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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The truth can be hard to find.
It's interesting how demographics correlate to public opinion. When the "boom" generation were younger, they were very taken with Alan Clark's "Donkeys" and what it revealed of the incredible stupidity of much of the high command in WWI. Now they are reaching retirement age, the age of complacency one might say, the wheel has turned at least half circle and we find the...
Published 9 months ago by Generalist

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Manufactured Fraud
This is an appallingly unbalanced and dishonest book, that has been long been discredited by well founded research. Winter claimed to have found new evidence in the Australian War Memorial archives to support his pre-conceived views on Haig. Professor Jeffery Grey at ADFA checked the sources Winter quoted and found some didn't exist, some were quoted out of context...
Published on 7 Sept. 2012 by Robbo


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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Manufactured Fraud, 7 Sept. 2012
By 
This is an appallingly unbalanced and dishonest book, that has been long been discredited by well founded research. Winter claimed to have found new evidence in the Australian War Memorial archives to support his pre-conceived views on Haig. Professor Jeffery Grey at ADFA checked the sources Winter quoted and found some didn't exist, some were quoted out of context (leaving out the portions that did not support Winter's views), some had been run together so as give a misleading view, and he changed the dates of others to distort an issue. Grey called it 'a manufactured fraud.' The book destroyed Winter's career as an historian, and it is regarded as a joke amongst serious students of the Great War.

To give one example of his poor scholarship and deceit: Winter states Haig is a liar by saying he graduated first in his class from Sandhurst, citing there are no records available to substantiate Haig's claim. In an article written subsequently, someone went to Sandhurst and accessed Haig's cadet reports, which showed that he did graduate first: top marks and received the equivalent of the sword given to the top graduate.

It might be a great read to some, but it is largely fiction. There are many better books on Haig:
Andrew Wiest, "Haig: The Evolution of a Commander", this is a short overview written by an American historian with no axe to grind, and would be a good place to start.
Walter Reid, "Haig: The Architect of Victory",
John Terraine, "Douglas Haig: The Educated Soldier",
Gary Mead, "Haig: The Good Soldier",
Gary Sheffield, "The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army"
Tavish Davidson, "Haig: Master of the Field."
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Methinks the author doth protest too much, 22 Aug. 2010
By 
L. E. Cantrell (Vancouver, British Columbia Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
These are the opening words of this book:

"Until the 1960s, Britain's contribution to the Great War seemed clearcut, the roles of her chief players generally accepted.

"Haig campaigned consistently for concentration of effort against Germany's main army....

"When it came to actual fighting, the traditional view was that Haig had pounded the Germans with a string of attrition battles, worn them down and in the end won that sweeping victory he always predicted." [Page 1]

That "traditional view," now there's the rub. Anyone coming to ths book about the First World War with no more knowledge than that imparted in the half hour or so devoted to it in high school history classes might actually believe Winter's implication that Field-Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC (1861-1928), has a military reputation of sufficient luster to justify a scholar mounting an all-out attack against it in the name of truth. Those who know a little bit more about the man and the war, tend to treat Winter's self-proclaimed crusade with something very like a snort of derision--as may be seen from the negative reviews to be found right here in both Amazon UK and US.

That Haig is not enrolled upon the list of history's great captains is hardly news. B. H. Liddel Hart was making mincemeat of Haig's accomplishments back in the 1930s and the memory of the First Lord Haig has not exactly been overwhelmed by the number and warmth of his defenders since then.

Whatever Winter's original outlook and intention might have been, it is clear that by the time he came to write this book, he despised Haig and all his works. Winter never gives Haig the benefit of a doubt: Haig was always wrong in whatever he set his hand to and any or all of his actions can be analyzed as a combination of self-serving careerism, general stupidity and pig-headed rigidity.

Winter is always delighted to quote negative remarks made about Haig by his brother officers.

Monash, Commander of the Australian Corps: "Haig was, technically speaking, quite out of his depth in regard to the minutiae of the immense resources which were placed in his hands. I was at first quite dismayed to find that he obviously did not know in detail the composition of his formations.... On a later occasion in 1918, he appeared to blunder badly and be out of touch with the details of the situation when he came to discuss with me how best to exploit the great victory of 8 August before Amiens." [Page 163]

Edmonds, the official historian of the war: "Haig knew nothing about infantry or engineers and could not understand artillery." [Page 163]

Morton, one of the Field Marshal's ADCs: Haig had an "utter dislike of new ideas." [Page 163]

Readers familiar with the voluminous and bilious writings that followed the American Civil War will tend to take such ex post facto stabs and digs with a grain of salt.

