The battle of the Somme was a day in which both sides (mainly the British and the Germans) wrote about what happened. However, due to human nature, there will naturally be error and misguidance in places but the overall picture should be a correct one. However, it is not as simple as that, to just pick out overviews of the Somme. For example, many documents etc that Historians recover will just simply be in newspapers etc which are designed for the public at that time to see and not modern day uses.
This means that the propaganda will have an element and whilst all sources have their uses, sources also have huge downsides where there are gaping holes left unanswered or avoided. Source A was written by a man who was in charge of the Somme offensive on the British side, Sir Douglas Haig. This could imply that the source will lean towards the British in favouritism to make him look better. Haig wrote the source and he must had the best view of anyone from an overall perspective as everything that happens in the War gets relayed back to him directly as he’s the one in charge.This source was written shortly after the battle which one could say is a very good thing as it is after all the events have a happened and wrapped up so he can get a better overall picture. Source A is an official document with which he is trying to justify his actions to some higher authority. This shows Historians that Haig wasn’t completely in charge and was being watched closely from, for example, the Prime Minister.This source is useful for giving us the opinions of possibly the most influential man in this particular Battle; but as it’s at the end of the battle, it doesn’t show the change in objectives throughout it just explains the finished product which is often only half the story.
This source shows us that Haig at this point has no intention of breaking through and it’s good for justification and not motivation. It’s a contributory view from a strategic level and is useful but not enough on its own to explain why and how the battle was fought.Source B is very similar to Source A in the sense that it is written by the same man and at similar times so all points above have to be taken into consideration. The difference is, is that this particular source shows a Haig’s confidence of victory but also shows the willingness Haig has to committing his men to certain death.
This source vitally shows the reasoning behind Haig’s constant offensive strategy and that is that he realizes how low the German morale is and keeps on pushing until they completely crack.However, this source isn’t useful for specific numbers of casualties etc as Haig is very evasive about specifics. Source C, in contrast to the previous 2 sources, is a picture drawn by a British newspaper to try and give an indication of what is happening in the Battle of the Somme near the end of the battle.
It shows a fist (designed to show the British army) punching through a man which is shaped roughly as the front line of the Battle. This man is designed to represent Germany and the face shows fear and terror whilst putting Britain in a place of power and strength.This picture can be useful up to the point that it is propaganda completely designed to give confidence to the British so they don’t lose heart. However, this source is useful for giving Historians a good view of how Britain interpreted the direction in which the war was heading and how they were willing to show the public how offensive their plans were. Source D shows a different opinion again to the previous sources in the sense that this source was written for a text book in 1982, many years after the event took place.
This means that the Historian writing this ad access to many other sources and could have got a more precise overall picture but it also means that it is not a primary source and many details could have got twisted or changed as it got passed down through a generation. This source also wouldn’t be able to take into account the actual feelings of the soldiers etc as he wasn’t there. The fact that it was written for a children’s text book also has a huge influence as many gruesome details would have to be left out or toned down to accommodate for age.This source shows the bad skill of the Generals and how willing to send men over the top they were without doing sufficient research into how effective their artillery actually was.
Source E is a photo as opposed to a drawing, this means that is not someone’s interpretation of what happened; it actually was what was seen. However, photos can be edited or be taken so to leave out certain things. It was taken near the end of the war where all the trenches would have been at their worst and it shows the opposite view of Source D in the sense that the British artillery seemed to destroy German trenches very successfully.Source E and Source C are both pictures but show completely different things and although they both have importance, they both have their disadvantages along with it. This is because the person creating the 2 sources has the option of what photo to make public or how to draw a specific thing to show the point of view you want to get across. Source A and B are both similar for the simple reason that they are both written by the same person, at the same time of the battle.
They both have different viewpoints of the war but come across with the same theme, Haig trying to justify his actions. Having taken all the sources into account, I would say that all the sources have importance to a Historian one way or another and none of them can be written off completely. However, a Historian would have to set about trying to obtain information from any one of them with great caution and with the realization that they are all useful for different things.