Was the Battle of the Somme in 1916 a futile endeavour or a necessity for the allies to win the Great War?
In 1916, the battle that took place by the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles ever recorded in European warfare. For many years historians have had countless debates concerning the battles contribution towards the Great War and whether or not it ever really held any worth military-wise for the British. In order to assess if the Battle of the Somme was futile or necessary several significant factors need to be critically analysed, including the tactics used at the time, how effective the leadership was, the consequences of the Battle, and if it was truly a victory or a failure.
One of the first and most important arguments is whether or not the Somme was actually a victory or a failure. The three goals the General Haig, leader of the British troops at the Somme, needed to achieve were, to relieve the pressure at Verdun by diverting the German troops, to reduce the number of German soldiers and to come to the aid of Britain’s ally, France. After the Somme was over on 13th November, a conclusion was made that all three of the objectives had been achieved, suggesting that the Somme was in fact a victory. However, although the British did manage to achieve its goal, the amount of lives lost on the first day alone outweighs the victories made at the end of the battle. Around 620,000 men suffered casualties from both France and Britain, 60,000 on the first day. This loss of men had a shocking impact on both the military and the public. The public opinion of war, through false propaganda, was that war was a wonderful, glorious event where the men of Britain could go off and prove themselves as heroes, however, that illusion was shattered once news of the Somme reached the towns and villages of the UK. Men were less willing to sign up for battle now that they understood what war was truly like, this caused the military to suffer even more loses so much so they introduced conscription, forcing men to join up for battle. When all of these factors are added together the Somme can be questioned as to whether it was really a victory.
Another important factor was the tactics used during the battle. A week before the attack, shell after shell was launched over the German trenches intending to kill or maim the majority of soldiers within them. It was decided that after the bombardment was over, the men would be sent across, walking towards the German trenches, where they would quickly dispatch of the little amount of German soldiers who survived the bombardment. It is believed that these tactics were futile by many historians for a number of reasons the main one being that for every 1 kilometre gained by the allied forces, around 50,000 men suffered. Sir General Douglas Haig, who was commanding the British troops, sent wave after wave of men to confront the German’s machine guns, and most of their soldiers, as during the bombardment they had suffered only minimal damage due to well dug-out trenches. Soldiers were mown down by the German’s guns barely gaining any leeway and certainly not contributing to the victory of Britain. On the other hand, it can be said that the tactics used were the most necessary at the time. If enough men were sent over the top, and hit by the German’s bullets, then eventually the German’s would run out of ammunition, in which the remainder of the Anglo-French troops could go across and kill the rest. With this in mind, it is possible that the tactics used by Haig were highly successful in that by the end of the five months all objectives had been reached and 80% of the allied troops had survived.
Closely linked to that point would be the skills of leadership used, and if the leaders at the time were as effective as they could have been. A lot of the failures and victories of the Somme rest on the shoulders of General Douglas Haig, and most of it amounts to whether or not his...
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