Winter does not limit himself to blackguarding Haig at second hand. Often enough, he speaks in his own voice:

"Thus Haig's rapid promotion owed little to proven professional competence and much to good fortune with patrons. Wood, Kitchener and Escher were all men of substance and their support had pushed Haig far ahead of his rivals--but at a price. The frisson of homosexuality attaching to each of his patrons gave ammunition to jealous rivals, all the more because of a strong dislike of women which he made little effort to conceal. As a middle-aged bachelor, Haig realized that he was in a potentially embarrassing position and his marriage must be seen in that context." [Page 33]

"In briefing sessions, Haig always reduced the airing of contrary opinions to a minimum.... These symptoms of a man avoiding situations which might challenge his own rigid conceptions of command were accompanied by a disturbing change in Haig himself. Before the war he seldom went to church, preferring to spend the Sabbath on a golf course.... As soon as he became Commander in Chief, however, a religious dimension appears. God, to be sure, was never mentioned by name, and Haig's denomination seems almost to have been chosen as a result of a particular preacher's good looks, youthful energy and simple sermons...." [Pages 164-165]

To my mind, whatever value this book may have is subverted by the author's evident passions. It may well be that he has assembled useful facts and made valid judgements, but the tone of the book is such that I simply cannot trust them.

Two stars and too bad.
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sadly still pandering to the myopic !, 11 Sept. 2004
By A Customer
The quality of Mr. Winter's research can be best explained by the selective (mis)use of sources. A great example of the approach taken can actually be found on the cover of the book. Here's what a reviewer is meant to have said about the book........
Denis Winter has lobbed a hand grenade into the British historiography of the First World War... This angry attitude makes for vigorous and splendid entertainment... The author's indefatigable exploration of the sources and impassioned presentation of the case for the prosecution should ensure that his study is taken seriously by all future historians of the First World War.
Brian Bond, History Today
The actual quote from the review is as follows..............
[His] angry attitude makes for vigorous and splendid entertainment, but also raises questions about the author's objectivity and judgement... Occasional factual errors and overconfidence in the handling of casualty statistics also raise questions of judgement on larger issues...
Brian Bond, History Today
While this is nothing to do with Mr. Winter.....rather the dishonest practices of a copy writer, the actual approach is one that Mr. Winter uses throughout the book to make his points.
Not an honest attempt at history.........stay away from this one.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Winter seems wilfully ignorant of historic fact, 28 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Haig's Command (Paperback)
Some of the statements made by this author seem to border on the absurd, making Haig's Command more a work of fantasy than History. Any sense of objectivity is completely lacking in what can only be described as a character assassination of a man who has already been unfairly treated history.
Uninformed rubbish.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Seriously flawed, 7 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Haig's Command (Paperback)
IMHO this book is rubbish. An example: part of the evidence on Haig's `failure' with regard to understanding the value of machine guns is a quote from an American major writing on a ship in mid-Atlantic while going on leave. Evidently the man is an expert on the British Army's use of machine guns. [Sarcasm alert] If you examine the late-war TOE of the divisions of the different armies for automatic weapons you will find that Haig had achieved the best ratio of all armies! Even better he had ensured they got Lewis guns so they could carry the weapons forward in the attack. Before WW1 Haig had actually gone to the factory making them during his own vacation time to examine and increase his understanding of the weapon. This typifies the poor work done in substantiating the claims in this book. Winter appears to put everything he can find that is negative about Haig in the book but fails to properly substantiate most of his claims, or try to balance and be objective with the evidence, as has been mentioned elsewhere. Alternative and much better reads are the hagiography by John Terraine - Douglas Haig, the Educated Soldier - or the balanced - The Good Soldier: The Biography of Douglas Haig - by Gary Mead.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Winter seems to be on some sort of personal vendetta, 22 April 2008
This review is from: Haig's Command (Paperback)
Throughout the book Winter is 'out to get his man'. He commonly uses value-judged phrases such as "ponderous lines, advancing like a German machine-gunner's dream." Winter further aleges that the British attack on the Somme cannot be said to be due to the German preasure on Verdun as the numbers of French divisions asigned to the Verdun sector grew in the months leading up to and during the Somme Offensive. However he totally disregards the fact that there was only a single track railway to take troops into the battle area; no matter how many men you have, they make no differance if they cannot be brought into the battle.

However the main criticism of this work is the widespread innacuracies that it contains, such as: (1) Misdating a corespondance by 17 years so it supported his conspiracy claims, (2) Quoting another historian out of context as an endorsement, and (3) Inflating casualty figures.

Winter makes much of his Commonwealth sources which escaped the censor, I therefore find it quite ironic that this work has been disowned by the staff at the Australian War Memorial, Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson (both highly respected Austrailian Historians of the Great War).

