General Haig says Somme campaign a success
London, 30 December 1916 - The Battle of the Somme succeeded in meeting its objectives. That’s the verdict of the Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in Europe, General Sir Douglas Haig, who has issued a report on the operations on the Somme which began during the months of summer this year and only ended in the mud and rain of November. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers on both sides have been killed or injured in the course a British offensive which the German General Staff claims ended in ‘a complete victory for German arms’.
General Haig rejects this conclusion. In his published despatch on the Battle of the Somme, described as an ‘authentic narrative’ by The Irish Times, he insists that the British objective had never been to break through the German lines.
Rather it had been to relieve the French at Verdun; to stop the transfer of German troops from the western front to elsewhere; and to wear down the German forces. The achievement of any one of these objectives would have been sufficient to justify the Somme offensive, Haig argues. However, that all three objectives had been attained ‘afforded ample compensation for the splendid efforts of our troops and for the sacrifices made by ourselves and our Allies.’
More than that, Haig maintains that the Somme offensive had greatly advanced the prospects of an allied victory in the war, even if it was still not possible to say when that will be.
‘The enemy’s power has not yet been broken, nor is it possible to form an estimate of the time the war may last before the objects for which the Allies have been fighting have been attained’, he writes. ‘But the Somme has placed beyond doubt the ability of the Allies to gain these objects.’
[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]