The Attitudes of British Soldiers to their Commanders During the First World War

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The Attitudes of British Soldiers to their Commanders During the First World War

On their own they are not very useful to a historian studying the

attitudes of soldiers to their commanders in World War I. However, if

used together and with some of my own knowledge, they could be useful

in creating a picture of what the attitudes of soldiers towards their

commanders were like.

Time would have been a major influencing factor on the attitudes of

the soldiers to their commanders. As the war went on and the soldiers

began to realise that they weren’t getting anywhere they would begin

to doubt their commanders. This coupled with the volume of casualties

would have made them increasingly distrusting of their leaders.

The difference in rank would also have affected the soldiers’ view of

their leaders. A soldier would have had more respect for a more

junior officer, as they would have been experiencing the same

conditions as the regular solders. The generals, however, were often

behind the lines and would not have known the privates that they

commanded. The relationship between low ranking soldiers and generals

is shown in Source B. It describes the general and his staff as being

‘incompetent swine's’. Source B was written by a junior officer who

had plenty of experience in the trenches. The poet, Seigfried

Sassoon, had been promoted through the ranks to become a junior

officer and in 1917 protested to his commanding officer about the

prolongation of the war.

Probably the biggest thing that would affect the relationships between

soldiers and commanders would be pals battalions. They would have a

completely different view to a regular battalion who would have had

some military experience as a pals battalion had none whatsoever, only

maybe one or two of them having been in the army before. Pals

battalions also knew each other before the war. The officers directly

above them would also have been known to the men. They would have

been their bosses at their place of work or another position of

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