This is my essay on the interpretations of The First World War. I will be giving my interpretations on the sources A to H we have been given. I will explain what type of source it is, whether it is a primary or secondary source and then how useful it would be for a study of the Western Front in World War One… Source A has been taken from an English textbook that was published in 1995. It is a piece of writing about what would happen when you enlisted and what would happen if you if you tried to commit cowardice and mutiny.
It seems to be a secondary source because it has been written by someone who was not at the war at the time and he/she will have selected the most solid sources that are genuine and trustworthy. It has obviously been created by an expert because it has been taken from a school textbook. Source B is a postcard that had been published by the British government for soldiers to send home to their families. It is black and white and has a picture of a soldier leant against a trench wall dreaming of his home. It also has a poem called A Soldiers Love Song.
This is definitely a primary source because it was there at the war when it was going on and they will have been used by the soldiers. It portrays the soldier being happy but this was very untrue. It put a false face on the war for the relatives and loved ones back at home. Source C is a painting called Paths To Glory which was painted by someone called C. R Nevinson who served the Red Cross during the First World War. It was apparently draw in 1917 and it wasn’t allowed to be shown until after the war was over. It shows two soldiers lying face down in a ditch.
They have clearly had a hard landing because their uniforms are all messed up and their hats and other loose articles of clothing are thrown all over the ground. It looks like a war zone because the ground is all chewed up with countless feet walking across it and there are tree limbs and twigs scattered around where stray bullets have landed. This is a primary source because the man that painted it was actually there at the scene of the shooting, although why he would choose to sit in the middle of a battlefield and paint dead soldiers for hours on end is beyond me!
It tells you lots about the war and the soldiers conditions. Source D is a photograph of a trench in the country of Belgium, which was taken in 1916. It shows the horrifying conditions that the soldiers had to fight in for hours on end and days at a time. It is full of mud and clay and there is so much rain that it has a stream running through it. No wonder the soldiers fell to diseases such as Trench Foot and other things, which were passed on by the rats nibbling at your toes. There is debris, which is made up of rocks, scraps of the soldier’s uniforms and tree twigs when they have been hit and flown off into the trench.
This debris is strewn all about the trench; it looks like it hosts the perfect conditions for bacteria and rodents to live. You have to see the picture to believe it – it is so bad! This is definitely a primary source because it was obviously taken at the time with it being a photograph. I don’t know how the soldiers could cope in these conditions because they are disastrous. The person who took the photograph must have been a soldier because it was taken from inside the actual trench. It couldn’t have been a normal person because they couldn’t get into the trench while a battle commenced.
Considering the amount of violence and bombs it would be impossible! Source E is an extract from the News of the World in July 1916. It tells of the latest updates regarding the war. It says that, “The British have stormed the German trenches 16 miles North of the Somme. Sir Douglas Haig reports that a great battle is raging. ” It also tells of how the British are beating the Germans by using this tactic. It is a primary source because it was written by someone who was there at the time. It could also be quite reliable because the New of the World isn’t a tabloid newspaper.
Although we don’t know whether this person is telling the truth or not we can have a guess. There wasn’t much call for overblown stories and hyped up gossip back in the 1910’s like there is today so I think this could be quite reliable. Source F is a cigarette advertisement from 1915. It shows a man looking over the top of a trench to see if there are any snipers looking out for them. It shows them having nice clean uniforms and they have a happy face. It looks a really hot, sunny day out there and the is not one thing out of place.
This is a piece of propaganda (a real life event that has been turned around to be used for advertisement). There is no way that these people could stand over the wall of a trench because they would be instantly shot and they certainly weren’t clean or happy. It is a secondary source because it has been exaggerated and twisted to suit the advertisement. It definitely has not been created by an expert, which is clear, and it is a piece of propaganda. It doesn’t tell you a great deal about the actual war. Source G is part of an autobiography of a soldier who served in the trenches. It was published in 1968.
