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Whilst rereading this book in preparation for a presentation to a class of 14 year olds on the Battles Of The Somme 1916, I came across the following in Martin Middlebrook's analysis.

After a difference of opinion with Rawlinson about the length of artillery bombardment Haig compromised and on 16th May he sanctioned a 'methodical bombardment, continued until the officers commanding the attacking units are satisfied that the obstacles to their advance have been adequately destroyed'

It is well known that commanding officers weren't satisfied and made their views and fears known. Sadly their views were ignored.

This leaves me with the following questions unanswered;

1) Did Haig know of the commanding officers views or did Rawlinson hide them from him?

2) If Haig had known why didn't he stop or refine the attack?

3) If Haig knew was he ever challenged over why he took no notice of the commanding officers?

4) The popular view of the 1st July 1916 is that it was Haig's fault. If Rawlinson had been hiding the truth about the effectiveness of the bombardment from Haig, should he not be the main person at fault and should he not have been court martialed for disobeying orders?

Can anybody enlighten me?


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Hi Sean, :)

This all a very compicated issue and one that has been covered many times on this forum and one that has very many points of view. I will try to give a general outline on your points, but these are open to different opinions !!

1. There were many different reports coming back prior to the infantry attack, about the success or lack of success in cutting the wire. In some places it was reasonably successful but in many cases it was woeful. So put yourself in Haig or Rawlinson's position, you take them all and then take a general view ! Many Officers were convinced that such a bombardment would destroy not only the wire but all the enemy aswell, so the reports of wire still being in place were viewed as assulting battalions (getting the wind up) prior to Battle.

2.This point is mainly covered in the previous question. To add to it though the British Army by this point, were totally committed to the battle and it is impossible to change things fundermentally so close to the attack. Another thing is that we hadn't got the right kind of shells at this point in the war to cut the wire.

3. I hope this has been covered in my previous answers !

4. I don't think that the current view, is that it was really anyones fault. It was a culmination of many, many factors, which together proved to be disasterous for the British Army. Factors such as; Politically Haig was forced to fight on the Somme where he didn't want to and when he was made to he had to bring forward the date of the attack also. It was also the baptism of Kitchener's Army, brave as they come but totally without expierience. An almost total belief in the power of Artillery. Also as was pointed out in your question there was a difference in opinion between Haig and Rawlinson so what came out was a compromise Battle plan, never a good thing !! There are many other things also.

Lastly the point of, Why then was Rawlinson not court martialed. He didn't disobey orders. At that level of Command you are given a goal with advice and general orders from your superior and then you go about the nuts and bolts of the Battle plan yourself. In this case they both agreed on the objective to be achieved they just disagreed on how to achieve it !!!!

Hope this potted view is of help.



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Thanks Tim

You have cleared the matter up for me.


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