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The First World War – The Stalemate on the Western Front Paper

Question 1: Source A at first glance doesn’t appear to tell us very much about why the war went on for as long as it did. It appears to be poem about two soldiers who met the general and shows at the end how he was responsible for their deaths in his plan of attack. The only reason it seems to show is that the generals should have been defending when they should have been defending because as it says, many men were going to die in the attack which when we look back at it, we see they only gained minimal amounts of land for thousands of lives.

This, although it is a good reason for the protracted length of the war, it is not the only one stated in the poem. Looking closely at it you can see that the men had to walk up to the front line. This is another reason as it shows us how hard it was for both sides to move supplies up to the front as no vehicles or trains could get there because firstly of the muddy ground which no vehicles could get through including tanks.

The second reason is that the vehicles weren’t allowed to risk the journey up to the front because of the risk of artillery. This reason is also shown in source C where we see a tank that has been abandoned, either because it got stuck in the mud or that it got hit by a shell. It is a prime example of why the third battle of. It is a prime example of why the third battle of pres was called “The Battle of the Mud. ” The mud was created by the artillery shells completely destroying the drainage systems around the low lying area of Flanders.

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The thing about the mud though was that, it wasn’t just a hindrance to the allies but also to the Germans which is usually forgotten, when people think of World War 1, they think of the hardship the allies had to endure and forget the Germans had an equally tough time. Source B gives us yet more reasons for the drawn out length of the war by telling us about the Royal Irish Regiment who when they attacked were all but wiped out.

This highlights the fact that attacking the enemies trench lines was futile as it was to hard to keep a gain in ground once you have created a salient which can be attacked from many different side. An example of troops attacking and then having to withdraw are the battles around Ypres where the British created a salient but then had to tactically withdraw because it was to hard to defend. Source B also tells us again that the men had to walk miles to get to the line with heavy packs that left the men exhausted when they reached the front and would be sent into actions straight away.

As for the reliability of the sources, we have to look at when they were gathered and how much they actually tell us. Source A for example is probably very reliable as it was written by a man who has seen action (we can tell this because it tells us he was in hospital when he wrote this), although it might be a case in which Siegfried was angry at the general because he had been wounded. The diary entries do not tell us as much as they seem to, even though Congreve was there when he wrote them, it was very early on in the war and both sides were not settled down.

C also is not of that much use as it only shows a small part of the battlefield, it may have been the same all the way up the line but we can not tell just from this one photo. Question 2: To look at whether the Generals were to blame for failing to break through the western front, we have to realize that there are other reasons such as the weather conditions and the amount of supplies available as it was the first properly industrialized war.

In source D, General Von Falkenhayn makes the point these points, that because of the mass of supplies available to each side it was impossible to make anything more than a “slaughter-house” or salient as it was properly known as when one side created a bulge in the line that was usually fired upon from 3 sides until the attackers fell back. Falkenhayn doesn’t openly blame himself and his colleagues for the slaughters but rather tries to pass the blame off to conditions. This may have been true as when he wrote the book, he had the benefit of hindsight.

The two points of view in source E are generally blaming the weather and mud for the harsh conditions they were put through. The mud being was blamed for stopping the tanks advance and the flooded landscape for creating disease and cold. It could be seen another way though as it might be the men blaming the Generals for putting their men through such demoralizing conditions. Source E also shows us how the Germans had it just as badly as the Allies. The advantage of these sources is that they are first-hand accounts (primary sources).

Source F show George admitting that the Generals weren’t very good at fighting this new kind of war but also that they were the best men at the time to try. It’s a stark difference from when George was asked what he thought of Haig during the war and openly criticizing him. Source G says nothing about the general being bad but it does make another point as to why there may have been a failure in trying to breakthrough, having a major French mutiny would have been bad for moral and they would be seen as letting everyone else down by giving up, especially when it was mainly their country they were all fighting for.

Their may have been a small undercurrent of hatred for the Generals though just by the fact that they are mutinying showing they didn’t like what the Generals were doing. Source H tells us how the Generals employed the use of a new type of weapon that, although it was horrific when used, it didn’t kill nearly as many men as other weapons did. This shows us that the Generals clearly weren’t fully connected to the actual war or they would have stopped using these kinds of weapons in favour of those that did more damage to the enemy.

These figures may also have been altered by the government to make things seem better than they were (propaganda) meaning that these sources aren’t to reliable. Ferdinand Foch’s memoirs in Source I never actually openly criticizes the Generals but criticizes their mindset of always attacking and not defending which is what he thinks they should have done. The sources is a bit weak though as it was made many years after it all took place although that does give it the advantage of hindsight.

Source J openly blames the Generals for something that was “a physical impossibility. ” Carleton calls the Generals ambitious and “unscrupulous” This at first glance seems very scathing attack on the Generals but if you look at it from another point of view it could be that he is upset after being sacked by Rawlinson for disobeying orders. He would be resentful at a time like this and would want to place the blame on someone else even if he might have actually been in the wrong.

As in other sources, the message that comes across seems very obvious, that the generals were in fact “butchers and bunglers” with good evidence to support that fact. Looking closer though, there are many points to suggest that this account is highly biased. Firstly the title shows that the author has prejudged the issue by giving the reader a negative first impression which is likely to stick with them while they read it. Also when you read the actual article, there is only evidence put forward against the Generals, there is no mention of any other argument for why the war lasted so long.

The cartoon in source L seems quite enigmatic at first glance, but reading it carefully, it is a joke at the way governments and Generals instil the high level of patriotism in the younger generation that not only makes them willing to sign up, but willing to die f need be. It is basically a French version of something you would see in a Punch magazine. People mocking the way the leaders of their government run the country. The final Source, M, is an aerial photograph of part of the trench line on the western front. It shows lots of shell holes and a detailed view of the layout of the trenches.

In the middle, there is a big white area, this could have been an explosion but it is more probably the chalk that used to be under the mud but has now been uncovered by the intensity of the explosions. This source doesn’t really relate to the Generals in any way but it does give an indication of the extent of the conditions along the line. Overall, looking through the sources, we can see that although the Generals may have been to blame for the failure to breakthrough the western front, there were a lot of other reasons that contributed.

These included elements such as the weather and the bogginess of the ground, the amount of arms and supplies available to both sides because of the introduction of mass production in the factories. Overall though to gain a clearer picture, we would need to have a lot more sources which covered a whole range of things, photos from all along the line, and accounts from many people through the line and all through the war.

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