Did General Haig deserve to be the Butcher of the Somme?
1 July 1916, Battle of Somme started, fought by the armies of the British and French empires against the German Empire. It took place on either side of the River Somme in France, and it ended on 18 November 1916. The battle caused millions of deaths and injuries between both sides. The war changed peoples’ thinking towards war. From a great adventure, to a bloody event.
General Douglas Haig was one of the commanders from the British army in the Battle of Somme, the battle with one of the highest casualties in British military history. Some people called him “Butcher Haig” or “Butcher of the Somme” after his death in 1928, because he sent thousands of British soldiers to their death. But does he deserve the title? Or was he just doing his job and was there any misunderstanding in the battle? I will talk about the evidences and explain why many people view both sides and if he deserves the title or not.
The offensive (Britain & France) conceived the idea as a battle of attrition, attacking the Germans, the aim being to drain the German forces of reserves, although territorial gain was a secondary aim. On the first day of the battle of the Somme, Commander Haig’s army (The fourth army of Britain) lost 57,470 casualties, of which 19,240 men were killed, for only one day. The French had a “complete success” which collapsed the German Defenders in south of the Albert–Bapaume road. South bank of the German defense was made incapable of resisting another attack. They retreated to the north bank which abandonment of Fricourt was ordered. The German army went to the north bank and inflicted a huge defeat on the British infantry, which killed so many Britain soldiers.
A lot of people called Douglas Haig the Butcher of the Somme. Here are some pieces of evidence to support this point of view.
“The biggest murderer of the lot was Haig. I’m very bitter; always have been and always will be and everybody else that knew him. He lived almost 50 kilometers behind the line and that’s about as near as he got. I don’t think he knew what a trench was like. And they made him an Earl and gave him £100,000. I know what I’d have given him” (Fred Pearson, commenting on Haig in a local newspaper in 1966) Pearson was a private on the Western Front. This suggests where Haig’s position was and the opinion of the soldier in the Front line. It also tells us that General Haig received a large amount of money and an Earl given by the loyal afterward. And although there were a lot of murderer (Commanders in charge) during the war time, but Haig led a large amount of the British army to death as they called him the BIGGEST murderer. This source was written years after the war in a local newspaper called Pro Venanic. It can be trusted because it was written by a person who was in the battle who experienced what the war was like and what Haig was doing.
“We were completely exhausted.” Haig wrote, “If the war lasted, our army defeat seemed certain.” He really believed that he had won the battle. Although the Germans had lost 680,000 men during the war and had retreated 10 kilometers back from their trenches. They human cost of the Britain and French were also very high. Especially on the first day of the battle, which lost a massive number of casualties in the war history? Which made the people bitter and angry especially the anger from the men in the Front line, seeing Haig standing kilometers behind them, thinking that he was being a coward, and the ones who lost their family and relatives on the 1st of July?
P.Smith was also a private in the 1st Border regiment fighting on the Somme. He was one of them who called Haig a Butcher. He wrote this in his diary, “It was pure bloody murder. Douglas Haig should have been hung, drawn and quartered for what he did on the Somme. The cream of the British manhood was shattered in less than six hours.” From this quote, we can see that this...
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