British soldiers to their commanders during the First World War

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Last updated: November 14, 2019

When I evaluate and explain how sources A to C show how British soldiers reacted towards their generals and to find out what they thought of them. When evaluating the sources I will consider, who wrote it, when, for who and why they wrote it. I will also analyse the meaning of particular sources and assess the usefulness of them In source A you can see that it is not a real life picture and only a cartoon interpretation of what it might have been like. The soldiers disrespected their generals because the soldiers thought that they were scared to fight.In fact the generals were 35miles behind the front lines, and were well protected. Although if the generals fought with the soldiers on the front lines the morale of the soldiers would increase and they would feel privileged and more confident in winning if they fought with them.

In the text a soldier is contradicting the general by saying that the generals absence in essential. A British cartoon company called “punch” made source A and it was made for the people of Britain and had no reason to not tell the truth.It was produced to tell the British public about the Generals being afraid to fight on the front lines. Although this could be a good source in deciding if the soldiers respected their generals, it is only a cartoon so additions to make the generals look bad or soldiers look like that they hated the generals could be exaggerated. Also an important point is that this is only one soldiers view towards their generals so not every soldier would have hated them. From source B we can learn that Captain Blackadder has no respect for his general because he calls him “general ‘insanity’ Melchitt”.This source also shows that he disrespected his general because he calls going over the front lines “a mass slaughter”, meaning that no one will survive.

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This had limitations and positives of a 1980’s programme because there was no actual information to relate to saying that this programme was not true. This could be good for finding information on soldier’s attitudes because there is no one to contradict what they are saying and is not biased towards anyone in any way.In source C it doesn’t necessarily tell you anything that is true because it is about Haig’s leadership in the war, written by his son and he tried to make his father look like a hero. This is not a very good source to get information from because he would most likely be biased towards his father. It was produced in 1998 in the Daily Telegraph so it was not censored and could be seen by mass public. The fact that it was produced in 1998 would mean that most soldiers were dead so there was no argument to go against what he was saying.This is not very useful for finding out about attitudes of soldiers because his son was saying “he was humane and not callous”.

From all the information that I know, Haig did not care about his troops and only wanted to please the country without thinking about how many deaths that there was going to be. He knew that there was going to be plenty of deaths but kept on sending troops into no mans land because he thought that if he won the war, the people would forget about the deaths.Source A and B are more useful than this source because they are not one sided and written by personal relatives or liked/ disliked Haig.

Overall Haig did have some good battle’s, with some good ideas of attack. He had the support of the British by knowing and arranging personal meeting with the present king. John Keegan, a modern historian, suggests that Haig was an ‘efficient and highly Skilled soldier who did much to lead Britain to victory in the First World War’ Source D supports Keegan’s interpretation of Haig because it shows Haig with some text saying, “Your country needs me”.Haig was trying to be shown that Britain needed him to win the war, which was untrue because Britain needed everyone to contribute for the war effort. The poster is invalid because Haig may have been a skilled soldier but the country didn’t just need him. I believe that this is how Keegan would have pictured Haig but this was very unfavourable compared to Lord Kitchener’s poster because Kitchener was a successful military leader.

To be a military leader you have to be responsible for the deaths, Haig thought that the deaths was not important if he won the war. This is limited because the poster doesn’t show that he was skilled.Source E was written by Haig prior/the day before and after the Battle of the Somme saying that no matter how skilled or trained the soldiers were the country would suffer deaths if they want to win, this showed that Haig was willing to sacrifice anyone to win. It also says, “The men are in splendid spirits and all the commanders are full of confidence”, this is invalid evidence as well because Haig was about 35miles behind the front lines to be able to tell what the men were thinking. Part three that he wrote was implying that the attack went successful and the Germans are surrendering.This again was invalid evidence because Haig instructed a massive barrage of artilleries that bombarded the Germans for ten days or more.

Although this seemed a good idea at the time the German bunkers were made out concrete so not many Germans died. Everything that Haig said didn’t match anything that we have learnt through textbooks so presumed all lies. Keegan liked this view of Haig because Haig claimed that he was going well on the front lines. This is not useful because Haig wrote it and nobody knew what was really going on in Britain.

Source F would support Keegans interpretation of Haig because it says that Haig was chosen by God to serve his country, and that he was often misplaced. This once again was invalid because only kings or queens are chosen by god by inheriting the throne by birth. Source G would again support Haig because the Prime minister (David Lloyd George) was saying that Haig would only put men on to the battlefields if he thought that he was going to win and that the men would rather die than call themselves cowards; this showed that the prime minister was taking the responsibility on Haig and said that he was doing a good job.Although this was also limited because he could only take a certain amount of responsibility for what Haig had done. This was conscious of the prime minister to take the responsibility. Source H is very unreliable because Duff Cooper, the author of his autobiography but he was asked by Haig’s family to write this piece; this shows already that it was going to support Keegans interpretation of Haig although it could have been unconscious by his family. Source J was written by Germany to tribute Haig and was published during the war.This was aimed at the British public to show that Haig was supposed to be Britain’s greatest man and that he couldn’t stop Germany no one could, Germany was too great.

This source opposes to Keegans interpretation of Haig because although he may be great he is not good enough to defeat the German army. This shows that his skills were not good enough and didn’t lead Britain to success this time. The limitation for this was that Germany could only say that Haig had failed once against the Germans and decided to take advantage of this situation. Source K was neither supporting nor opposing towards Keegans interpretations of Haig.Although Haig did make many rash decisions he also fought some very good fights with clever plans, he did however loose too many men, which he did not need to loose. Haig wanted to win the war quickly instead of carefully. I believe that there would have been no one at the present time up for the job as well as Haig was.

Source L, ‘lions led by donkeys’ was written in 1983 by Steve Warburton a modern historian, which was aimed at secondary school children to teach them about how the generals were afraid to go to battle but to be allowed to use peoples lives to see if their plan would work on the battle fields.In source L there were many different sources which all contradict each other saying weather Haig was succeeding in the war or was “the butcher of the Somme”. I believe that Keegan has this view of Haig because Keegan may have thought that s long as we win the war numbers of casualties are less important. Although Keegan may have thought that Haig was ‘skilled and lead Britain to victory’ his skills must have been limited because he made numerous mistakes and misjudged the enemy too many times to forget the lives that he lost.There are so many different interpretations of Haig because people know and want different things, and come from different backgrounds to which it may seem as though Haig was successful or unsuccessful. If you were from a rich background and during the war you didn’t have to go because you were a higher-class citizen you may have thought that we won the war so forget the casualties or, if you were not so wealthy and you had numerous of your family going to war then you may have though Haig to have been a butcher.Over time the interpretations of Haig changed because people may have ad their own opinion from their elders, or may be persuaded to take their opinion. I believe that Haig was a skilled officer that had a wife who was Lady In Waiting so he could have special access to the king to tell him his points of views in private and to persuade the king to take his opinions.

He had no thought of how many people died or even how.He knew in some battles that it was unlikely for him to succeed but decided to take his chances; this was wrong because if he may have thought about the situation and the consequences beforehand he may have resolved the problem and prevented the loss of millions of lives. However Haig did win the war and several of difficult battles with his plans that made him to be a great leader. It also may have been the problem that if he was from a poor background he may have though of the family he could have lost.

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