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30 August 2014
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Enquiry 5: Activity Sheet
Activity A
The popular interpretation of the Battle of the Somme, reinforced by TV programmes such as Blackadder, is that British soldiers were betrayed by their leaders. Were the British soldiers 'Lions led by donkeys'?
  1. Play the Trench Warfare Game. What difficulties did commanders such as Haig face when planning major offensives?
  2. Read the Interpretation: The Battle of the Somme article.
    Make a list of the errors that Haig made. How many of these errors can only be seen with the benefit of hindsight?
  3. How many of these should Haig have foreseen?
  4. Why do some historians argue that the Battle of the Somme was not a military disaster?
  5. Imagine that you are a military historian who thinks that Haig has been unfairly criticised . Write a letter to a newspaper explaining why you think that Haig was not totally incompetent.
Activity B
Many people see the Battle of the Somme as one of the most significant events of the war. Explain why.
Activity C
How should we remember the Battle of the Somme? Look at the descriptions below:
  • a military disaster
  • a great victory achieved at a terrible cost?
  • a crucial turning point in the war that saved France and led to the eventual defeat Of Germany
  • 'lions led by donkeys' is an accurate statement. Soldiers who displayed great courage were betrayed by incompetent leaders such as General Haig.
Collect evidence to support each description. Decide which description you think is the most appropriate. Write a speech to support your point of view.
Extension Activity
Use the Major Events, People and Changes article and the Interactive Timeline.
Compare the decisions that Haig and the British High Command made on the Somme to those made in 1917.

Did the British Commanders learn from the mistakes made on the Somme?

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