions and may not be writing the whole truth.


In source B it is about all of the good things of the Somme. He doesn’t mention any bad things. He says ‘The men are in splendid spirits’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the people who go over the top. He doesn’t mention the soldiers which shows a sign of not caring. Another part of the text that shows this is ‘the commanders are full of confidence’, but it doesn’t say that the soldiers are.


Source A was written before the first day of the attack and it is really negative, but source B is from the first day but is very positive, even though lots of people got killed. He says ‘Very successful attack this morning ‘, even though 20,000 people got died, which isn’t very successful, but may have been less than the Germans. He says that the enemy is short of men, but he doesn’t know how many Germans were killed, and neither do we now. He is also getting a bit big headed because he says ‘Several have…never been so instructed and informed.’ Because he is the Field Marshall he would tell them what to do and if they say that then he must have done a good job. If he was being big headed then it shows that he must have done a good job. If he was being big headed then it shows that he cares more about himself than his soldiers.


We can evaluate source A by using source B. in source A it says ‘The nation must be taught to bear losses’. In source B it says ‘Very successful attack this morning.’ The whole point of the war is to achieve military objects and the number of soldiers killed is irrelevant. A battle can be successful despite the high loss of life.


Overall, I think that Haig didn’t care that much about his men. This is because whenever he is writing he never mentioned how they were feeling. He also didn’t give them any training or decent weapons, and how could he expect them to fight properly. In source B I think that he is trying to forget what the soldiers feely think, because if the soldiers wrote it then it would probably be very negative. If he tries to forget what the soldiers think and lie then it shows that he can’t care that much. But the question we still need to find out is was it Haig’s job to care and we cannot answer this question properly until we have found out the answer.


b) Study sources B and C. Which one of these sources do you trust more?


Source B is written by Haig. It