It tells of a young soldier going into battle on the Western front with his friends. It says that they stopped over in a little village in France and then how they went to the trenches. The man says that he saw his friend in the sentry get shot in the head and his thoughts were “Surely it can’t happen to me. ” It was apparently his first sight of death out on the front. This source is a primary source because the person who wrote it was at the war when it was taking place. It is quite a detailed eyewitness account. It tells you quite a lot about the war and how the soldiers felt and what they thought.
Source H is part of a letter written to the sister of a soldier who was killed during battle. It is quite a sickening account of a soldiers last moments in the war. If I received this, I would be quite upset because rather than letting you down gently, it drops it on you. It says that Wilfred Neville (the person who was shot) brought two footballs to kick at zero hour. They had to face heavy machine gun fire and when he tried to throw a bomb, he was shot straight through the head. It is very graphic and quite disturbing. This is a primary source because it has been written by someone who was at the battle when Neville was killed.
We know it must be an eyewitness account because it says how he got killed and that he had two footballs to kick across No Mans Land. These references provide the proof that we need. I have now gone through all the sources and briefly explained them. I have given my personal visions on them and hopefully you will be able to understand them a little better. I have said what type of sources they are and what category do they come from e. g. : primary or secondary. Now I will go through each source again and say in as much detail as possible how useful the sources would be in a study on the Western Front.
A good tip to do this is by looking at the captions because you can get a lot of clues from that e. g. : If the claims will be biased towards one side, If they are heavily for one side etc… You have got to be careful and weigh up the options closely and carefully. Source A had been taken from an English textbook from 1995. This is a good source because it tells us quite a lot about different punishments that the soldiers would suffer if they were to commit cowardice (run off and leave the squadron alone without due cause) or mutiny (rebel against your own team). It says that there were some famous Russian, English and French rebellions.
The most publicised is probably the British mutiny at a top training camp in the September of 1917. The records for these acts were totalled at 307 and these were executed by firing squads. The problem with this source is, it only focuses on one subject – The Triple Entente cowardice’s and mutinies instead of both the sides. This is probably with the source being taken from an English book. You could call it biased for this reason. The good thing about this source is it will have been written by an expert who will have researched the matter fully and will have picked the most reliable sources and pieces of evidence.
It also contains all the vital parts of information like the figures and statistics of this occurrence. You can trust this source to be useful because it has been written for a schoolbook. The author will not have lied or exaggerated about any aspects of the piece because he will have wanted people to learn the absolute truth about what happened instead of some mythological tales and stories, so yes, you can trust this source and it would be very useful in a study on World War One. Source B is an image of a postcard, which was published by the British government for soldiers to send home during the war.
On the front it has a soldier relaxing in a trench dreaming of his home. His clothes are nice and clean, the day is lovely and there is not one bomb in sight. This will probably have been done to put an innocent and false face on the war to make relatives feel at ease with their loved ones being at war out on the Western Front. This of course, was a long way from the truth. The soldier’s uniform would have been filthy, the sky would be grey and murky from the smoke produced by the bombs when they exploded and he certainly wouldn’t have been relaxing with his gun by his side!
If he did, he would have been defenceless if the enemy decided to storm the trench and he would have been a sitting target for any sniper. This source does have some advantages but it has quite a lot of disadvantages. It does give a clear and accurate picture of the uniforms and weapons used by soldiers at the time. It also gives a good clue about what the trenches looked like although it is missing the grizzly bits like the huge spools of sharp razor wire and the rags of clothing where people have tried to siege the trench but were in vain in doing so.
The source disadvantages are that it doesn’t give that good a pictorial description of the war. It paints a false picture over the event to calm and settle the nerves of the soldier’s friends and relatives. It isn’t and can’t be biased because it isn’t an eyewitness account, nor does it have an account on it, just a simple poem called “A Soldiers Love Song. ” This source is half-and-half about whether you can trust it or not. It is good to have for reference to uniforms and weapons but is decisively bad on things like the war description.
