ROAD TO WAR -
|Haig and ...”The Battle of the Somme”
|Haig was the main person ultimately responsible for the planning
and direction of the series of battles known collectively as the...Battles
of the Somme.
Despite his acceptance of what had gone wrong at Neuve - Chappelle,
and again at Loos, and the basically failure of these battles, Haig,
still and continued to repeat the same principles of attack by his
men, perhaps in his mind knowing full well what the final terrible
results would be. But this Battle of the Somme...would be on a vastly
greater scale and size. Haig’s mistakes continued despite
which he should have learned from the previous battles of which
the total losses of young men were mounting beyond all comprehensions.
He would without all the consequences previously considered commence
the...Battle of the Somme!
Once again he would make no allowance at all especially for the
artillery as he believed it would cut the wire during this, one
if the most significant and important battles up until mid 1916.
This was the same old but regrettable or unforgivable attitude once
again taken by him regarding his attitude to his loyal men ...the
soldiers, they would perhaps which in truth he really knew, that
they again would become just...”Cannon Fodder” and most
if not all would be killed or seriously wounded, more so by the
German machine gunners who came from the safety of their bunkers
in the depths of the earth to wreak havoc and death on the soldiers
walking towards them...only a few would be spared! He completely
misjudged the amount of artillery that the Germans possessed. But
even unknowingly or otherwise he still believed that his “Big
Guns” would completely wreak havoc and destroy all the installations,
barb wire, bunkers, trenches of the Germans, and that no German
would survive this coming massive artillery bombardment at the Somme.
The British artillery had many shortcomings but one important reason
perhaps as to why they could and did not breach the wire defences
was ultimately that only one in three of the shells fired...failed
to explode, this would and did become a major setback for the British
in this, and the many further battles that would take place!
General Haig was fully aware of this situation and the severe deficiencies
in the ammunition but as again failed dismally to resolve this situation
and how this would seriously affect the apparent use of shelling
the enemy. Also, the realisation that was known and readily accepted
by the Generals was that the German dug-outs, a complex trench system
that had heavily fortified front line shelters and bunkers coupled
with deep, many over 90 feet / 30 metres underground shelters. The
British and French barrage of shells did not penetrate this deep,
leaving the Germans completely safe, unless a direct hit came by
the heavier artillery guns. The reality of this protection was that
the German defences far outweighed the British defences throughout
the duration of the war!
We now all know 100 years later what happened on this fateful day
1st July, 1916, as once the seven day barrage of over 1, 500, 000
artillery shells were fired...it suddenly went exceptionally quiet,
the Germans knew it was time for action and emerged from the darkness
of the deep below, and set-up their dreaded machine gun posts and
literally destroy the men walking slowly towards them!
Just one of many massive cemeteries to the British and Allied
soldiers killed during
“The Battle of the Somme”
|The result that came back to Headquarters that day was devastating
– 61,816 casualties
Haig still believed that the losses had been a mere 40, 000 on the
first two days of the battle, when in fact it was over 60, 000 on
the first day alone!
Whatever his reaction to this was we may never know, more battles
were to come and we wonder if he did realise what he had ordered
on that day would in stark and horrific fact become a catastrophe
for the British Army!