How useful are Sources A, B and M to an historian studying the attitudes of British soldiers to their commanders during the First World War? Use Sources A, B and M and knowledge from your studies in your answer. The relationships between officers and men are always described as close because they had to spend so much time together, looking out for each other and sometimes even taking a bullet for an officer, but the sentence “lions led by donkeys”, a phrase cemented into the British public at the time, depicts an altogether different story.A Historian may look at the evidence found in letters, videos and interviews, but whether these show the truth or not, are a different matter. Most letters were censored, so that the public would see a different account of what was happening, so were Sources A, B and M really useful? Source A shows a different image to the one shown in propaganda, not only is the soldier isolated from the rest of his platoon, which shows that every man is for himself out there, but he is alone in front of the General which shows that there is a lot of space for things to go wrong between the two different ends of the front line.The dialogue shows that even the higher-ranked soldiers knew that the General just wanted to move his drinks cabinet a few feet further towards Berlin and that the General just sits back and watches rather than actually change the plan and do something about the death toll, this shows that many officers didn’t have any faith and had an colloquial relationship with those even higher than them.
Source B, the quote “The General said when we met him last week” shows that officers and men rarely saw each other, apart from weekly paroles or if their were an orderly, this would give officers very little time to get to know their men and their letters to the family of the dead were usually informal and the same for everyone.”Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead, and we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine” portrays that the men felt as if the officers were usually bumbling buffoons and were not to be trusted as they would lead you to your death, but the blame would not be put squarely on the officer, but his ‘staff’ who stuck to the plan and caused their deaths.”But he did them both by his plan of attack” implies that the soldiers were planned to be killed, this makes the relationships between officers and men seem very distant as although the men inspired to be the officers, the officers in turn were planning their deaths. This would link into Haig’s plans on the Somme when he said that blood was the price of victory, hence knowing that his soldiers dying were to be overlooked by the price of victory.
Source M is a perfect example of the bog-standard ‘copy and paste’ letters to the family, because although he had “only just come to the platoon” he described the dead soldier as “a fine unselfish comrade” and that “your son was too good for the job”, I believe he got this information from the sergeant, who had a much closer and formal relationship with the soldier as he had known him from the very beginning, a long time to get to know each other, especially in a platoon of 25-40 men.The writer of the letter uses the words “your son” and “as a soldier” frequently, as if to remind the reader that it wasn’t just a letter that was left blank and filled in at the relevant time, but that it was a personal letter from the heart, this would try and portray the officer as a friend who thought very highly of the dead soldier.To conclude, all 3 Sources display a completely different story to what propaganda from the early wars tells me, I believe that the relationships between the officers and their men are in stark contrast to the ones that are portrayed by the media at the time, with the relationships generally being distant but the media showing the happy, lighter times in which they enjoyed themselves away from the front line.The men were not only seen as the price of victory, but were very distant to their officers who thought of them as disposable. I came to this conclusion because of the bog standard letters that were given to the families of the killed soldiers and because of the statements from high ranked officers that losing men was the only way to achieve the objectives and conquer over the German troops.