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Senior Airman
Apr 16, 2006
Sorry if this has been disscussed before

Haig, highly skilled leader or a butcher of brave men?
lesofprimus said:
Both... Reminds me of a turn of the century Georgie Patton....
Patton was a good General don't insult the man by calling Haig a turn of the century Patton the only reason Haig hung on was because he was a buddy of the King
I think that Haig was a good leader but his tactics were out of date and didn't fit a modern war. Those out of date tactics lead to the massive loss of life on the Somme.
Aurthur Currie though was a man's general, and he led from the front. He had a good head for a situation and had no time at all for bullshit. He didn't mind telling his superiors, including Haig, exactly what he thought. He didn't callously throw men's lives away either.
Love the siggy NS..... Much better than hussars, BUT......

You only get a few drops rather than opening the whole can....


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Think Lloyd George wanted to replace Haig at the end of 1917 but didn't have anyone better to put in his place. Something of a backhanded compliment but it does say a lot.
A very old thread, lacking in any substance, so I will provide some.
The key issue is the question of how the British army changed its operations as it pursued victory, and how it did so with such success that by the war's final months it was able to routinely defeat the German army on the field of battle. Haig is never given the credit for this. I will quote the Australian historian Albert Palazzo.

"The British proved to be talented adaptors to the demands of modern warfare and throughout the conflict their trenches seethed with practical experimentation and intellectual fervour. However, these activities did not occur in a vacuum. Instead, the British modified their methods of waging war within an objective driven structure which their principles of war defined and which their ethos disseminated throughout the institution."

"The key requirement before the infantry could assault with any chance of success was the attainment of an advantage in firepower capability that favoured the attacker over the defender. The enormous firepower of the weapons which the defence possessed on the western front made attempts at attaining this fire superiority more difficult, more prolonged, and even more essential. To create the required relationship the British embarked on a lengthy program of offensive action in order to wear down the defender's fire power. Haig and his generals focused on three elements: the attainment of an advantage in morale, the pursuit of the means to maneuver, and the development of superior techniques in the application of firepower. Their success in these areas contributed to the collapse of the German army's military effectiveness and resulted in the British victories that ended the war... Despite their dedication to their objective, the British never did succeed in achieving the decisive battle, at least not within the terms of their prewar expectations. The opportunity never came about for Haig to direct the cavalry onto the German lines of communications, which would have converted the enemy's defeat into a rout that would have won the war in an afternoon. At times he did come close, such as during the rapid advances undertaken by the light tanks during the Battle of Amiens, but the mobile forces of the time simply did not have the ability to maneuver against the firepower of a comparable opponent in the midst of a withdrawal. However, the British were able to modify their expectations of a decisive battle as they had modified other aspects of their principles, as when they redefined the struggle for fire superiority in temporal terms more suited for the realities of World War 1 rather than those of the Napoleonic era. In the war's closing months, assisted by her allies, Britain repeatedly attacked the enemy and drove the Germans back toward the Rhine. Each round led to a progressing weakening of the enemy so that by November the German army was impotent and had no choice but to request peace and accept the opponent's terms, despite the onerous conditions. Neither the failure of Versailles to result in lasting peace, nor the German army's success in establishing its 'stab in the back' legend should detract from the reality that Britain had defeated Germany on the field of battle. Haig may never have had the opportunity to fulfill the prewar image of a decisive battle but he had certainly orchestrated a decisive victory."

He had indeed, and it is for that which he should be remembered.


We see post war historians give varied accounts of Haig but his own soldiers were supportive of him working for the Haig Fund and the British Legion to aid ex soldiers.

Whatever his competence he was placed in charge by the government and charged with removing the German army from France and Belgium and to support the French. What was he to do other than prosecute the war entered into by his democratically elected government? ---------+

There were times in WW2 that fighting became just like WW1 trench warfare, especially when aircraf and tanks could not be brought to bear.
There has been a re-appraisal of the performance of British leadership and the performance of the British armies in NW Europe in the last twenty years or so. It has substantially revised the 'lions led by donkeys' historiography. Some individuals were less than brilliant, some showed obvious shortcomings, some were patently incompetent but overall the British military command was quick to adapt to and adopt new systems and technologies and apply them to the battlefield. It was also far more conscious and careful of losses than the old historiography would have us believe. Palazzo is not the only historian to write along these lines, there are several others, Tim Travers work on Haig would be recommended as would Trevor Wilson's (another Aussie). On a slightly different subject I would also suggest Robin Prior's re-assessment of the Gallipoli landings.
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I referred to Prior's work on Gallipoli. I can't remember the title, I read it shortly after publication a few years ago, nor can I find the damned book, it's something like 'the end of a myth'. He is not at all complimentary about any aspect of the campaign and essentially argues that it was a waste of lives. His opinion of Haig and the British leadership differs from the others I mentioned, but then there are always two sides to an argument.

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