Instead of showing the murky skies, bombs, desolation and carnage, it puts a false and happy face as if there is no violence at all. It is not a good source to see what conditions in battle were like but it is good for what soldiers and their inventory looked like. This would not be a good source to have in a study of World War One. Source C is a painting called Paths to Glory. It was painted by someone called C. R Nevinson who served the Red Cross during World War One. It was illustrated in 1917 but it wasn’t exhibited until after the war for obvious reasons.
This is because it has two soldiers who have been fatally wounded face down in a ditch. Their clothing is all ragged and loose so they must have taken a hard landing. Their hands are still clutching their weapons and are very clearly dead. The scenery around them looks like a complete war zone because the ground is all chewed and dug up where people have been walking. There are tree twigs all around them where stray bullets have hit the trees. It is quite an emotionally charged picture and very sad. This source looks quite useful in a number of ways.
Its advantages are it portrays the image of death very well. It shows just how risky life outside the trench was. If you were seen, you were shot. The uniforms look exactly the same as we know them to be and it shows what state the land around them was like. The scene is a complete mess and leaves you with one thought in your mind – What a complete and utter mess and waste of life. The source doesn’t have a lot of disadvantages apart from the fact that it is a painting. If you paint something, you can make it look how you want to for example, if you had a green bottle you could paint it blue etc…
However, if you have a photograph of the scene it is much more reliable because what you see is what you get. If the person has a hole in his head, then he would have a hole in his head. The funny thing about this source is the fact that it doesn’t have any blood anywhere. Maybe the artist wanted them to look dignified instead of savagely killed. You can’t say that this source is reliable because the artist may have painted some things differently to what he saw. If this were a photograph, then this would be a trustworthy source but because it is a painting you will probably find that it looks entirely different from the actual scene.
Maybe we will never know the truth but this is all the evidence we have. This picture could come in handy for a study on world war one – but only for a few aspects. Source D is a photograph of a trench in Belgium, which was taken in 1916. It looks like a complete mess with the loose mud and clay. It has clearly been raining heavily because it looks sludgy and it has a mini river flowing through the middle of it. There are rocks and stones sat all over the floor. If you fell over then you would certainly do yourself some damage.
There are other things lying around like tree limbs and rags of clothing which have been ripped off by the rough and jagged surfaces. But it isn’t just the things that we can see that threaten the soldiers; it is the invisible things too. Things like the bacteria that produces trench foot not to mention the diseases passed by rats nibbling at your toes while you are aiming your weapon. I know I couldn’t stay in there for two minutes so who knows how they managed to stand there for hours at a time. There are a lot of good things about this source but there is also a bad thing.
The good things are that it shows exactly what the trenches looked like and it portrays the conditions extremely well. It also shows just what the weather and climate were like around the soldiers – wet and cold. There is another advantage; it is a photograph so what you see is what you get, not like a painting. There is a disadvantage though. It only focuses on the one part of the trench. Instead of showing the whole thing, it only shows a very small concentrated area – the floor. Of course, if you want to see what a whole trench is like, it gives you a little idea but you can’t really say from this photograph.
This picture could be quite handy for a study on World War One. If you want an idea of what the standing conditions and weather were like then this is the picture is for you. However, if you want to see what a whole trench looks like then you will have to search somewhere else because this photo can only give you an idea. Source E is an extract from the News of the World from 1916. It contains information about what the British and French armies are doing in battle 16 miles North of the Somme. It says that they are storming German trenches and are beating them.
This source doesn’t really tell you a lot about the war, only a brief glimpse of what is going on. This source does give you good information on what is going on in the war at the moment and it will probably be truthful because it will want to let people know exactly what their country is doing in battle. So you could probably trust it. These source limitations are that it only focuses on one brief part of the war. It doesn’t contain lots of detail nor does it go into detail about anything. This source would not really be useful in a study of the war.
