This source is from a memoir written by Corporal George Alfred Coppard and it reveals many things about the Battle of the Somme from a soldier’s viewpoint. The main and recurring theme throughout the extract seems to be that the Battle of the Somme was a bloody war with numerous casualties and deaths. Coppard writes,”it was clear that there were no gaps in the wire” from which we can learn that he was on the front lines, as he would not be able to see the barbed wire if he was not at the very front. This is further supported by the fact that Coppard served with the Machine Gun Corps, so it is logical that he would be on the front lines, so that there would be no risk of the machine guns firing on his fellow soldiers. Furthermore, the fact that,”there were no gaps in the wire” supports my knowledge that many of the bombs that were intended to destroy the barbed wire failed to do their job. The brutality of the battle is continually emphasised, an example of which is when Coppard stipulates that the dead “hung there in grotesque postures.” In addition, Coppard writes that,”the dead were equally spread out”. We can infer from this that both sides suffered extremely heavy losses, not just the Allies. Overall, the content of the source implies that many soldiers died during the Battle of the Somme and that the bombs that were designed to dismantle the barbed wire had not done their job effectively, as there were no gaps in the barbed wire. The source is quite useful, as it is written by a soldier on the front lines, who would have had a good vantage point to see the battle take place. Moreover, it backs up my own understanding that the Germans had been awaiting an attack and had put up extra barbed wire as an extra precaution. Moreover, in June 1916, the Germans switched from wooden stakes to a screw picket made of metal to hold up their barbed wire. This made it even harder for the artillery shell fire to destroy the barbed wire, which was compounded by the fact that, approximately, only 1 in 3 British shells actually exploded. On the contrary, this extract focuses entirely on the alarming number of casualties and deaths during the battle. It does not take into account the strategic value of the battle: the fact that, despite the high casualty rate, it took pressure off the Allied soldiers fighting in Verdun. Furthermore, it does not consider the difficulties that Haig faced. For example, the majority of Haig’s soldiers were newly recruited with poor training. As many of the soldiers did not have much experience with fighting in a battle, Haig was forced to keep the tactics simple, so that the soldiers would not become confused.
This source is a written account produced by Corporal George Alfred Coppard, who was formerly part of the Machine Gun Corps during the First World War.