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Thread: Your opinions on Field Marshal Haig

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    Actus Reus Senior Contributor sparten's Avatar
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    Your opinions on Field Marshal Haig

    We have been discussing General MacArthur on another thread. So, how about proffering up your opinions on another controversial general, Douglas Haig.

    He has been criticized by many for his military strategy and the losses they caused (First Day on the Somme, Ypres etc).
    Indeed some have called him a "donkey leading the lions." However, others have been far more kinder to the Field Marshal. Pershing even said that he was the main reason for the allied victory. Opinions please.
    "Any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality." ~ George William Russell

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparten
    We have been discussing General MacArthur on another thread. So, how about proffering up your opinions on another controversial general, Douglas Haig.

    He has been criticized by many for his military strategy and the losses they caused (First Day on the Somme, Ypres etc).
    Indeed some have called him a "donkey leading the lions." However, others have been far more kinder to the Field Marshal. Pershing even said that he was the main reason for the allied victory. Opinions please.
    Butcher of the highest order. Don't know that I have much more to say about the guy.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Officer of Engineers
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    Pershing wasn't in theatre long enough to judge. Donkey leading lions is correct. Haig was a biggot against Dominion troops, especially when Dominion Generals outshined him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers
    Pershing wasn't in theatre long enough to judge. Donkey leading lions is correct. Haig was a biggot against Dominion troops, especially when Dominion Generals outshined him.
    Haig's reward for butchering the flower of British and Commonwealth youth was a peerage and a huge cash deposit from Parliament.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Actus Reus Senior Contributor sparten's Avatar
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    Lets not forget Indian Troops shall we.
    Fighting for a freedom they themselves did not enjoy.
    "Any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality." ~ George William Russell

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    Actus Reus Senior Contributor sparten's Avatar
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    Haig: A Re-appraisal 70 Years on
    Brian Bond, Nigel Cave
    An interesting read, for all those who seek to demean Haig, unjustly.

    While, I can agree with the critisms regarding Haigs blunders, I think the media image of the man as callous and incompetent is unfair. And this from a lad who had a g. grandfather who was there on the First Day of the Somme.
    "Any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality." ~ George William Russell

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    Too many disasters not to be otherwise. The man never learned from his mistakes.

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    Actus Reus Senior Contributor sparten's Avatar
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    That can be said of all (or almost all) WWI Generals who commanded an Army or higher, (Joffe, French).

    I am not claiming he was a genius, a Wellington or an early version on Monty, just that he gets a lot more bad press than he deserved.
    "Any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality." ~ George William Russell

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    Banned Defense Professional Bluesman's Avatar
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    I posted this waaaay back there in November 26 last year:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bluesman
    I, for one, believe the Allied Generals on the Western Front (leaving out the Levantine, African, and other fronts) were incredibly bad.

    My best example of the evidence to that effect would be The Somme, mentioned above. If it becomes apparent after no more than two hours into the Big Attack That Breaks 'Em and Wins The War has produced no breakthough but multiple major manuever units have been destroyed (and that WAS apparent in that time), then you friggin' STOP IT. Even if you believe - with no evidence to support your belief, just the calculations of theorists using models of artillery-versus-trenches - that perhaps you were meeting the dying remnants of a broken and shattered enemy line, and One More Division For Just One More Hour will see the decision in your favor...

    One thing you'd be aware of was your own casualties, even in the broad sense, and not exact numbers or a precise roll call of the dead and wounded. THAT would be enough, after the first two hours, to make the call. It didn't work, sir, and you've broken your own army. You may believe what you like about the enemy, and although hope over evidence is telling you he's hurt as bad as we are...but we have been defeated. STOP IT NOW.

    My cat could've managed that battle better.
    I still hold that opinion.

    I remember a short series on PBS called "Gwynne Dyer On War". It had some good points and one of the ones I thought was excellent had Dyer holding up a large photograph of a bunch of military officers. He said, "This is a picture of the British Imperial General Staff in 1914. These men aren't evil. Some of them aren't even stupid."

    But his implication that some WERE was spot-on. Haig was a great example of that.

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    Actus Reus Senior Contributor sparten's Avatar
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    Should he not be judged by the standards of his time? And by his achievements? He did win the war, eventually. German casualties were not far behind him anyway.

    Perhaps the fault lies with the pyche of the times. No real war for 99 years (Crimea and Franco-Prussian Affair xcepting),this ended up with Mons being fought with tactics more in place for Waterloo, a few miles and a hundred years prior. People did not learn, the US Civil War had proved that frontal charges against rifled muskets were dangerous to say the least. Against machine-guns, well........

    I have never been a fan of Haig, having listened about the Somme, first hand from my great grand father, a man who had seen a fair share of war both before and after. However, his press is less than what he deserved. He did a better job than French, certainly a better one than Joffe.
    "Any relations in a social order will endure if there is infused into them some of that spirit of human sympathy, which qualifies life for immortality." ~ George William Russell

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    In defence of him you have to examine the resources available. On the one hand you have (for the time) extremely effective rifles and machine guns to defend fortified positions but on the other you have no manouverability, no fast transport or cavalry worth a damn. This will always lead either to stalemate or a war of attrition and as the politicians were unable to accept stalemate a bloodbath ensued.
    Having said that the slowness with which Haig adopted the idea of local commanders knowing a clear objective, and I mean right down to corporal level, was absurd. Units would quickly loose their officers and have no idea what their objective was.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Officer of Engineers
    Pershing wasn't in theatre long enough to judge. Donkey leading lions is correct. Haig was a biggot against Dominion troops, especially when Dominion Generals outshined him.
    It was also more politically expedient to 'spend' Dominion troops as he wouldn't be getting questions from English politicians about loses.

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    Haig had no imagination, when the situation required it. He was an ordinary general, who couldn't come up with any new ideas. The Germans tried a lot of different things, and had the few superb military strategists in that war. Mackensen, Ludendorf, even Falkenhyen (not sure if I spelled their names correctly or not), who's strategy didn't work but it was worth a shot, were far better generals than Haig. Brusilov was the one allied general (Russian) who seemed to be more than merely competent, and by the time he got a chance to shine, the Russian army was starting to come apart.

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    Let's face it. World War I was essentially fought with the same tactics used during the American Civil War, some 40 years later.
    Massed infantry charges against fortified positions. It boggles the mind...
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Quote Originally Posted by lwarmonger
    Haig had no imagination, when the situation required it. He was an ordinary general, who couldn't come up with any new ideas. The Germans tried a lot of different things, and had the few superb military strategists in that war. Mackensen, Ludendorf, even Falkenhyen (not sure if I spelled their names correctly or not), who's strategy didn't work but it was worth a shot, were far better generals than Haig. Brusilov was the one allied general (Russian) who seemed to be more than merely competent, and by the time he got a chance to shine, the Russian army was starting to come apart.
    It is a little unfair to compare allied generals on the western front with german generals as other than the beginning of the war and a couple of months in 1918 the Germans were on the strategic defensive at a period in history when military technology heavily favoured the defense.
    I myself generally lean towards the opinions espoused by sparten and parihaka, funny when you think I too come from a country whose troops were used somewhat roughly by the British general staff.

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