9/8/1916 The Somme: Haig and Rawlinson show signs of strain

Haig recently wrote to the Cabinet War Committee telling them that the Battle of the Somme is going very well. Those doing the fighting might see things a bit differently. True, the Australians have managed to push on and take the higher ground beyond the village of Pozières, but the general rule is that British Commonwealth troops are taking heavy casualties and making little gains.

Yesterday British troops had another crack at taking the village of Guillemont. Once again the British swept through the village but were then forced back by flanking fire from machine guns and snipers hiding in the village’s cellars. Haig insists that the attacks be renewed today, but the British are repulsed with more heavy casualties.

The repeated failures are beginning to grate with the British commanders. Rawlinson, the local Some commander, blames the attacking troops for the lack of success: they just do not seem to have the necessary offensive spirit.

Haig, however, is starting to blame Rawlinson. He sends a message to Rawlinson demanding that future assaults be more carefully planned. Yet Haig’s instructions are contradictory. He wants careful planning, which suggests that there should be a wait before the next attacks. However he also wants the Germans to be kept under pressure by continuous assaults, which means that the British should be attacking without careful preparation.

Rawlinson begins preparations for another assault on Guillemont in the next few days, this time to take place on a broader front with more troops.

image source: (Wikipedia)

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