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Battle Of The Somme


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#1 Missymoo

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 02:52 PM

i was wondering on how some historians dissagree that the battle of somme was a major defeat for the allies

#2 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 04:17 PM

Hi!

Nobody disagrees that the Battle of the Somme involved the deaths of thousands of British soldiers - it was a disaster.

But was it a defeat?
The clue is what was happening to the other side, and the general impression is that they were faring even worse.
Historians like Terraine and Corrigan, therefore, argue that - despite the loss of life - the Somme was a victory, albeit a bloody one.

If you read this page, and follow some of the links - particularly the ones on Terraine and Corrigan- you will get an idea of the debate on this issue.

This resource gives you loads of points to make for both sides of the argument.

#3 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 10:50 PM

Nobody disagrees that the Battle of the Somme involved the deaths of thousands of British soldiers - it was a disaster.


At the risk of seeming to be nit-picking, the first day of the Battle of the Somme was a disaster. The British Army suffered over 57,000 casualties, including aprroximately 20,000 dead. Although there was some progress in the southern sector, in many areas no ground was gained at all.

However, the battle lasted for over four months. The historians Mr. Clare mentioned (among others) argue that, overall, although the battle was costly for the Allies, it was not a disaster. Other historians disagree. I would recommend Mr. Clare's excellent website on the Battle of the Somme which gives both sides of the argument.

#4 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 11:45 PM

At the risk of seeming to be nit-picking, the first day of the Battle of the Somme was a disaster.

At the risk of picking a fight with someone who knows a lot more than me about this, are you sure Mr Bryant that it was not the whole of the Battle of the Somme which was a disaster?

We must not get bogged down in an argy-bargy about words, but I would rate the first day of the Somme as a CATASTROPHE!, and would suggest that the rest of the battle rates very well as a 'disaster':

1. Haig tried another major assault in September and - although its fate was very similar to the July attack - kept it going into October! It got almost nowhere.
2. For the rest of the time, the battle was the worst of what we have come to think of as 'typical' of WWI - artillery bombardments, mud, going over the top, horrible wounds, shell shock, hand-to-hand fighting in the mud in the bottom of a crater, night-raids, taking prisoners, hand-grenades etc. etc.
3. British (and Empire) casualties by the end of the 4-month battle were 420,000. Total Allied (British and French) deaths ended up at 150,000. By contrast, as I write, the latest figure of dead from the recent (2011) Japanese Tsunami has reached 126,000 - i.e. the battle of the Somme was 20% worse than this major world natural disaster. How bad does it need to be before we call the Battle of the Somme a 'disaster'.
4. And - whereas historians always used to justify the battle by saying that we ground down the Germans, who lost 630,000 men - nowadays historians tend towards a much lower estimate (maybe only 237,000 German casulaties). If this is so, we cannot even say that the battle may have been a disaster for us, but it was more of a disaster for the Germans.

The battle of the Somme was, surely, 'a disaster' by anybody's definition?


However, what I WOULD say was that the fact that it was a disaster does not mean it was unnecessary.
When you are walking home through a hailstorm it doesn't matter how horrible it is; if you want to get home, you've got to walk through it.
I think WWI was the same. If Haig was going to win the war, he was going to have to slog it out toe to toe with the Germans until they were beat. It was not a pretty or civilised process, but I do personally think that there was no available alternative.


Have you realised, Missymoo, that what you have just read is one historian's (i.e. my) INTERPRETATION of the battle.
I wonder what Mr Bryant's interpertation is - I wonder if he will agree, or disagree, with me?
:unsure:

#5 Mr. D. Bryant

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 03:29 PM

1. Haig tried another major assault in September and - although its fate was very similar to the July attack - kept it going into October! It got almost nowhere.


1. In fact operations continued on the 2nd July and carried on until the official end of the Somme (The Battle of the Ancre) on 18th November. Some of these series of operations were very successful e.g. Bazentin Ridge (14th – 17th July), others were costly failures e.g. The Ancre (13th – 18th November). However, some ground was gained, but without making the decisive breakthrough which Haig had originally hoped for.

