Fd Marshall Haig- Butcher or the best we had?

#22
It's not a question of hind sight. After taking the San Juan Ridge with his rough riders in 1898 during the American Spanish war in Cuba. Teddy Roosevelt Said "We have won so far at a heavy cost; but the Spaniards fight very hard and charging these entrenchments against modern rifles is terrible. We are within measurable distance of a terrible military disaster."
So the answer is butcher.
 
#23
Actually, after getting a big pay off and stately home, purchased by Parliament (Yeh grateful nation).

Is he not the man behind the founding of the Royal British legion?


Pity he did not find time to empathise more with the soldiers a little earlier.

Dam him and all those like him.

Admittedly he was a product of his age, God how I am glad we are rid of them (apart from a few mutants who have continued to interbreed)

Chris
 

Ventress

LE
Moderator
#24
Is he not the man behind the founding of the Royal British legion?
This I feel was his 'Guilt Trip', plus his altering of his war diaries to shift blame to Gen Gough, who wasnt rewarded until much late- if that was deserved is in debate like Haig's gifts from the nation.
 
#25
Wow! So much bigotry and misinformation and I'm surprised to see anyone still taking John Laffin seriously. The truth is that Field Marshal (get the spelling correct, folks) Douglas Haig won the Great War. He made mistakes, as did every commander in history, but he improved the training and preparedness of the British Army to the point where it was the best in the world and led the Allied armies to victory in the 100 days' campaign.
As for him never visiting the front line, what a lot of rubbish! Read his diaries, and try reading some of the real historians such as Gary Sheffield, Gordon Corrigan and Timothy Bowman.
 
#26
Wow! So much bigotry and misinformation and I'm surprised to see anyone still taking John Laffin seriously. The truth is that Field Marshal (get the spelling correct, folks) Douglas Haig won the Great War. He made mistakes, as did every commander in history, but he improved the training and preparedness of the British Army to the point where it was the best in the world and led the Allied armies to victory in the 100 days' campaign.
As for him never visiting the front line, what a lot of rubbish! Read his diaries, and try reading some of the real historians such as Gary Sheffield, Gordon Corrigan and Timothy Bowman.
 
#27
Think on this - those stupid narrow minded bigoted morons of General rank took an Imperial Police force of 300 odd thousand men and expanded it to nearly five million in little more than three years. They had to cope with all manner of new technologies, arty, field engineering, chemical, air and armour. Over the course of the war their creation did not significantly mutiny as did the armies of the other major protagonists (the Yanks weren't in long enough) and they beat what was regarded as the best Army in the world.

Start reading well researched history folks.
 
#28
Ventress - Gough was blamed for the failure of his Army to hold when hit by the Kaiserschlact. It was unfair.

No one is saying that Haig was a saint, or a genious, but he kept the show together.

If Lloyd George (a man who makes Blair look trustworthy) could have found someone better he would have done.
 
#29
That bloke AND Kitchener were the worst kind of c'ocks and scumbags, not to mention incompetent twats and criminal fcuks. They should have been hung as war criminals.

Haig, tw@t that he was, ignored some of the best advice available, which in doing so led to the unecessary deaths and injuries of hundreds of thousands of men under his command. Paschendale would not have been half as bloody if he'd taken the advice to back off sooner. He ignored the advice and wasted tens of thousands of lives before he finally caved in and did as suggested.

He was the worst demonstration of what was wrong with this country at the time - rank that was given or bought by money, for money or breeding. The bloke was a fcukwit, a waste of good breathing air.

These days, things are slightly better, but you still get brain-dead ruperts who should never have been allowed in the armed forces, let alone get rank.

If there is one thing that should be a full-on meritocracy, it's the armed forces officer class.
 
#30
Hanging Kitchener would have been a tad awkward. It'd have involved raising the wreck of HMS Hampshire, salvaging it, identifying the remains of the Field Marshal from those of the rest of the crew and taking them somewhere with a gallows...

Unless you believe Denis Winter's theory that the records (official, diary sources and others) was altered - and there is more than enough evidence out there to show why you shouldn't - scholarship based on this demonstrates a much more complex picture of Haig's performance than might be thought. He wasn't brilliant, but as John Bourne noted in one of the first books to actually use the records properly:

Douglas Haig fulfilled the most important criterion of generalship. He won. The scale of his victories was the greatest in British military history. His countrymen have never forgiven him
(JM Bourne,Britain & the Great War, 1989)
As well as Bourne - Gary Sheffield, Gordon Corrigan, Peter Simkins and Paddy Griffith are all worth a look, as is Walter Reid's recent biography of Haig. Richard Holmes is - as always - extremely useful and constructive in his views.
 
