This the source insinuates that the Battle of

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Last updated: May 9, 2019

This source is from the ‘War Memoirs’, written by David Lloyd-George, the British Prime Minister during   the First World War and reveals several things about the Battle of the Somme. David Lloyd-George implies that the consequences of the Battle of the Somme were catastrophic for the British Army, which is supported when he stipulates that, “It is claimed that the Battle of the Somme destroyed the old German Army… It killed off far more of our best and the French best”. The fact that he uses the verb “claimed” implies that these assertions were untrue. From this, we can subsequently also infer that many people believed the Battle of the Somme was a success, which may have been supported by media so that Britain would not lose morale during the war. Lloyd-George continues with his criticisms of the way the Battle of the Somme was planned out, with harsh words about Haig and the majority of the British Army leader. This is evident when he writes that,”the admiration, trust and affection felt by the men in the trenches for their leaders is utter nonsense”.

This suggests that the war generals did not understand the true horrors of war and to add insult to injury, they were also incompetent war strategists. Overall, the source insinuates that the Battle of the Somme was a complete disaster, due to the ineptitude of the war generals, most significantly, General Haig. Nevertheless, many people believed it was a success, which may have been emphasised by the media, an example of which would be newspapers. The content of this source is valuable to some degree, as it shows how the war generals were sheltered from the atrocities of the war and the appalling losses incurred by the British and the French which may have been due to their negligence. Despite this, Lloyd George does not balance this point of view with the numerous victories that Haig and the other commanders achieved in 1918. He also does not take into account the fact that the 420,000 casualties suffered by the British Army, and the 200,000 deaths in the French Army may have also been a consequence of the tactical and strategic restrictions and realities, of the time. For example, Haig had not known that the Germans had been expecting an attack and had already put up barbed wire and bomb proof shelters. Furthermore, after shelling the German trenches for a week, no one believed the Germans could withstand such a barrage, even with the technological limitations of the time.

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The British Army was also able to reclaim 90 square miles of territory. Moreover, even with the heavy losses and casualties, Haig still achieved the main goal: saving the French Army from collapse by taking pressure off them fighting in Verdun and diverting the German’s attention from Verdun. If the French Army had collapsed, many people feared that the Germans would drive a wedge between the French armies in the South and British armies in the North, which may have even resulted in the Allies losing the war.The source is a memoir composed by the Prime Minister David Lloyd George, of the United Kingdom, who held the office from 1916 to 1922. Lloyd George did not merely rely on his memory of the events when writing his memoirs: he asked for the help of the reputable historian, Basil Liddell Hart, arguably one of the most well-respected historians of World War One. Furthermore, he also called on the aid of Maurice Hankey, the first Cabinet Secretary, who vetted the entire book through the appropriate governmental departments, for them to be analysed. Additionally, through Hankey, Lloyd George had unrestricted access to all of the Cabinet Records. As a consequence, the ‘War Memoirs’ were, to an extent, historically accurate, as all the information accumulated were from official documents.

Nonetheless, no matter how fervently Lloyd George claims to have been against the plan for the Battle of the Somme, he was still the head of government at the time; the government that had conscripted millions of men to fight and die in the Great War and was consequently liable to public dissent. Therefore, it is likely that he was eager to not be accused of being the Butcher of the Somme and by turning the blame on Haig and the other war leaders, he could escape the blame unscathed. Moreover, the main objective of Lloyd George’s ‘War Memoirs’ was still to substantiate his decisions and eulogise his time as prime minister. As a result, it is feasible that he would have refrained from writing about anything unsavoury.

 In conclusion, after regarding all the content, type and origin, I think it is fairly useful due to the fact that David Lloyd George did not just rely on his memories of the events, he had every chapter of the memoir analysed by the entire civil service. On the contrary, Lloyd George does not take into consideration the limitations presented during the time, such as the reliability of artillery and the difficulty in communications during the battle. Additionally, it is obvious that he would not divulge information in the memoir that would harm his reputation.

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