FM Haig: evolution in WW1: help with source material wanted

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Stonker, Sep 22, 2010.

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  1. Stonker

    Stonker On ROPs

    I am reading "A War of Nerves - Soldiers and Psychiatrists 1914-1994" by Ben Shephard, and a riveting read it is.

    But - he is a journalist rather than an historian, so his referencing is a bit loose.

    On page 71 (last page of Ch 5 Psychiatry at the Front 1917-18) he writes of the changing atmosphere around Haig, as he recognised that:

    the army is now composed of representatives all classes of the Nation, and many are most intelligent and can think things out

    quoted as Haig's words, spoken over lunch, to the King, and which - from his notes - might be taken from any one of 3 publications, the most likely being Haig's private papers.

    A few lines later, he writes that in 1918 when Haig's HQ was at last

    Culled of 'the mediocrities and conformists that he had always found so agreeable', the staff began to develop a new professionalism.

    I am unable from Shephard's notes to identify the source for the words in quote marks/bold above - Official History of WW1 perhaps? Doesn't read like Haig's own words.

    I'm looking for help with 2 things:

    a. The source of the quote, and
    b. Informed comment on his judgment of the nature, and extent of the transformation (if any) to which Mr Shephard alludes.

    If anyone thinks it would help, I can list the documents referenced in the notes immediately before and after the line in question.

    Over to you lot . . . .
  2. Doesn't sound like Edmonds in the OH either.

  3. Stonker

    Stonker On ROPs


    Any thoughts on other authors/books worth a look ?
  4. Gawd knows - I'm only saying it's not Edmonds on pure instinct, the tone and sentiment just sounds wrong. And instinct also makes me say it's not John Terraine. Perhaps de Groot? It's a long while since I did any serious reading on this sort of thing.

    As for the veracity of the statement, you could certainly make the case that Charteris, who headed GHQ Int from Jan 16 to Jan 18 was indeed a mediocrity and conformist (who owed his career to Haig) and that Cox who replaced him wasn't. I don't know how it goes for the G3 world - this time of night I can't remember who was who when.

    No idea about the source for an army of all the classes - I do think Haig was willing to use experts (e.g. Geddes and transportation) and new technology, but I'm not convinced that outside their narrow fields these experts had any great influence.

    I dimly remember Todman, Dan ‘The Grand Lamasery Revisited: General Headquarters on the Western Front, 1914-1918’, in Gary Sheffield & Dan Todman (eds), Command and Control on the Western Front: The British Army’s Experience 1914-18 (2004) as being good on the development of GHQ, but maybe more on structure/process than people.

  5. Stonker

    Stonker On ROPs

    Thanks for that - Shephard's select bibliography is no real help, since (unsurprisingly) it lists only those books dealing with the evolution of psychiatry, rather than the wider context: not the kind of thing one will find in the local library :-D
  6. The 'mediocrities' comment is Trevor Wilson - Myriad Faces of War (I think) is the source.
  7. Stonker

    Stonker On ROPs

    Coo, thanks

    I'll look again, to see if it does feature in Shephard's select bibliography - it doesn't ring a bell, but that means nothing.

    It's probably asking a bit much, bit if you have a copy at your elbow, it would be nice to get 100% confirmation/denial of yr suspicion, before I call off the dogs.

    Much appreciated
  8. Stonker,

    I suggest you send an email/letter to the author care of the publishing company and include your email address. My first hand experience is that many an author is happy to reply to queries.


  9. Stonker

    Stonker On ROPs

    Many thanks for the advice
  10. He can, but I can check which of Wilson's books it is in by the simple expedient of looking at the ones on my bookshelves in my office, or by nipping down to the library for the one that I don't have here, and all by 1530hrs and without the cost of a stamp...
  11. Stonker

    Stonker On ROPs

    Which library is that? There's not a single book of his anywhere in my county library system !!

    You're a kind man - whatever they say behind your back: your assistance is genuinely much appreciated.
  12. Staff College. DS can have their uses (even us civvy ones)...

    It must be Myriad Faces, which is the one I don't have in the office,so on my way there now.
  13. Stonker

    Stonker On ROPs

    Well - I am glad they've extended the library catalogue since moving from Camberley :wink:
  14. 'Mediocrities' - Trevor Wilson, Myriad Faces of War, p.576.

    'the army is now composed of representatives ...' Haig diary entry for 2 Jan 18. It's on P.370 of the Bourne & Sheffield edited war diaries, but I think this came out after Shephard's book, so you're looking at it being the Blake edition of Haig's papers - in which case, it's p.277.
  15. Stonker

    Stonker On ROPs

    Thanx for that - any chance of you transcribing the full text of Wilson's paragraph on "medicroities' (how's that for cheeky?) to tide me over till I get my hands on the book, and have time to read it?

    For what it is worth, and since you are Staff College lecturer here's why I am interested,

    I have long nursed a (dodgy) hypothesis that, that it was junior leaders in the BEF of 1916-18 - predominantly 'volunteer', only in 'for the duration', still fundamentally 'civilians-in-uniform' and therefore more questioning and innovative than their regular counterparts/predecessors, who evolved from the bottom-up the war-winning approach to fighting that saw us to victory, and whilst I am sure that there is some truth in it, I am not sure how far one can push the point, even given the abject failure of the Regular Army to capitalise and build on WW1 experience between the wars.

    It leads on to an hypothesis that it is in the tribal culture of our Army to dislike imaginative thinkers, and therefore it struggles to adapt as rapidly as it might to the demands of the ever-evolving situation in which it operates (unlike the Yanks, who - however slow they may have been to get round to it in Iraq, have - in a very short time period - made an an astonishing change to their collective mindset, the like of which repeatedly defeats the much smaller brit Army (c.f. the abject failure of the Mission Command idea)

    Any thoughts?