Overall the only use of this book to a serious student of the period is for identifying arguments which are to be rejected before moving onto more valid areas of discussion, definitly not a book to be judged by its cover endorsements.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The truth can be hard to find., 28 April 2014
This review is from: Haig's Command (Paperback)
It's interesting how demographics correlate to public opinion. When the "boom" generation were younger, they were very taken with Alan Clark's "Donkeys" and what it revealed of the incredible stupidity of much of the high command in WWI. Now they are reaching retirement age, the age of complacency one might say, the wheel has turned at least half circle and we find the same generation loudly endorsing the nostrums of the Official Histories and book after book tells us what sound chaps Haig and Co. were and how walking into MG fire with 80lbs on your back was quite sound tactically etc. etc.!

Mr. Winter does indeed have an agenda, and FM Haig did when he massaged his diaries or when Gen. Edmonds massaged the official histories. Winter's statement that the German armies were "unbeaten" in the fall of 1918 is utter nonsense, and he is perhaps suffering from a vestigal allegiance to the Fatherland!

That does not mean that much of what else he writes about Haig and his suite of officers is incorrect, so it's rather sad to see latter day blimps rushing to throw the baby out with the bath water.

There are several works by officers who were closely involved in the Tank and Machine Gun Corps (Fuller, Baker-Carr etc) which show quite clearly just how obtuse Haig & Co. were and how they fought tooth and nail against both organizations, even trying to convert part of the Tank Corps to infantry in 1918! While Lloyd George fought to keep men out Haig's meat grinder that was consuming 35,000 men a week, Haig and his suite fought against the technologies that multiplied and even replaced manpower! This is the same Lloyd George who upped the allocation of machine guns per battalion from four to sixty-four on his own initiative in 1915.

The truth lies between the two extremes, but I believe Winter is closer to it than many others.
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11 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Controversial Book, 9 Aug. 2002
By 
E. A. Redfearn "eredfearn2" (Middlesbrough) - See all my reviews
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This is a controversial book in more ways than one. It has left military historians, professional and amateur, divided. General Sir Douglas Haig is perhaps the most controversial general on the Western Front, and also perhaps, the most misunderstood. Denis Winter tries to explore the myth surrounding Haig, particularly his role during the closing months of the war after the great German advance of March 1918. Some of his arguments are not convincing however, since much of the evidence is speculative. Nevertheless, it should be read. You may end up with more questions than answers though.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read!, 5 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Haig's Command (Paperback)
I am not a specialist: however, I don't see how anyone can stand in the vast cemeteries of Northern France and Belgium and-at the same time- be terribly impressed by either the British or French Army commanders of the period.

Clem Attlee, who was a young officer on the Somme, later on said of it something like 'British generals had too many men at their disposal and squandered them accordingly.'

The whole tactic of deploying infantrymen in long waves seems, in itself, to disregard the value of individual troops.

Winter says that the German Army in France was generally outnumbered- by Britain and France- by a factor of four to one up until the March 21st 1918 Offensive, which is a damning statistic if true.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 21 Sept. 2012
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This book, far from being an amateur's work, is elegantly written and the author glances the whole military battles with professionalism.

Sure that the British army at the time was a colonial army, accustomed to colonial warfare and not really prepared (in military leadership and equipment) to face the German army on a continental war.It's size was enormous and full of bureaucracy.The staff officers lived far from the fronts and didn't get the real picture of the battlefields.Also Haig's task required dealing with an insufficient and ill equipped army and an enormous flow of soldiers frequently as unprepared as the officers.

Haig's personality didn't help either. Aloof, not communicative , with unarticulated speech and living far from the front he didn't have the military insight to deal with the subtleness of strategic, tactical and logistical planning that were required.He advocated frontal assaults with infantry and cavalry to well defended enemy lines in the Somme, in spite of the appalling loss of lives right from the start.To proud to renounce to his per-established ideas he persisted with the same mistakes over and over again, in Passchendaele and Cambrai, with deplorable results.He didn't seam to realize or regret the high losses of men as result of his mistakes.

Only the support of the the king and the coward stance of Lloyd George - who wanted to avoid any confrontation with the Royal Family at the time - prevented him from being sacked.Nevertheless, he suffered the ultimate humiliation of being submitted to the command of the French general Foch in 1918 - during the German spring offensive - for the sake of efficiency and competence of command.

After the war he disdainfully knocked down the title of viscount that both the Government and the King wanted to offer him, making a bid of being made an Earl, a title that ultimately he received to avoid embarrassment.Also in the latter stages of his life he was worried about his reputation and allegedly - the author fails to prove that convincingly - altered his war diaries.

A great read for those interested in the Great War.Highly recommended.
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Haig's Command
Haig's Command by Denis Winter (Paperback - 30 Nov. 2004)
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