#31
"Haig was not a social person...and could best be described as dour. Nice men, however, do not necessarily win wars and the fact was that the obvious and best qualified candidate.. was Haig. When Haig assumed command of the BEF... it consisted of... about 600,000 men...
By 1918 this army had expanded threefold...
In Dec 1915 the BEF held 30 miles of front; in Feb 1918 it held 123 miles. It was Haig who had to manage that expansion; and train, equip, deploy and fight the largest army that Britain has ever had, an army set down in another country and, until 1917 at least, the junior partner in a coalition war with difficult allies. Alone amongst the original warring powers, the morale of the British Army never cracked, and it was the British Army that in 1918 was the only Allied army capable of mounting a massive & sustained offensive. During the 'Hundred Days' of 1918 Haig's army decisively defeated the German Army on the Western Front. When criticism of him began in the 1930s, Gen Pershing, C-in-C of the American Army on the Western Front... said, 'How can they do this to the man who won the war?'"

- G Corrigan, "Mud, Blood & Poppycock", 2003 (ISBN 0 304 36659 5), p 204.

"Years after the war, when disillusionment set in... the hunt for someone to blame began. It was exacerbated by authors with an axe to grind (like Basil Liddell-Hart) and poets who wrote for money. 'British generals did the best they could with what they had, and were by and large successful in a war that no one had expected or trained for' makes a dull headline. 'Butchers & bunglers' sells books and newspapers, particularly when the objects of attack are dead or retired. Alan Clarke... when pressed to say just where Gen Hoffman described the British Army as ' lions led by donkeys',...admitted that he had made it up!"

ibid, p 213.

BTW, in scholarly circles John Laffin is widely regarded as the military historians' equivalent of Mel Gibson, and his views on - for example - women ensured that he was generally regarded as an obnoxious prat. All of his writings are characterised by crass generalisation, lack of attention to detail, shoddy, selective & uncritical use of primary sources (when he bothered with such tedious "legwork"!), and an underlying "chippiness". Most serious Australian military historians found him a tad embarrassing.
 
#32
One hardly knows where to begin.

For a kick off Haig was n ot replaced ac CinC because there was no candidate to do so. DLG who had undermined Haig extensively during 1917 finally was in a position to do so in the winter of 1917/18, sent Smuts to France to find a replacement but Smuts could find no suitable candidate.

In 1918 the BEF captured more German prisoners than the French, Belgians and Americans put together.

Despite being horrific the BEF suffered the lowest casualties of all the major combatants.

In 1918, when the BEF became a well-honed instrument of war (se Homes, Sheffield etc) the German Army suffered 1 million casualties between Marxh and August in its ill-thoughtout offensive.

Haig was no Bill Slim, but he was the man for the job. Remember his command was approximately 5 times larger than that of Monty during 1944-45. The First World War happened at a time when technology gave the decisive advantage to the defender in entrenched positions, in 1918 the BEF overcame this to record its biggest succession of victories in its history. If you blame Haig for the failures of 1916-17, he must be credited for these.
 
#33
I've seen some good, informed posts here and some crap from the armchair warriors who don't know what they're talking about. Mushroom, you were spot on in your comments that Haig truned the BEF from an Imperial Police force into an effective, modern, fighting entity which even before the transition had started proved beyond doubt that experienced, well trained, campaign hardened troops, evn in small numbers, were the match for millions of poorly trained and hastily mobilised reserves.

Lets get something out of the way here. Haig and his staff, and the war cabinet in Westminster, did not have three years to break the attrition of the trenches. This didn't even start until after the mobile war had finished when the Germans ran out of steam in September 1915 after the British and French armies had totally confounded the Shlieffen Plan by conducting a series of well ordered withdrawals whilst in contact.

Attrition can only be broken by attack and Haig attacked again and again using the strategies and tactics of the day whilst employing the best weapons at his disposal. There was nothing else the man could have done because he was the one who had to evolve the manuals of the day into what best suited the battlefields of 1916 and 1917. Denied the use of cavalry he could only use infantry and artillery and he didn't have the numbers of troops or artillery shells to overwhelm the German lines, in fact until 1916 he really only had the BEF and Empire troops because the Kitchener Army wasn't ready for combat until the summer of 1916. People forget this. They see WW1 as being a war full of untrained conscripts but on the first day of the battle of the Somme the army was still 100% volunteer.

The idea of walking forward under a creeping barrage is where most of the infantry casualties came from and the concept is still sound today but it's only in the last 20 years that military historians are really able to understand why it didn't work and the reason is that the British Artillery were using airburst shells to break the wire and they were ineffective. Similarly, a lot of the stockpiled shells were duds. Bear in mind as well that while Haig was struggling to break through the German lines, employees who were vital to the war effort in the UK were actually going on strike!