2. For the rest of the time, the battle was the worst of what we have come to think of as 'typical' of WWI - artillery bombardments, mud, going over the top, horrible wounds, shell shock, hand-to-hand fighting in the mud in the bottom of a crater, night-raids, taking prisoners, hand-grenades etc. etc.


2. This doesn’t prove that the Battle of the Somme was a disaster; it just shows that trench warfare was very tough. In many ways the conditions were much worse during some parts of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in 1917, although the Somme mud became a worsening problem from October 1916. It also misses out the so-called ‘learning curve’ – the process by which the British Army slowly became better at beating the Germans.

3. British (and Empire) casualties by the end of the 4-month battle were 420,000. Total Allied (British and French) deaths ended up at 150,000. By contrast, as I write, the latest figure of dead from the recent (2011) Japanese Tsunami has reached 126,000 - i.e. the battle of the Somme was 20% worse than this major world natural disaster. How bad does it need to be before we call the Battle of the Somme a 'disaster'.


3. If you are sending very large numbers of allied soldiers against the main body of the German Army in 1916, it is unrealistic not to expect heavy casualties. Warfare on an industrial scale results in heavy loss of life. This was true of successful operations as well as failures. For example, the first two week of the German March Offensive of 1918 (Operation Michael) led to unprecedented advances and cost the Allies over 250,000 men. However, the successful Germans lost over 230,000 men. If we use the casualties of a battle as a measure of disaster, then every major battle in the First World War was a ‘disaster’.

4. And - whereas historians always used to justify the battle by saying that we ground down the Germans, who lost 630,000 men - nowadays historians tend towards a much lower estimate (maybe only 237,000 German casulaties). If this is so, we cannot even say that the battle may have been a disaster for us, but it was more of a disaster for the Germans.

4. The whole question of casualties of the Somme has been the subject of intense discussion since 1916. The Germans used a different method to calculate their casualties, which tended to underplay the numbers of wounded compared to those of the allies. While I would agree that an estimate of 630,000 is well over the mark (probably around 200,000 too many), the lowest figure quoted is also of doubtful accuracy. It is probable that the Germans lost fewer men than the British and the French. However, under the logic of attrition the Allies could afford to lose more men as their resources were greater. So, if you use attrition as a yardstick, the Somme was costly for the Allies, but it was not a disaster in those terms.

The battle of the Somme was, surely, 'a disaster' by anybody's definition?


Apparently not.

However, what I WOULD say was that the fact that it was a disaster does not mean it was unnecessary.
When you are walking home through a hailstorm it doesn't matter how horrible it is; if you want to get home, you've got to walk through it.
I think WWI was the same. If Haig was going to win the war, he was going to have to slog it out toe to toe with the Germans until they were beat. It was not a pretty or civilised process, but I do personally think that there was no available alternative.

To remain consistent in the version of history (or interpretation) which I am putting forward, I agree with Mr. Clare that the Somme was a necessary battle, in order to beat Germany. To Haig and the other ‘Westerners’ everything else was a sideshow.

Now, if I had more time, I would have liked to explain why it was essential to fight the Battle of the Somme, but that will do for the moment. What I have written is designed to put the other point of view (playing Devil’s Advocate). It’s not exactly my interpretation of the battle, which is still changing and developing; in many ways I am closer to Mr. Clare’s view. However, it would be great to hear what other people think about the Battle of the Somme. Over 90 years on and still historians are arguing and discussing it.

#6 MrJohnDClare

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 11:14 PM

3. ... If we use the casualties of a battle as a measure of disaster, then every major battle in the First World War was a disaster.... I agree with Mr. Clare.

Aha! I knew I was right!
:D

But seriously, peeples, isn't Mr Bryant a clevva fella!

And now
Missy moo, you have TWO interpretations!




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