It could be useful if you wanted location and brief updates about the events but otherwise too short and not enough detail. Not a helpful source for a study on World War One. Source F is a cigarette advertisement for Mitchell’s Golden Dawn from 1915. Instantly you can see problems with the reliability with the source. Firstly, there is a man stood up over the top of a trench looking out for the enemy. If he were to do this is real life; he would get a bullet in his chest by a sniper. It is also a lovely sunny day, not a cloud in the sky.
If this were a real advert then you would see that the sky would be dark grey with all the dust and smoke from gun fire and bomb explosions blocking out any light. The soldiers are the next things, which aren’t very realistic. They have a big smile on their faces. One of them has a really big cheesy grin with his gun pointing out across the immaculate fields – as if nobody has thrown a bomb or walked across them ever. This source is a piece of Propaganda. Something which has been emphasised or twisted to advertise something. This example has taken a war situation and it has twisted it to sell cigarettes.
Therefore, this source isn’t very good or reliable. The sources only good points are the uniforms which look quite realistic and the weaponry which the soldiers are carrying look real too. Other than that, it is completely useless. This source cannot be trusted to tell you a lot of good and true facts, so it would not be very useful for a study on the First World War. Source G is part of an autobiography of a soldier who served in the trenches. It was published in 1968. This looks like a good source because it has plenty of facts and figures.
It has also been written by someone who was at the war. It talks about how the soldiers got to the battle scene and then what happened when they got in the trenches. The soldier who wrote this was quite scared when he saw the man in the sentry next door get shot. His first thoughts were “Surely that can’t happen to me. ” He was also quite excited. This event happened in March of 1915. This source is quite good because it has been told by someone who was at the battle, fighting in the trenches. This makes the story trustworthy because he if anybody would know what went on.
It also tells of the locations of where they stopped and what they felt and heard. This source is entirely believable because of who has told it and all the facts seem to match what we know already. The only bad thing about this source is that it only concentrates on how they got to the war. It doesn’t really give any information on what happened during battle or what happened in their spare time. It only focuses on one event. Plus over time he may have slightly exaggerated the parts about the ongoing gun fire all night and other little things.
This source would be very good for a study on World War One because it contains lots of concrete evidence and it is an eyewitness account of the actual battle and events. This is a very good and detailed source – Very handy to have in a study indeed. Finally, Source H is part of a letter written to the sister of a soldier who had just been killed in action. It has details on what happened minutes before his death. It must be an eyewitness account because it has personal details about his death e. g. : He bought two footballs and how he charged to the front to throw a bomb and he got shot in the head.
This probably means that this source is quite reliable. This source is quite disturbing if you read it because with only five minutes to zero hour he was killed by being shot in the head. It is probably the most awful and gruesome way to die. This source is quite reliable because there are a few key points, which suggest that it could be an eyewitness report and it has lots of detail regarding Wilfred Neville’s death. This means that it could be very useful in a study of World War One. The disadvantages with this source are that it is an anonymous piece of writing.
This means that someone could have made this death up because maybe the real reason may have been much more painful and gruesome. Plus if it is an anonymous piece of writing, then anybody could have written it and just made up a reason for his death so his family wouldn’t have to question what happened to him. This would make it much easier for them not having to worry about what happened. However, all in all, this is a good source to have for a study of World War One because it sounds like the writer (whoever he is) was an eyewitness to the event. It is also pretty solid evidence because it has been very hard to pick holes in it.
So this is a good source for a study on World War One. Most of the sources I was given were quite good. Most would be handy in a study on World War One because the evidence showed that they were pretty solid. Some however weren’t too good. You could tell some sources weren’t too good just by looking at them e. g. : the cigarette advert which was a piece of propaganda and some just didn’t contain enough evidence and detail e. g. : the News of the World extract. Thank you for reading my essay. I hope you have enjoyed it and it has been of some use to you.