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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sum it up in one word - Slaughter!, 24 Dec. 2008
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This review is from: The Battle Of The Somme [DVD] (DVD)
July 1 1916 - this day is forever marked as the worst day in British military history. 57,000 British casualties; imagine a town anywhere in the world with precisely that population and suddenly wipe it off the face of the earth - forever. Can't really make that leap can you? Well, that was the return from the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

This battle earmarked the first real time that Kitchener's New Army faced the enemy - raw recruits who had joined up all starry-eyed and full of jingoistic fervour from those heady days in 1914; many who had never left their towns now found themselves in the front line. Most of them hardly took ten paces out of the trenches before being mown down by the German machine gunners who had lain in wait.

During the film, we learn about the "Pals" Battalions. In 1914, to encourage the vast numbers Kitchener said Britain would need, men were enlisting to be with their "pals" or their "chums" so that they could be kept together - but those that join up together were tragically often being killed together. With the benefit of hindsight, I invite you to be on a street in a working-class neighbourhood on say, July 3 or 4 1916 when the dreaded telegrams were being delivered and imagine the utter disbelief of whole streets of bright young men in the prime of their lives being sacrificed for Haig's ideals. Doesn't bear thinking about does it?

Nowadays, we can see the folly of this strategy but it was a different story in 1916. This was a new kind of war that most of the Generals could not understand - the brilliant military minds were being stretched to think up new ideas and strategies. However, when we think of the Somme, we must also think of General Sir Douglas Haig. Most historians criticise Haig in extremely harsh terms, using words like "butcher" or "murderer". It is hard to be objective, particularly when 57,000 casualties were recorded on one day alone. This would be have been the most painful duty for the person or people who were responsible in tallying these figures.

This film gives us the ideas behind the offensive as it was designed to take the pressure of the French at Verdun (another mindless slaughter)through to the initial bombardment prior to the start of the battle, then on to the bloody battle. It is no wonder that men could not talk about what they had experienced - you simply had to be there to understand. Nowadays, we call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In 1916, you kept your chin up and had to make the best of it.

It is now over 90 years since those battles and it is hard to understand the reasoning. World War I was a holocaust of sorts - it is because of those battles, the unbelieveable numbers of casualties, the way it touched millions of lives that we can learn from it. World War II was fought in a very different way and perhaps it is the lessons learned from World War I that this was the case.

This DVD is a very useful tool for those who are studying the period or for those of us who are interested in this part of history as it certainly did set the 20th Century in motion.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Jul 2011 17:54:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Jul 2011 17:55:41 BDT
Thank you, Head Teacher!

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2011 11:55:54 GMT
J. Crawford says:
Nowhere it seems is it possible to find out how long this DVD lasts and bobviously in considering whether to buy it...that is VITAL info!

Posted on 20 May 2012 23:20:02 BDT
Helpful but....they weren't just Haig's ideals in my opinion. This was tradegy but ultimately a victory and something that alongside the Allies shaped the world I live in today.

Posted on 16 Apr 2014 11:02:23 BDT
Haig had little to do with the Somme, the true architect of this disaster was General Henry Rawlingson. He was a firm believer in the "War of Attrition" method of winning the war, where if one British "Tommy" was alive as the last Hun perished, he could claim a victory. Such total disregard for the men under his command led to hundreds of thousands of men being fed into the meat grinder of the Somme to little effect. The Russian military have a maxim "never reinforce failure". Rawlinson, along with the vaste majority of the British High command, was a product of 19th century military training with a background of fighting against enemies armed with spears and flintlocks (India, Burma and Omdurman) transported into an age of Industrialised warfare. He even dismissed officers who did not "push hard enough", in other words did not allow their men to be slaughtered. Haig is to blame in that he could have stopped the offensive and saved countless lives, but the plan (or lack of one) and execution of it was Rawlinson's. However, as always with British military failure, it was covered up and Rawlinson and Haig rewarded with a bucket full of medals and a peerage.
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