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The Battle of the Somme Essay

On the 1st July 1916, the battle of the Somme began. Sources A, D, E and F suggest that the Battle of The Somme wasn’t a total failure. However, Sources B and C suggest that the British underestimated the Germans and this was the cause of their massacre.

Source B proposes that although the British were organized and everything was going according to their plan, the first line, which had nearly reached the German front line, were shot down due to machine-gun fire. The soldiers were caught in the open with no shelter and didn’t stand a chance. The machine guns were unexpected because Haig predicted that since the Germans had been bombarded with shells for a week, they would all be dead and their weapons would have been destroyed. Haig was complacent and this cost him dearly, the Germans had dug outs which provided shelter, these were often 40 feet in depth. Source C shows British soldiers advancing slowly towards the German trenches; the picture also shows one British soldier on the ground, probably shot by machine guns and on the verge of death.

This indicates that when some soldiers had crossed their own barbed wire, immediately outside of their trenches, were shot. Source B is written by a sergeant in the British army and it supports the statement and it is reliable since it is neither written by Haig himself to avoid blame for the Battle of the Somme, nor by someone who wasn’t at the battle. Source B gives us a first person view of the battle as Sergeant Cook was there himself. Source C is unreliable as it was produced by the British government to raise the morale of people back in Britain. It was a desperate attempt to support the fact that the battle was a success even though it wasn’t.

On the other hand, Source A disagrees with the given statement as it is written by Haig after the battle and he writes about things the British have learnt of the German Trenches: “German defences consisted of…” The short account by Haig is defensive as he was to blame for the offensive push in which the British Army lost 420,000 men and he is trying to show some results from The Battle of the Somme. Source D is an official German photograph which shows a British soldier dead in the trenches. This backs up Source A as it shows that a British soldier breached the German front line but was ruthlessly killed. Source E is another account from Haig; he is trying to defend himself yet again and writes about the fact that the British army had achieved certain targets such as: “Verdun had been relieved”. This highlights the fact that the Battle of the Somme hadn’t been a complete failure.

Finally, Source F is neither agreeing with the statement nor disagreeing with it. The source writes that for such a catastrophic loss, only a small set of results are displayed. It also suggests that during this war the morale and skill of the officers had been immeasurable and that this war had cost Britain its best soldiers.

I feel that Source A and E are unreliable sources as they are written by Haig and he would try to defend himself and wouldn’t write about the failures of the war. I strongly think that Source D is also unreliable information of the war as it’s a photograph released by the German government and they would try and raise the morale of the German troops. According to me only Source F is reliable as it is written by historians and most historians don’t choose sides, they are meant to convey the facts of the war.

Although Sources B and C suggest that the Battle of the Somme was a total failure, the weight of evidence from the other sources and highlighted by Source E, that the objectives that were set were achieved, shows that the Battle of the Somme wasn’t a complete failure.


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