How Far Does General Haig Deserve to Be Known as ‘the Butcher of the Somme’?

9 September 2016

How far does General Haig deserve to be known as ‘The Butcher Of The Somme’? By the battle of the Somme in 1916 the war had been in a huge stalemate for 18 months that didn’t look like it was going to be broken any time soon. Trenches had been dug on the Western front all they way from the coast at Ostend to the Alps. Just before the offensive at the Somme, Verdun was under a heavy attack from German forces forcing the French to pull all their troops back to Verdun.

General Haig was asked to relieve pressure of the French by French commanders. Therefore there was no choice but an offensive somewhere on the Western Front by the British army. I believe General Haig did deserve to be named Butcher of the Somme for several reasons. Firstly because of the number of casualties, secondly because of his naivety not to change his tactics and lastly due to the poor planning by Haig,

How Far Does General Haig Deserve to Be Known as ‘the Butcher of the Somme’? Essay Example

On one hand there are several reasons why I believe he deserved to be called ‘The Butcher Of The Somme’. Firstly throughout the whole battle that only lasted five months, there were over one million casualties in all, around 600,000 of those were British soldiers, this included 57,000 on the first day that was the 1st of July 1916, for example 548 of the Sheffield Pals died on the first day, this is shown in source 27 of Ben Walsh’s book.

This was the highest number of casualties ever recorded in British history in a single battle. It was believed that Haig did not care for his soldiers and in his mind if there was more German casualties than British casualties they would win the war in the end, this is shown in the source booklet where it says ‘Haig was as stubborn as a donkey and as unthinking as a donkey’, this shows that he didn’t care what happened as long as he achieved success even if he sacrificed his whole army to win.

Lastly throughout the battle Haig changed very few of his tactics even though it was clear his tactic of sending waves of soldiers over the top wasn’t working. Even after losing hundreds of thousands of troops he sent more and more but still he had faith that eventually his army would breakthrough. His only change was that he brought in tanks that at first seemed like they might be the cause of a breakthrough and had early success but they soon failed as they broke down mid battle in no mans land.

I also believe Haig planned poorly as he kept on using cavalry charges when he sniffed a breakthrough even they were easily shot down by machine gun fire, this is said in the source booklet, ‘whether cavalry could operate successfully on a front bristling for miles’, this shows his men didn’t even have confidence in some of his tactics and so this is why I believe he deserves the title of ‘The Butcher Of The Somme’.

On the other hand some people believe he doesn’t deserve his title as ‘The Butcher Of The Somme’ because something had to been done about the whole situation. At Verdun the German army had launched an all out attack against the French army, for the Germans there plan was for a battle of attrition and so they wanted to pull in the French army to Verdun and then kill as many of them as possible but not to take Verdun. ‘The necessity of relieving pressure on the French army’ is said to be the main objective of the battle of the Somme said in Ben Walsh’s book.

The German plan was going well and pressure needed to be taken off the French and so some think Haig had to send thousands to their death to cause a distraction and relieve pressure off the French army and so what he did was save more lives than he killed. Secondly some believe he doesn’t deserve his title because it was a battle in the midst of a great war and there was going to be casualties no matter what, this is said in the source booklet, ‘The nation must be taught to bear losses’, this shows Haig was expecting many casualties but all we could do was just except the fact that many were going to die.

Lastly some people believe he doesn’t deserve the title due to the fact that because of the battle the British morale was increased and the German decreased as supposedly the ‘Best of the old German army’, was dead and so their replacements were inexperienced soldiers who didn’t know what to do and so some believe ‘Haig was one of the main architects of the Allied Victory’ as said in source H of the source booklet and without him the Allies may have lost the war.

In conclusion I believe General Haig does deserve the title of ‘the Butcher of the Somme’ due to the number of casualties, tactics and fact that his planning was poor as shown that he didn’t even realise his bombardment would make holes in the barbed wire this is proven by source C of the source booklet as it says ‘Hundreds were strung out on the barbed wire’ showing hey still had to climb over as their were no holes in it. Even though some people believe he doesn’t deserve the title as they think he wanted a break through, not a battle of attrition and so was trying his hardest to do this by any means necessary. This is why I believe he does deserve his title as ‘The Butcher Of The Somme’.

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