Another thing you have to remember is that battlefield communication was very limited. There were no radios so once an advance had started and the local commanders were away from the telephones in the trenches, there was no way of informing brigade staff of how successful or unsuccessful local attacks were going and that meant that commanders at Divisional level and above could not issue further orders which could have influenced the outcome of certain sectors by the rapid redeployment of troops on the gound or reserves. This is incredibly well illustrated on the Somme where the French pressed well ahead of the British on the right flank but had to withdraw because there was no support from Haig's army. Also, if you look at the successful attacks on divisional, brigade and even regimental fronts which could have been exploited if only they were able to inform the command structure. This is very ably illustrated in the highly successful Cambrai offensive which caved in under German counter attack because the British were not quick enough to get in reserves and engineers to hold ground and repair bridges and roads to let the cavalry push through to the command and control areas of the German rear.

None of this is Haig's fault. He could only operate with what he had and history NOW shows that he did an admirable job. For all his personal faults he was an excellent career soldier and a superb commander of massed armies in the field and there was no-one better than him. Command bears its own responsibilities however and because he was the overall commander of the British armies in France and the Low Countries, he was the one who was held responsible for the casualties and he bore that responsibility without any public complaint. That should tell you more about the man than anything else - he did his job to the best of his ability and he never blamed anyone else for anything which happened when he was in command.

Do bear in mind as well that Haig was NOT in charge of the theatre, he was subservient throughout the entire war to the French High Command. The government of the UK was also under pressure from the French government to ensure that Haig complied with plans put forward by Foch, whether or not he liked it. The Somme offensive was one of these. The French insisted that Haig press forward on the Somme, whether he was ready or not, to force the Germans to remove troops from Verdun which was in danger of falling and was haemorraging the lives of French Poilus and threatening to suck the last of the French Reserves in.

So it's not just as easy as saying that Haig was a butcher. To quote Gordon Corrigan (the noted military historian) "Haig was overall commander of British and Empire forces on the Western Front from 1915 to 1918 and if he really had been the blinkered uncaring incompetent of popular legend he would not have delivered victory."
 
#34
Thanks GDav a good post. We should not forget that Haig rarely got the chance to attack where he wanted. The French insisted on the attack on the Somme despite knowing that the area had been well fortified. Haig wanted to attack further North where the ground and lack of complete groundworks would have given him an advantage.

The BEF in 1918 was probably the best trained and equipped Army this country has ever put in the field. From Amiens onwards it was a model of combined arms acting in a wholly manoeuverist manner.
 
#35
mushroom said:
Thanks GDav a good post. We should not forget that Haig rarely got the chance to attack where he wanted. The French insisted on the attack on the Somme despite knowing that the area had been well fortified. Haig wanted to attack further North where the ground and lack of complete groundworks would have given him an advantage.

The BEF in 1918 was probably the best trained and equipped Army this country has ever put in the field. From Amiens onwards it was a model of combined arms acting in a wholly manoeuverist manner.
Thank Mushroom. Yes, absolutely, after the Spring Offensive had petered out the Germans finally folded. Two things stand out for me from the whole war. People run on at the mouth about Haig but no German plan ever worked half as well as some of his did. The Shlieffen Offensive failed. So did Verdun, Michael, Georgette, Blucher, York and Marne. The Germans dug in 1915 to try and starve the allies into submission they started the offensive at Verdun to 'bleed France dry' but in fact it all bounced back on them and they lost more men in each of these offensives than the entente powers did.

The main thing is that, under Haig, the British Army was never defeated but continued to beat the Germans back, only failing by not turning tactical gains into absolute victory but getting enough troops in to defeat German counter attacks.

It was the Germans own attrition which ultimately defeated them, helped in no small measure by the economic strangulation which was imposed by Royal Navy blockades and empire troops in other parts of the world.
 
#36
Exmarine said:
Is he not the man behind the founding of the Royal British legion?

Pity he did not find time to empathise more with the soldiers a little earlier.

Dam him and all those like him.
Not sure about RBL but certainly the Poppy Appeal, until recently the black button on your poppy said 'Haig Fund'. Fortunately historians are starting to go back to the records to have another look at what actually happened. The fact that so many people died has meant that until the last few years it has been too emotive an issue for revisionists to give a new appraisal and we can see from some of the posts on here that it is still is difficult for many.

As an example of what we are now learning, I'd like to throw this one in as an example of Haig's compassion for his troops: Its become clear that Haig was stopped by his staff officers from visiting wounded troops because of the emotional state he would get into after such visits. They came to realise that to have the man on form, they had to isolate him to a certain extent from the human cost. This empathy/compassion was one of the things that led to the Haig Fund being established, and no I don't think it was a 'criminal guilt'.

I'm not going to get into a debate about whether he was a butcher or not. I personally happen to think not from the little bits that are now coming out, which are giving more balance to the debate, but I'm overall not well enough informed to make a final judgement that I feel I can defend. I also think that before we start using abusive language about someone, especially in this forum, one ought to look at a bit more of the available information first.

