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Were lions led by donkeys essay help

May 6, 2018

The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.Bruce Lee

By Peter Simkins, Senior Historian at the Imperial War Museum As we approach the 80th anniversary of the armistice that brought the fighting in the Great War to an end, public perceptions of that war - particularly in Britain - are still dominated by images of the Somme and Passchendaele, of futile frontal attacks against machine guns in the mud of Flanders, of generals who were little more than "butchers and bunglers", and of brave front-line troops who were sacrificed because of the ill-conceived plans of incompetent staff officers. In short, ordinary British and Dominion Officers were "lions led by donkeys".

As we approach the 80th anniversary of the armistice that brought the fighting in the Great War to an end, public perceptions of that war - particularly in Britain - are still dominated by images of the Somme and Passchendaele, of futile frontal attacks against machine guns in the mud of Flanders, of generals who were little more than "butchers and bunglers", and of brave front-line troops who were sacrificed because of the ill-conceived plans of incompetent staff officers. In short, ordinary British and Dominion Officers were "lions led by donkeys".

Battle of the Somme 1916 The myth of the uncaring general - safely dining and drinking in his chateau while the front-line troops lived and died in squalor - has proved especially durable - and has been reinforced recently by Stephen Fry's portrayal of just such an officer in BBC's Blackadder Goes Forth.

The myth of the uncaring general - safely dining and drinking in his chateau while the front-line troops lived and died in squalor - has proved especially durable - and has been reinforced recently by Stephen Fry's portrayal of just such an officer in BBC's Blackadder Goes Forth.

What is much less widely known is that 78 British and Dominion officers of the rank of Brigadier General and above died on active service in the First World War while a further 146 were wounded. These figures alone show that, contrary to popular belief, British Generals frequently went close enough to the battle zone to place themselves in considerable danger.

Again, whereas the Somme and Passchendaele remain familiar names, the huge successes of the British and Dominion forces under Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig between 8 August and 11 November 1918 are now largely forgotten by the British public.

Prisoners of war During the period known as the "Hundred Days", the British and Dominion divisions on the Western Front won a dozen major victories - the greatest series of victories in the British Army's whole history, and also the only time in British history that the British Army has engaged and defeated the main body of the main enemy in a continental war.

During the period known as the "Hundred Days", the British and Dominion divisions on the Western Front won a dozen major victories - the greatest series of victories in the British Army's whole history, and also the only time in British history that the British Army has engaged and defeated the main body of the main enemy in a continental war.

In the process, Haig's armies took 188,700 prisoners and 2,840 guns - only 7,800 prisoners and 935 guns less than those taken by the French, Belgian and American armies combined.

These successes were not the result of accident or luck. They were, of course, achieved above all by the courage and endurance of the front-line soldiers.

But the senior commanders too played their part. They did, after all, oversee and encourage the tactical and technological improvements which transformed the abilities and striking-power of Britain's first ever mass citizen army between 1916-1918.

Royal Flying Corps By August 1918, Haig's forces were employing supply, gun-carrying and fighting tanks; ground-attack aircraft; armoured cars; motor machine-gun units; wireless; overhead machine gun barrages; and supply drops of ammunition by parachute.

By August 1918, Haig's forces were employing supply, gun-carrying and fighting tanks; ground-attack aircraft; armoured cars; motor machine-gun units; wireless; overhead machine gun barrages; and supply drops of ammunition by parachute.

As the historian Ian Malcolm Brown has pointed out in his recent book British Logistics on the Western Font (Praeger 1998), all this was made possible by an excellent administrative and transport system that, in 1918, not only enabled Haig to deliver attacks of tremendous power but also to switch the point of attack to another sector at short notice - so keeping the Germans off balance.

In the trenches In late September 1918, the British Fourth Army, for example, fired some 750,000 shells in four days before the assault on the Hindenburg line. British gunners, in particular, could now bring down enormous volumes of fire on a specific target or provide a moving curtain of shells with great accuracy in front of the infantry to screen them as they advanced.

In late September 1918, the British Fourth Army, for example, fired some 750,000 shells in four days before the assault on the Hindenburg line. British gunners, in particular, could now bring down enormous volumes of fire on a specific target or provide a moving curtain of shells with great accuracy in front of the infantry to screen them as they advanced.

If we are prepared to criticise Haig and his army commanders for their mistakes in 1916 and 1917, then it is perhaps only fair that, at the same time, they should receive due credit for their decisive, but forgotten victories in 1918.

An inexperienced army and difficulty in communicating were some of the challenges that World War One generals faced. Images courtesy of Mary Evans Picture Library and Getty Images.

By 1914 the British Army had a great deal of experience fighting conflicts all over the empire but nothing on the sheer scale of World War One.

A new style of conflict

The pre-war British Army was small, efficient and well-experienced. But that experience had come fighting on a small scale in the colonies of the British Empire. Even in the biggest of these conflicts, the second Boer War, Britain faced 88,000 men. At the start of World War One, the German Army alone numbered over 3.7 million. And this wasn’t just one nation fighting another – this was a war that involved every industrial power in Europe. Nothing had prepared the British generals, or the men they led, for this.

The British Army had to expand quickly. From 700,000 available men at the beginning of the war, over 5 million served at some point. The six divisions on the Western Front in 1914 had become 60 by mid-1916. Generals had to cope with feeding, clothing, and commanding this huge army - and none had any experience on this scale.

An untrained army

Thanks to Kitchener’s call for volunteers, followed by the introduction of conscription, the British Army went from being a professional force to an army of inexperienced soldiers - most of whom had been civilians just a few weeks earlier.

The generals had to command an army of bank clerks, shop assistants, businessmen and miners. Many regimental officers were also new recruits.

Untested weapons

Recent technological advancements meant both sides were armed with devastating quantities of firepower and were much stronger defending in their trenches than they were in attack. The new combination of artillery and aircraft produced a revolution in military affairs that was to transform the conduct of battles.

During the first years of the war, thousands of lives were lost as both sides attempted nineteenth century-style frontal attacks against twentieth century defences. All sides were learning, and the result was four years of stalemate. The British soon began to experiment with new tactics and weapons, although it took until 1916-17 to develop successful methods that combined artillery and infantry attacks.

Lack of communication

Orders and battle plans had to be relayed to thousands of men across hundreds of miles of frontline. This made it impossible for commanders to lead from the front and communicate properly at the same time.

By 1914 radio and telegraph were established technologies, and provided the most efficient means for generals to communicate with their armies. But these technologies were based on wire, and were of little use when men went over the top of their trenches to attack the enemy. The most reliable ways of getting messages back to headquarters were runners, and the traditional carrier pigeon.

However, by 1918 primitive radio was appearing on the battlefield. But thousands lost their lives because those in command often had to make decisions based on missing or incorrect information.

How Far Do You Agree With The Opinion That The Battle Of The Somme In 1916 Was A Total Disaster For Britain And Her Army In France Essay

total disaster for Britain and her army in France? The Battle of the Somme was a battle launched by the French and British in 1916. It was an attack of the German front lines by Sir Douglas Haig who ultimately aimed to push back and kill as many enemy soldiers as possible. Personally he believed that the offensive could be won in a matter of hours, infact a seven day artillery bombardment followed by 60,000 british casualties. Many understand the battle to have been a total disaster for the army as the British were…

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