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11-08-2015, 16:13

Changing Leadership

The great bloodletting of 1916—Verdun and the Somme were the costliest battles of the entire war—had no apparent impact on the desire of the belligerent governments to fight to the finish. The fall of Falkenhayn in the summer led to the emergence of Paul von Hindenburg and his dominating assistant Erich Ludendorff. These German leaders were committed to an even greater national effort. An equally dynamic, determined leader emerged in Britain when David Lloyd George, formerly minister of munitions, took over as prime minister from a discredited H. H. Asquith in December. By 1 9 1 6 Kaiser Wilhelm II, the continent's most boisterous and energetic prewar monarch, had become little more than an interested observer of the operations of his armies. The generals had paid him little heed since the start of the war, and in November 1914 he told a dinner companion, "The General Staff tells me nothing and never asks my advice." With the fighting still raging at Verdun and the Battle of the Somme about to erupt, Wilhelm's conversations with his military entourage focused on the kind of social life he would permit the German aristocracy to conduct in Berlin after the war's conclusion!