Warning: History lesson to follow!
History is full of generals and their exploits…..Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon, Kamal, Hindenburg, Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur, Montgomery, etc……..some are celebrated while others are hated or mocked…….
World War One is no different….the most talked about general was the UK’s General Haig…..the “Butcher of the Somne” as he was fondly called by his men…..and it is not a term of endearment…..he will be more known in the UK than here in the US…..WW1 is barely a memory in the collective collection of thoughts about WW1……
Visiting the Somme battlefield in northern France is largely a matter of going from one Commonwealth Graves Commission cemetery to another. The graveyards are everywhere, some of them very small, comprising only a handful of white Portland marble stones, many bearing the inscription, A Soldier of the Great War / Known unto God. One sees so many of these cemeteries and so many stones—along with the vast memorial at Thievpal bearing the names of some 70,000 British soldiers whose bodies were never recovered—that after a few hours of it, you feel numb. Overwhelmed.
The magnitude of the battle still stuns the imagination. The Somme was an epic of both slaughter and futility; a profligate waste of men and materiel such as the world had never seen. On the morning of July 1, 1916, 110,000 British infantrymen went “over the top.” In a few hours, 60,000 of them were casualties. Nearly 20,000 of these were either dead already or would die of their wounds, many of them lingering for days between the trenches, in no man’s land. The attacking forces did not gain a single one of their objectives.
World War One has many stories like Haig’s…..so many plans and so many failures.