’s Fault? Essay, Research Paper
Was the Four Years on the Western Front the Generals´ fault? There are many different perspectives to the question above. I intend to look at some and say reasons why they are to blame and why some blame could be put on other people. Most people think they are to blame but most of them have not heard the arguments why they are not to blame. There are other aspects why the four years on the western front might not be the Generals´ fault. These are that they had not adapted their tactics to the new technology, the nature of trench warfare and bad understanding of the new technology so they were not used to their full potential ability. This coursework will present the arguments and reasons why they were to blame and the arguments and reasons why they were not to blame.
Schlieffen was definitely not to blame; it was not his fault he died. However, if he did not die before the war and his plan was followed the war would have ended in the first few months and there would have been no stalemate on the western front. However, he did die and you can blame the General taking his place for the stalemate, as he did not follow the plan, which lead to the stalemate. The General, who took his place, Von Moltke could be a general to blame, as he was very inexperienced and did not take the key ports like Dunkirk and Calais so the highly trained, professional BEF (British Expeditionary Force) landed at the ports and made the stalemate. On the other hand, Von Moltke´s boss or the person who chose him as the general could be blamed as he chose a bad General that would cost them a quick victory. Other reasons why Von Moltke was to blame are that he went the wrong way around Paris so that they clashed into the retreating: French army. He also allowed the BEF to confront them and give them a ‘stopping blow´ and expected the completely wrong things. One thing that all the Generals can be blamed for are that all their tactics and plans were made for a war of movement whilst the war was a war of attrition. Again, all of the Generals could be criticised for not using their new weapons to their full potential and not following up the gaps in the trenches caused by it. For example, they wasted lots of artillery shells and not killing hardly any of the enemy as they were in deep dugouts. In addition, it just made it harder for the troops to get past the barbed wire as it just made it get more tangled up. Gas and tanks were used very effectively but the gap in the front line caused by them was not followed up therefore more troops took the position and they were back to square one. Haig also wasted many men, which if he did not waste, could attack all at once taking the enemy trenches easily. Haig still sent the men out even if he knew that the barbed wire was tangled and therefore they would have no chance. However, I cannot say that Haig tried to make the stalemate go on for longer or did not try to breakthrough as he did use some very good ideas like mining and he did make the final breakthrough in 1918. None of the Generals learnt that the weapons have changed and hand to hand, combat is outdated. They were sending men over with bayonets, which had no firepower, which left them to be slaughtered by the defending army. Haig also thought that cavalry would make the breakthrough so he sent loads of horses over but they were rarely used. In addition, in the Somme, Haig sent men over walking telling them that the entire enemy´s army at that area is dead so they walked over with heavy backpacks to capture and repair the trenches. If he sent some machine gun men over quickly, he would not have lost so many men because at least his army would have known the trenches were still occupied. Haig could be heavily criticised for the Somme as he kept sending men over the top to die. He said the machine gun was a much over rated weapon yet it was used to gun down thousands of his men. He refused to change his tactics even when day after day men kept going over the top to be killed. He did not make sure that all the preparations had worked before commencing the attack. Most of his attacks were like the Somme, which means the kept on losing battles and not gaining much land. However, Haig might not be to blame. This could be, as the messengers that told Haig what´s going on would lie to him. They would not tell him that his plans and tactics are useless so they would tell him that it is working. Therefore, he continues the attacks thinking they were working. Haig could also be blamed for not learning. He could obviously see that his tactics were ineffective so he should have changed them.
Trench warfare is always going to be long because of its nature to make the attacker always have the disadvantage and the defender to always have the advantage in most cases. This means that most attacks would be a failure so the tactics cannot always be at blame. An example of the defender having the advantage is the Somme. Haig used 27 divisions, 750,000 men whilst Germany used 16 divisions. Although the British had 11 more divisions attacking, Germany still came out on top of them. In the first day, they had 58,000 casualties. Haig continued to attack although they were being slaughtered.
Haig did experiment with different tactics like the creeping barrage, which made the final breakthrough and mining tunnels and rigging them with bombs, which was very effective. However, with some of the tactics like the tank and the mining were very effective but Haig did not send through men to take over the trenches that the tanks destroyed.
Von Moltke was probably the general to blame for all of the trench warfare as he went east around Paris so it collided with the retreating French army and the BEF so the French sent loads of reserve soldiers and with the BEF pushed Germany back 60km. Then they kept on trying to outflank each other but they found themselves next to the sea. Neither side could advance therefore each side had to dig trenches to stop its enemy from advancing. Just that one thing (going around Paris the eastern way) led to a very long stalemate of trench warfare so if that did not happen there would have been no stalemate. Therefore, if any one General were to blame it would be Von Moltke however all the Generals contributed to the war not finishing quickly.
Nivelle was not really properly tested as in what could have been an early breakthrough, the Nivelle offensive was ruined because an officer with the plans had been captured so the Germans were well prepared for it. The failure of the Nivelle Offensive made all the French soldiers loose their moral and caused mutiny.
None of the Generals made a good attempt at opening a front elsewhere. The attempts that they did make were feeble like the Gallipoli Campaign, which led to needless slaughter. If they actually broke open another front through Gallipoli and then it might other nearby countries join the allies, surround Austria-Hungary, and force them to surrender isolating Germany to make them get defeated easily. So if they opened another front it would have ended the war quickly. None of the battles was very well planned for example they should have easily seen that Paschendale was below sea level and will become marshy if heavily bombarded. Haig won one battle and then he thought hat he will win all the battles easily so he sent lots of men to ‘the sea of liquid mud´, Paschendale. When an officer saw the scenes at Paschendale the burst into tears, crying “My God! Did we really send men to fight in that?” That exclamation shows that even the higher ranks of the army were horrified by the conditions for fighting in.
Haig did not actually make the breakthrough although he takes most of the credit in this country; it was the French who actually did so this might mean that the arguments against Haig might unbalance the arguments for Haig. The French General who lead the final breakthrough battle was Ferdinand Foch. He cannot be blamed for the stalemate, as without him the allies would have lost the war. The Germans were advancing and the Generals did not know what to do as the Germans were gaining land quickly so they put Foch in charge. Foch saw that the Germans had made a big mistake. They had made a massive salient. Foch took advantage and did one big final massive counter attack with everything he had. It worked; he pushed the Germans back and won the war for the allies.
If any one General were to blame, it would be either Von Moltke or Haig. Von Moltke because he ruined the whole Schlieffen plan and therefore can be blamed for the stalemate. He also did not make his plans properly, as he did not take essential ports allowing Britain to come. Haig could be blamed for not doing anything efficiently or right as he made massive gaps in the enemy trenches with tanks and with mines but he did it all too fast so there were no troops to follow up and fill in the gaps so the Germans counter attacked and got all their trenches back. He would have won the war in 1915 if he followed up the gaps and moved more slowly.