Last Updated 28 May 2020

Battle of the Somme and Source

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How far does Source 3 challenge the impression given in Sources 1 and 2 that the Battle of the Somme had achieved worthwhile objectives? Having analysed all 3 sources, it can be said that source 3 significantly challenges sources 1 and 2 giving an entirely different perspective on the battle of the Somme. Source 1 is an extract from Sir Douglas Haig’s final dispatch, published in March 1919. This source begins to describe the Battle of the Somme as a tremendous victory.

Haig claims that “The three main objectives… had been achieved. ” Haig also then begins to describe the three objectives, “Verdun had been relieved…”, “German forces had been held down…” and “the enemy’s strength had been considerably worn down”. Haig also claims that as the objectives had been “achieved” this was enough to “…justify the Somme Battle. ” This source was published shortly after the war in 1919, but was a few years after the Battle of the Somme allowing some time for the truth about the events of the battle to emerge.

The source has some limitations as it was an extract from Haig’s own writing, who was Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces therefore the source may be bias towards Britain and their success in the battle. The purpose of the source was to inform people of Haig’s perception of the battle and due to this being one person’s view, the accuracy of the source cannot be verified. Source 2 is extract from a book published in 1929 by Charles Carrington who was a Junior Officer during the time of the Battle.

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Similar to source 1, this source was written by someone who had authority in the armed forces, and describes the Battle of the Somme as another “moral” booster for the British Army. The author of the source states there was a “definite and growing sense of superiority over the enemy” and by the use of the word “definite” the use of facts is now apparent. In contrast, later on in the source Carrington states “we were quite sure at the time that we had got the Germans beaten…” and by using the phrase “quite sure” it is now apparent that facts are no longer the basis of this source.

Unlike source 1 where Haig describes the Somme Battle as a complete victory, Carrington quickly states that “we did not win a decisive victory” but is quick to reverse this by stating “…next spring we would deliver the knock-out blow” showing that he feels the end of the war is near. This source was published many years after the war, but it was published by someone who was there, similar to source 1.

Also similar to source 1, this source is the view of someone with authority and someone with a high ranking position within the armed forces therefore their opinion may be bias towards the Somme and the British Army. Source 3 is part of an interview with Corporal W. H. Shaw in the 1960s where Shaw is recalling the first day of the Battle. Already this source differs to sources 1 and 2 as it is no longer an extract but part of an interview. Shaw starts of the source with “we did not get anywhere, we never moved from the line, hardly”.

This is different to source 1 where Haig claims “Verdun had been relieved”. Shaw states that “our men were just falling back into our trenches” which significantly differs to Carrington’s statement that “we had got the Germans beaten”. Shaw claims that the events of the some were “sheer bloody murder” and that “whatever was gained it wasn’t worth the price the men had to pay” which is in contrast with source 1 where Haig claims that the results of the Somme where “sufficient to justify” the battle.

This purpose of this source is to spread light on the Somme battle and release the truth about the event. Because this source was by a member of the British Forces and who of which is supplying eyewitness accounts of the events at the front line, this source can be classes as highly reliable. Due to the date of the source, it can be argued that Shaw’s memory may be slightly skewed but due to the lack of censorship at this time compared to during the time of the war, Shaw can now freely speak about the events of the Somme.

Throughout all 3 sources it is noticeable that soldiers and officers of a higher rank are more likely to support the Battle of the Somme and argue that it achieved its objectives. Throughout sources 1 and 2, Officer Carrington and General Haig are extremely supportive of the Somme battle. This is demonstrated by Haig’s claims of “the three main objectives… had been achieved” and Carrington’s view that “we had got the Germans beaten”.

However, neither of these men were likely to have engaged in any front line combat within the trenches during the Battle of the Somme. This is why source 3 proves very useful as an account of the first day at the Somme. Shaw describes the battle as “sheer bloody murder” and crushes Carrington’s claims of “superiority” with accounts such as “men were just falling back into the trench”. Therefore it can be argued that Source 3 significantly challenges the view given in sources 1 and 2 that the Battle of the Somme achieved its worthwhile objectives.

Battle of the Somme and Source essay

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