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To what extent was the Battle of the Somme a military tragedy?

Uploaded by bettylindner on Mar 25, 2020


The Battle of the Somme lasting from July to November 1916 was one of the biggest battles on the Western Front during the First World War with over one million casualties. It is widely seen as a military tragedy as – from the perspective of the British – it largely failed to achieve its military aims and the limited gains it brought were not commensurate with the huge sacrifice in human lives.
There were three key aims the British Commander General Douglas Haig wanted to accomplish with the Battle of the Somme in mid-1916, as stated in his official biography. First, he wanted to reinforce the cooperation with the allied French army and to relieve the French who were suffering significant losses at Verdun. Second, the British sought to break through the front line and make significant gains in territory. Third, echoing the German strategy of attrition, Haig hoped that the battle would wear down the German military force leading eventually to German surrender.
Of these aims, only one was achieved. The Battle’s relief function for the French somewhat worked as it helped the French to keep Verdun. French General Joseph Joffre had warned his army would soon “cease to exist.” The opening of a new battle front made German generals did redirect divisions and heavy artillery to the Somme riverfront. But sustained German attacks continued at Verdun. Of the three aims, the second one – combined with the strong losses in British troops – was most drastically missed. After the months of intense fighting the territorial gain was very limited amounting to only five kilometres. While the aim of forcing surrender was not accomplished, the German side lost almost 500,000 soldiers and, for the first time, German commanders started doubting whether German victory was certain. As a result, German tactic changed to a more defensive strategy cementing the front line for another two years. Above all, the missed and partly accomplished aims stand against the huge losses that the Battle of the Somme meant for the British people.
The Battle of the Somme as a whole, but most symbolically the first day caused mayor casualties and revealed severe mistakes, if not open irresponsibility, by the British military leadership. Haig ordered to place shells in German trenches but, around two thirds of the shells were shrapnel, which were largely ineffective against the concrete dugouts and made matters...

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Uploaded by:   bettylindner

Date:   03/25/2020

Category:   European

Length:   3 pages (690 words)

Views:   2

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