“The General” by Siegfried Sassoon Essay Sample

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Q.3 Source C is a poem called “The General” and is written by Siegfried Sassoon, an infantry officer on the Western Front in 1917. He criticises the war effort and the plan of attack the Generals used (going over the top). He comments on two particular soldiers (Harry and Jack) who were killed as a result of the Generals ordering them to go over the top: “But he did for them both by his plan of attack.” So it could be said that Sassoon is blaming the General for Harry and Jack’s death. Of course there were many like Harry and Jack who got wounded or killed when they went over the top.

Siegfried Sassoon enlisted as soon as the war had been declared. However, after spending a long period at the Front, he got wounded and was sent home. But he became convinced that the war was evil and could not be supported. So Siegfried was enthusiastic at the beginning of the war but as time passed by, the reality of the war kicked into him. This was the case for most of the soldiers at the Front, because they would’ve been used to the plan of attack (going over the top) and deaths like Harry and Jack’s. So even though many soldiers weren’t as enthusiastic about the war when they joined, there were bound to be some soldiers who remained patriotic, or were willing to fight through thick and thin.

A well-known proverb that spread within the trenches was: “Lions led by Donkeys”. The lions being the brave soldiers and the donkeys being the Generals who most of them thought didn’t know how to fight this kind of war.

So Source C is Sassoon’s personal view (opinion), which is likely to be biased. Because he became anti war after spending a couple of years at the Front. So even though it is an opinion, it can be said that a lot of the soldiers felt the same way. That agrees with my own knowledge. A more cynical approach to war would’ve been appearing in soldiers’ minds as time went by.

Q.4 Source D was written by Lloyd George in 1935 and it’s called “Lloyd George’s War Memoirs”. It is written for the public. He criticises Sir Douglas Haig’s abilities as Commander-in-Chief of the army. He calls him a “…second rate commander…” But he did not attack or sack Haig during the war because he thought it would “undermine public confidence”.

Whereas Source E is written by a historian in 1991 and he’s saying that if the test of a successful General is whether or not he wins wars, then Haig must be judged a success. He says that the war of attrition was the proper way to achieve victory. But the historian accepts that some people criticise the cost of Haig’s methods, but he doesn’t see them coming up with any other methods other than attrition. Source E obviously supports Haig and Source D criticises him.

Well Haig was known as Butcher of the Somme when a lot of British lives were lost there. But this was the reality of a war of attrition. Many attitudes of Germans are that the Somme was the turning point of their war. Because Haig kept pounding and pounding at the enemy. It could be said that he wore them down.

Lloyd George is criticising Haig because people blamed Haig for the immense loss of life at the Somme. And Lloyd George didn’t replace Haig. So now in his memoirs maybe he is self-justifying what he did, because he claims it would’ve dented public confidence but it could’ve in fact boosted public confidence

Source E gives some of the good qualities of Haig. The author (a historian) says that there wasn’t any other way suggested or likely to work except a war of attrition. But the historian also recognises the cost at which Haig won the war.

Both sources are secondary. And there was no censorship issued by the government the time they were written. It is fact that Haig won the war, but at a high price. And the success of a general depends on whether or not he wins wars, does it not?

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