Fd Marshall Haig- Butcher or the best we had?


Just a quick thought:

Fd Marshall Haig, C in C 1915-1918 (ish). Was he the butcher he was painted as? Or was there no one better to fill the position?

Was attrition the only way to fight trench warfare?

Were tanks used incorrectly?


50 marks


"Good-morning; good-morning!" the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of 'em dead,
And we're cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
"He's a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack

(Siegfried Sassoon)

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Haig was just the highest ranked in a long list of incompetent fools, who didn't give a flying f*ck about the toms that they sent to their deaths.
Would rate him as a 'Master Butcher'.  Hate to have been in the shoes of Officers and OR's on the front lines, and receiveing his orders to 'advance'!  Brave souls, Rest in Peace.  


Read a mammoth biog on him- the man was a prat.
Below average field officer, above average in behind the scenes machinations (ie manouvering himself into top slot by stabbing others in the back).
Had problems articulating himself in front of others (bit like the guy in the Fast Show).
Also tried to cover tracks in memoirs by saying that some of the dafter tactical decisions weren't down to him.
Prat. Plain and Simple.



I take some of your points, but the f*cker had four years to get used to the "horror of modern warfare".

He was using the same hopeless tactics in the Autumn of 1917 at the 3rd Battle of Ypres. Two of my Great Uncles never came back from that one.

He doesn't deserve to be let off the hook for being a product of his times.

Don't get me started on the shot at dawn geezers. That subject in itself is enough to earn him the sobriquet "Butcher". He had the ultimate sign off to every execution. He was still having people shot "for the sake of example" after the armistice was declared.

Work that one out.


I agree with Dz, and at the time there was no other Officer to fill the position. Until 1917 when Bob Plumer had the success at Messines and the procedures for assaults changed to a degree.

The Aussies and Canadians under Gen Curry also has success at Pozieres and Vimy by better coms with the rear Arty and they perfected the 'creeping barrage'

Rawlinson and Gough were his pi$$ boys and carried the can for the 1st July horrors.

Also you can tell his personal guilt by the way he throw himself into the British Legion in the 1920's.

Also they didn'y know how to deploy the MG or the tank-hindsight- a great thing!
"He was as stubborn as a donkey, as unthinking as a donkey, as inarticulate as a donkey. So Haig was in fact the worst donkey on the British side of the war. He didn't ever go up to the front line. He didn't go into the trenches and dirty his boots. Haig had no comprehension of what he was sending his men into. A great commander knows exactly what he is sending his men into, as later commanders, like Montgomery, did. "

"Haig's attitude to technology was virtually nil. He didn't understand technology. The horse was always what mattered to him."

 (Dr John Laffin, an Australian historian.)


My Grandfather , who fought at Cape Helles and on the Somme , hated the very mention of his name .


It galls me to think that they march under a statue of him every Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph.

He dismissed the Machine Gun as "an over-rated weapon", tank warfare as "a minor factor" and the aerial bombing of munitions factories as "unsound in theory".

Even his biographer, who was a bit of an apologist for him can only come up with the following compliment "He was as good a general as it is possible for a man without genius to ever become".


Also he learnt his warfighting during the South African Wars, plus as already said He was a Cavalryman (8 th Hussars).

Bob Plumer should have been CinC for Passchendale and we might have got a different result.


It was Haig that won it. It was his brilliant combined arms manouvrist campaign in June-Nov 1918 that defeated the Germans. The French were not playing and the Americans were not there in sufficient numbers to make a significant contribution. It was done with conscript manpower (the regular army having been killed in 1914, the TA in 1915, and Kitchener's volunteer army in 1916) led by LE officers.

Ironic that it was the German spring 1918 offensive that broke the entrenched stalemate of the previous three and a half years. Something that Haig and French before him had singularly failed to do.

Another thing to consider is his considerable contribution to Lord Haldane's reforms of the regular army (1904) and TA (1908). Without these changes (largely inspired by lessons learned in the ABW) WW1 would not have lasted beyond Nov 1914 with the Germans victorious. 20th century history would have been very different indeed.


Any achievement or positive contribution he made to the nations history is completely overshadowed by his crimes against it.
With the benefit of looking back from our current posn, of course he was a tube.  However, probably the standard for the tiem, and I doubt if anyone of his generation had done better, cept perhaps if we had had a German General at our diposal!



I think you'll find most of the German High Command were sacked during the war, such as Von Pannewitz and Von Falkenhayn to mention a couple.

Alot of the point although very valid are with hindsight and Haig didnt have that luxury. Haig was even on the point of sacking Plumer after Passchendaele, but didnt. It is written Haig had the ability to control Lloyd George's want and wishes in respect of the way the war was fought, were as others may have bent over and let LG crack on. (As he did in 1916 when he helped raise the 38th (Welsh) Div and put all his unqualified and untrained cronies in charge. With disasterous results on 14 Jul 1916 at Mametz.)

No doubt Haig left alot to be desired, and as already stated, soldiers (my Grandfather being one, would not have his name mentioned in the house!) had no respect for any of the Red Tabs- as Blackadder 4 so beautifuuly portrays! Saying that Bob Plumer was probably revired as much as any WW1 General could be as "Uncle Bob".

Like it has been said, "Lions led by Donkeys"- Not much changed there then!
Qman, for fear of sounding like a complete pedant, it was the Ulster division that held the numerical title of the 36th.  The Welsh division, were I believe the 38th.


Profound apologies FB, I am being flayed over a gun carriage as we speak!

You are quite correct 36th- Ulster, 38th- Welsh!

Slip of the keyboard!

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