|This is a French village in August, 1916.|
The idea that a war can be won by standing on the defensive and waiting for the enemy to attack is a dangerous fallacy, which owes its inception to the desire to evade the price of victory.’
— Field Marshall Douglas Haig
The nation must be taught to bear losses. No amount of skill on the part of the higher commanders, no training, however good, on the part of the officers and men, no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great, will enable victories to be won without the sacrifice of men’s lives. The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.
— Written by Haig in June 1916 before the Battle of the Somme began.
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 full of confidence.
— A report by Haig on the first day of attack (at the Somme), 1st July 1916.
Appropriately, Brexit hasn’t put a dent into the UK’s remembrances of the Battle of the Somme, which began 100 years ago today.
I tend toward the traditional view of the war’s military leadership caste as donkeys and butchers, although nowadays there are periodic attempts to claim a more balanced legacy for the likes of Haig.
Good luck with that, and better luck than 60,000 British casualties on the battle’s first day.
The Battle of the Somme: 141 days of horror (BBC)
A battle of attrition
The Battle of the Somme, fought in northern France, was one of the bloodiest of World War One. For five months the British and French armies fought the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition on a 15-mile front. The aims of the battle were to relieve the French Army fighting at Verdun and to weaken the German Army. However, the Allies were unable to break through German lines. In total, there were over one million dead and wounded on all sides.