The Battle of the Somme as a Victory for the British

The Battle of the Somme as a Victory for the British
This investigation seeks to evaluate the level of success for the British in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and analyse whether this battle was really a ?victory? for the British or not. The main body of this investigation outlines what happened to the British army in The Battle of the Somme in 1916, with references to many sources. The battle is then analysed to see to extent was it a victory for the British and to what extent it wasn?t, with importance on the country and the army. Two of the sources used in this essay, The Western Front and The First Day of the Somme, are then evaluated in detail in terms of their origins, purpose, value and limitations. For evaluating ?victory?, many aspects are considered. These include a comparison between the objectives of Britain before the battle and the results itself, the number of casualties on both sides, etc.
B Summary of evidence In 1916, the British planned to attack the Germans near the Somme River. Their main aim of this attack was to relieve the French pressure at the battle of Verdun, which was going on from the early part of the year. ?Their plan was breathtakingly simple. Having assembled the greatest concentration of artillery in its entire history, the British army would bombard the German defenses until their barbed wire was cut destroyed, their trenches caved in, their strong points were smashed to fragments and the few remaining defenders were to too scared to fight. Then the British infantry, outnumbering the German defenders seven to one and equipped with everything they could possibly require, would leave their trenches, cross ?No Man?s Land? and calmly take possession.?1 The bombardments went on from June 24th to July 1st, 1916. But their plan had gone wrong. The Germans had deep dugouts that would not be affected by the bombardments of the British. Their trenches were so strong that the shells had no effect on them. The bombardment failed to destroy either the barbed-wire or the concrete bunkers protecting the German soldiers. This meant that the Germans were able to exploit their good defensive positions on higher ground when the British and French troops attacked at 7.30 on the morning of the 1st July. July 1st, 1916: this was a fateful day in the history of the British army. The British soldiers of the 4th army (consisted 25 divisions - mostly of volunteers) were ordered to just walk in to the "No Man?s land". There they faced German machine guns. The casualties were enormous. 57,700 British casualties were reported on the first day alone with more than 19,000 soldiers dead.2 This disaster was mainly because of General Haig. Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig of Edinburgh, born in 1861 was appointed to lead the men into a war to be told for all time. It was he, who made this plan and ordered men here to fight. He was fifty miles behind the front and even after the reults of the first day, still argued that the British had victory.3 The battle of the the Somme continued till November, with heavy losses on all British, French and German armies. The allies gained only five miles. Haig finally put off the offensive by the end November with a halt for the winter. The key feature to be noted in this battle was that tanks were used for the first time in British army.4 C Evaluation of sources The First Day of the Somme was published in 1990 and was written by Richard Tames. Tames is the Head of External Services at the School of Oriental and African studies at the University of London. He is also the author the number other books. This book The First Day of the Somme belongs to the ?A Day That Made History? series. The stated purpose of this series of books is, ?to tell for 12-16 year olds a gripping story of an important historical event, lasting no more than twenty-four hours. This serves as a jumping-off point into further study and project on the period in which the event is set? (back of hardcover). The value of the book is that it is suitable for students up to 16 years old and the purpose states that this book is useful for further study and project work. As I am working on an investigation, I think that this book is ideal for me. This book also contains a lot photographs and some sources, which help us to understand better. The limitation of this source is that in some areas, there is information about the fighting which goes really in-depth. This is sometimes time consuming and hard to scan the relevant data. The other source that I chose to study was the book, The Western Front written by Richard Holmes. Holmes was a Reserve Infantry Officer for over thirty years (with a period of full-time service as a Lieutenant Colonel). He is currently director of Reserve Forces and Cadets in Britain?s Ministry of Defense. The purpose of this book is to let people know everything of what happened in The Western Front in the First World War. This covers everything from how the front was created and the British Army in France, to the battle of Verdun and the last Hundred Days of the war. This source has such a great value. It was written by someone who was actually a military officer and one who has seen wars. This source can be trusted because the author is also a professor of Military and Security studies. He is well known for his bbc presentations. This book is quite useful because it?s filled with photos, illustrations, diagrams, maps and quotations that give needed imagery to a highly complex and inhuman four years of history. The limitation of this source is that this source is deeply analytical. It would be really interesting to read for someone in the military forces, but not for IB students like me. D Analysis There is no doubt that the British suffered huge casualties, but did they gain a victory in the Somme? First let?s look at the aims of the British before they went to fight this battle. General Haig had four main aims to be fulfilled by the battle of the Somme: The first, was the ?Break-Out? and capture back French Territory. The second was to relieve the town of Verdun. This was because the Generals did not want the enemy to even pass this point, and onto a straight onward journey to capture the French Capital Paris. So they needed to prepare a battle plan. They decided to divert German troops away from Verdun. The third was to inflict heavy losses on the enemy?s population of troops and to wear and crush them down. And finally the forth was to hold the German artillery forces on the western front, and prevent the re-direction of a large mass of troops to fight the Russians on the Eastern Front. Were these aims fulfilled? The first aim partially worked. Haig?s calculation was that for every 12 inches, three men need to be sacrificed.5 This did work correctly, but in the end the final results were that after five months, barely miles have been captured. The second aim also worked because the German pressure at Verdun was reduced. The third aim was also fulfilled but this is the one that damaged the British also. By inflicting heavy casualties on the Germans, the British themselves lost so many soldiers in that process. In total, 415,000 British soldiers were killed against 600,000 German dead. The fourth aim also worked as Germany concentrated more on the western front and not on Russia. The victory that could be claimed by the British was the use of tanks. It was only this Battle of the Somme that made the British use the tanks in September 1916. Even though the impact of tanks was not immediately felt, they were the cause of British victory in 1918. However, the British faced a lot of failures during this battle. The 410,000 casualties were a huge number and greatly weakened the army. Three Australian divisions lost almost 23,000 men, and with them their faith in British leadership.6 This was a huge setback for the British. There was hatred all over the country and the army over Haig. Many people thought that Haig did not care about the of life of soldiers. Therefore Haig had set out what he wanted to do at the battle of the Somme, and accomplished his aims successfully, but at the cost of 400,000 men?s lives, a life of hell for the soldiers, lies to the media, and all for one battle in the First World War. E Conclusion Although the Battle of the Somme has some successes for the British, the huge amount of sacrifices given by the soldiers and the civilians were terrible. The hatred was shared everywhere and there is no compensation for the thousands wounded in the battle, who were lying there in the Battleground for hours and possibly days. All just for a few miles of land. Therefore, according to the majority of the people studied from the two sources, the battle of the Somme was not a victory. On the other hand, for people like Haig, this battle was seen as a victory. F List of sources Tames, Richard. 1990. The first day of the Somme.

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