War and the transformation of British society c1903–28
Key Topic 1: The Liberals, votes for women and social reform
Key Topic 2: The part played by the British on the Western Front
The BEF and 1914. Overview
The end of the war. Overview
Key Topic 3: The home front and social change
DORA, censorship and propaganda. Overview
Recruitment and rationing. Overview
The part played by women. Overview
Key Topic 4: Economic and social change 1918–28
The changing role of women 1918–28. Overview
The General Strike of 1926. Overview
Douglas Haig and the Battle of the Somme
In December 1915, Haig was appointed commander in chief of the BEF. He was put under extreme pressure by the French to produce a diversion from Verdun. The first Battle of the Somme was fought from July to November 1916. In that time Allied forces advanced 12km and suffered 420,000 British and 200,000 French casualties.
In 1918 Haig took charge of the successful British advances on the Western Front which led to an Allied victory later that year. After the war Haig's management of the major campaigns, notably on the Somme in 1916, and at Passchendaele in 1917, was criticised by David Lloyd George, the British prime minister. Some military historians have claimed that Haig tactics were deeply flawed. Others have defended his actions and claimed that his approach was largely determined by French demands for continuous action at that part of the Western Front.
As to whether it were wise or foolish to give battle on the Somme,
there can surely be only one opinion. To hve refused to fight then and
there would have meant the abandonment of Verdun to its fate and the
breakdown of co-operation with the French.
Hundreds of dead…were strung out like wreckage washed up to a
high water mark. Quite as many died on the enemy wire as on the ground…they
hung there is grotesque postures.
The men are in splendid spirits. Several have said that they have never
been so instructed and informed of the nature of the operations before
them. The wire has never been so well cut, nor the artillery preparations
They knew nothing except by hearsay about the actual fighting of a
battle under modern conditions. Haig ordered many bloody battles in
this War. He only took part in two. He never even saw the ground on
which his greatest battles were fought, either before or during the
Very successful attack this morning… All went like clockwork…
The battle is going very well for us and already the Germans are surrendering
freely. The enemy is so short of men that he is collecting them from
all parts of the line. Our troops are in wonderful spirits and confidence.
We had heavy looses in men and material. As a result of the Somme we
were completely exhausted on the Western Front… Defeat seemed
'Good-morning; good-morning!' the General said