Some people have the view that British generals like Haig were incompetent leaders. How far does the sources support or contradict this interpretation?
Some people have the view that British generals such as Haig were useless leaders. Famous sources like ‘O What a lovely War’, ‘Blackadder’ and ‘The Trench’ support this. However from the 1980s many military historians have challenged this interpretation and states that under Haigs leadership, Britain and her allies won the war from encouraging new weapons and military tactics. After Haigs death in 1918, historians blamed him for needless laughter of nearly 750,000 British soldiers on the Western Front and biographers pilloned him for his overconfidence, insensitivity and logical shortcountings. However a new age group of scholars now believes that he may have been more a victim of position than a cruel monster. This essay will try and support and contradict this interpretation. The view that the army were incompetent can be found in evidence dated back from the 1960s, back to the beginging of the way. It was a decoded war with the notorious catch phrase ‘Lions Led By Donkeys’ and other disparagement come from other books such as ‘The First World War’ written by AJP Taylor. Historians who back-up this view normally rely mostly on primary solider accounts. They would support this by using film and photographic evidence, war poetry, statistics, The Somme 1916, Passchendale 1917. They are also intrigued in social accounts of an ordinary solider. The views of polititions were widely used A direct witness Fred Pearson, who was a private on the Western Front , holds a letter to a local newspaper during 1966 (Source B3). He says in the letter “The biggest murderer of the lot was Haig” this quote supports the view of British generals being incompetent. Debates still rage about Haigs tactics at the Battle of the Somme, when 20,000 men were killed on the first day alone. He also talks about his wrong decisions where he used to live 50 kilometres behind the line and that was as near as he got to the trenches. The source shows a lot of reliability as it is very similar to other very reliable sources such as B2, B6 and B7 where they also support this same view. Parts of the letter were also quoted on a famous BBC Documentary in 1989. However, Source B11 contradicts this and doesn’t support the view. Other negative points include Pearson mentioning in the letter about how ‘bitter’ he is as a person, which could of influenced his view. The source is and was featured on a newspaper article back 50 years ago, the newspaper editors may have changed things to make it more interesting. Fred Pearson could of easily been influenced by other people’s views and sources and might of changed his opinion drastically. A famous poem by Siegfried Sassoon called “The General” was published in 1918 during the war times. Siegfried served as a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers on the Western Front. The poem( Source B7) is about a heartless general who the solider’s call ‘a cheery old card’. The poem was originally for the war until 1917 where he changed it so he was protesting about it. In the poem, Sassoon says how the general smiles to himself after saying that most of his soldiers are dead and then Sassoon tells us that the General and his staff are responsible for their murder. The source shows a lot of reliability as it supports the source above (B3) and the other sources with it (B6). Sassoon was also one of the many soldiers that new ‘The General’ which gives the poem primary evidence. It was written over 90 years ago during the war and the original copy of the poem is still around and shown in museums so there is no way that the poem was edited in any way. However, doctors tried to put Siegfried in a mental hospital for being ‘mentally ill’ but it didn’t work. This might of triggered some dark thoughts in his mind after his brother had died. Source B14 disagrees and says that it would be...
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