Learning Curve, The Great War
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Useful notes: Source7
Extracts from the reports of Major General Sir Henry Rawlinson on aspects of warfare, 1914-15
(Catalogue ref: PRO 30/57/51)
  • These extracts come from letters written by Major General Sir Henry Rawlinson to Field Marshal Lord Kitchener in 1914 and 1915. Rawlinson was a senior army commander on the western front.
  • After the war, his reputation suffered as a result of his role in the first day of the Battle of the Somme. However, he did have many achievements as well, before and after the Somme, such as the advances made by his forces in the Hundred Days of 1918.
  • These letters provide a useful insight into the day-to-day running of the early stages of the war. Many different issues are covered, including equipment and tactics.
  • Extract 7a covers the new tactic of mining. This meant digging tunnels under enemy trenches and positions and placing huge bombs (mines) and then setting them off.
  • Extract 7b-c (from 23 December 1914) looks at the weapons developed for trench warfare. One of the most effective was the grenade, which allowed soldiers to hurl bombs without exposing themselves to sniper fire.
  • Extract 7c-d (from 23 March 1915) describes the impact of German machine guns against British troops. Although artillery was a much greater cause of casualties, machine guns were often thought to be the main cause because they were so effective against infantry charges.
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