Source A is an extract from a diary entry written by Sir Earl Douglas Haig (Commander of the Battle of the Somme) in July 1916. As a result of this source A is a primary source as it was written at the time. The source is all about the death toll that Britain would be expecting. The source shows different ways to see Haig’s intentions. One views him as a cold hearted man trying to kill innocent men by putting them into war and another shows him trying to win the war for Britain. The latter is evident in source A when it is said, “The Nation must be taught to bear losses” thus showing that Haig was expecting a lot of casualties.
Source A cannot be totally useful in proving whether Sir Earl Douglas Haig cared about the lives of his men, since the source is only a small extract from a much larger diary entry. However, one can only know this because of other more typical sources of the time. Simply by looking at it superficially, one can come to the inference that Haig did not care much about the lives of his men.
By reading the first sentence “The nation must be taught to bear losses” in source A you can see that Haig is expecting losses. The probability is that there will be losses of men and the nation will have to live with it. There are two sentences in source A that show he was expecting a lot of deaths, the first is “The nation must be taught to bear losses” and the second being “The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists”.
Haig uses the word ‘must’ in both sentences. The word ‘must’ is such a definite and demanding word, that when reading the source one assumes that Haig did not think there were other alternatives, but that the lives of his men would be lost. This can be seen as a fatalistic attitude as it could reduce Haig to not really making an effort to secure the position of his men and thus endangering the lives of his men. So unknowingly he could be seen as not caring for his men, but rather trying to appease the nation.
One must understand that both sources have their limitations. From wider reading one knows that in source B where Haig mentions, “The men are in splendid spirits” is the only extract written by Haig, which mentions the morale of the soldiers, this leads us to the intriguing question of what is so different about the extract.
Source B differs from other extracts that are typical of the time. All other Haig’s Diary entries (Britain and the great war- John Murray 1994) do not mention the morale of his men and in retrospect we know that source B contradicts other reliable sources about what is written about the outcome of the first battle. We now know that 60,000 men died or were injured in the first few hours. We can assume from this knowledge that since Haig was addressing the public he was telling them what he thought they wanted to hear. Hence, this shows us that Haig was only interested in promoting himself to the public and would really say anything about his men, which would better himself.
Source A is both useful and reliable in showing us Haig’s attitude towards his men. Looking at it directly and at what is simply written in this source we would assume straight away he did not care about his men since he did not believe that they could be victorious without serious life loss. However you could also look at it from the aspect that Haig was actually being realistic about the position they were in because it is true that in a war there will always be casualties.
Source A has its limitations because we don’t know from the extract whom this was addressed to and who it was for the attention of. There are two ways of interpreting this source based on whom it was for. Firstly, if it was addressed to the public whereby his men would be aware of his thoughts and concerns, it could be depicted that he did not care about his men. We can deduce this because if his men knew that their Commander’s attitude and belief towards them was so low it would significantly affect their morale.
Secondly if it was just for the attention of the Commander himself and a few other elite members (other Generals) it would not come to be known by the army officers themselves. In this instance it can be simply seen as Haig being realistic and keeping all his options open. Undoubtly there will be casualties in war and it is the job of the governing bodies to appease the people of the nation, since in war you need the people of the nation to be on your side, hence resulting in what Haig says in source B.
So in conclusion the answer is that source A can only be used as evidence against him but not to prove that he did not care about the lives of his men.