Enjoy
 
#37
Re the Poppy Appeal in Britain, though it was adopted by Britain with the first Appeal in 1922, the concept (including production by Veterans and families), evolved between the Americans and the French – i.e. they did it first. Re Britain, the concept was promoted personally to Haig towards the end of 1921 by French woman, Madame Guérin, whose French Poppy sellers she sent to Britain (mainly London) earlier that year.

No.9
 
#38
Admittedly from the wiki. If you think Haid was a loony check out this Frenchman.

Nivelle was an exponent of aggressive tactics, arguing that by using a creeping barrage he could end the war on the Western Front. His ideas were popular with the besieged Aristide Briand, the French Prime Minister and in December 13, 1916 Nivelle replaced Joseph Joffre as Commander-in-Chief of the French Army. He devised a grand plan to win the war in 1917. This involved a British attack to draw in German reserves, followed by a massive general French attack aimed at the Arras–Soissons–Reims salient. However, Nivelle was willing to talk about his plan to anyone who asked, including journalists, while the Germans captured copies of the battle plan left in French trenches; consequently the element of surprise was lost. When launched in April 1917, the Aisne campaign (Nivelle Offensive) was a failure. He continued with the strategy until the French Army began to mutiny.
and

During the First World War the Chemin Des Dames lay in the part of the Western Front held by French armies. Its position led to its being the scene of several bloody battles between 1916 and 1918. The most noted one, called the Second Battle of the Aisne, took place between April 16 and April 25, 1917. General Robert Nivelle, advocating the use of overwhelming force, attacked the German line along a front on the Chemin's ridge. The defenders had found shelter in caves below the ridge from which they were able to dominate the ground over which the attack was made. On the first day, the French army, with support by batallions of Senegalese soldiers, lost over 40,000 men. During the entire battle, French forces lost approximately 97,000 men. The overwheming loss of lives with insignificant strategic gain was a disaster for Nivelle, who had already been short on manpower and in danger of mutiny.

That danger developed into reality so profound that French forces found themselves needing much more support from their allies in the region than had been anticipated. This is how divisions of the British army came to be found here during the following twelve months.
and

Poilus were renowned for their bravery, doggedness, and endurance*. However, they were not passive followers of orders. At the disastrous Chemin des Dames offensive of 1917 under General Robert Nivelle, they were said to have gone into no man's land baa'ing in black self-parody, acting like the lambs to the slaughter their commanders apparently took them for. Outstanding for its mixture of horror and heroism, this spectacle proved a sobering one. As the news of it spread, the French high command soon found itself coping with a widespread mutiny. A minor revolution was only averted with the promise of an end to such costly offensives.
* The Poilus are French aren't they? bravery, doggedness, and endurance? In what holding their hands up :D
 
#39
No.9 said:
Re the Poppy Appeal in Britain, though it was adopted by Britain with the first Appeal in 1922, the concept (including production by Veterans and families), evolved between the Americans and the French – i.e. they did it first. Re Britain, the concept was promoted personally to Haig towards the end of 1921 by French woman, Madame Guérin, whose French Poppy sellers she sent to Britain (mainly London) earlier that year.

No.9
That's partly correct. The idea of a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance was first conceived in the poem by Captain John McRae, a Canadian doctor, who wrote the poem "In Flanders Fields". It was first put into practice by a lady called Moina Michael who worked for the War Committee of the YMCA in America. The idea of selling poppies to raise funds for disabled veterans was adopted offcially in the US in 1920 and the concept was well known throughout the world as other countries, including the UK, France and Canada, had been considering the same idea. Madame Guérin did have some input with Haig and as a result of her meeting with him and the success of the appeal in other countries, particularly the US, he set up the Poppy Factory in Edinburgh which designed an artificial flower in several easily assembled pieces so that veterans could not only benefit from their sale but disabled veterans could be used in putting them together, giving them gainful and theraputic employment, which was the concept of Moina Michael.
 
#40
chocolate_frog said:
* The Poilus are French aren't they? bravery, doggedness, and endurance? In what holding their hands up :D[/quote]

French casualties at Verdun, 550,000
German casulaities at Verdun, 440,000

So the French had a mutiny in 1917 - so did the British and we had a general strike at home in the ammunition factories.

Did the Germans take Paris in 1914? Now how could that be with only 250,000 of the BEF between the 2,000,000 German army and their objective?

The French army you pillock! Which was 1,200,000 strong at the outbreak of war.

The French lost almost 2,000,000 dead in 1914-1918 with over 4,000,000 wounded. This far outweighs the British numbers at almost 900,000 dead and 1,600,000 wounded.
 

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