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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive work
Unfortunately, despite extensive modern research, Haig seems doomed to be remembered as the comedy-villain as depicted in 'Blackadder', with Geoffrey Palmer casually sweeping toy soldiers off his battle map into a dustpan. This collection of essays delves into the many aspects of Haig, including his command style, his relationship with his officers, his allies and the...
Published 24 days ago by johann28

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13 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still Vague On Haig
The British Army in the First World War were characterised as "lions led by donkeys". The softly spoken, taciturn, Douglas Hague, has long been considered to be one of the donkeys. He has been vilified as an inept and incompetent commander who showed callous disregard for the lives of his soldiers, sending tens of thousands of them to useless deaths with outdated tactics...
Published on 1 Mar 2009 by Neutral


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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive work, 6 Aug 2014
By 
johann28 (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Haig: A Re-appraisal 80 Years on (Paperback)
Unfortunately, despite extensive modern research, Haig seems doomed to be remembered as the comedy-villain as depicted in 'Blackadder', with Geoffrey Palmer casually sweeping toy soldiers off his battle map into a dustpan. This collection of essays delves into the many aspects of Haig, including his command style, his relationship with his officers, his allies and the ordinary 'Tommy' as well as his post-war work, founding what we now know as the Royal British Legion. Emerging from this book is of course a very different man from the one with which we are familiar - someone neither callous nor indifferent to battle casualties, hence Haig's opposition to continuing the war into 1919. We learn too that Haig was neither a 'reactionary cavalryman' or a 'technophobe' and that, in 1918, Haig's victories were achieved through the use of combined infantry/tank/aircraft offensives that left the Germans baffled.That being said, the book is does not seek to eulogise Haig, merely to place him in historical context, and treat him a character deserving of serious, unprejudiced study. The mistakes that led to the tragedy on the first day of the Somme are explained in detail, as is Haig's tactical and strategic plan for the Passchendaele offensive (where, the book concludes, his greatest mistake was his dismissal of General Plumer, the most able man who had won victory at Messines Ridge with minimal casualties). All in all an impressive, necessary work.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First class anthology, 21 Feb 2009
By 
Chris Baker "The Long, Long Trail man" (Leamington Spa, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Haig: A Re-appraisal 80 Years on (Paperback)
If you have any interest in the British conduct of the war, this is a vital book for your collection. First published ten years ago and now in a welcome paperback reprint, it is an anthology of scholarly research and fine writing from some of the world's leading historians of the Great War.

As the title suggests, the fourteen papers that make up the book are centred on that most enigmatic and frustrating of soldiers, Sir Douglas Haig. The general stance is unambigious and clearly stated: the authors set out to refute the many myths, untruths and misunderstandings about Haig that for many make him the Devil Incarnate. And they do so with masterly skill, drawing upon a broad range of primary sources and making objective, balanced judgements.

The opening paper, by Dr John Bourne of the University of Birmingham, expresses his depression that arises from the apparent failure of such scholarly work to dislodge the popular view of Haig as a dull, remote, unfeeling butcher of men. The mythology, founded on press disenchantment late in the war, David Lloyd George's scurrilous "War memoirs", the 1960's class-war pacificism of the musical "Oh what a lovely war" and countless "sound bite" repetitions in books and TV since then, now has deep roots. If John was depressed in 1999, he surely will be today, for despite another decade of excellent research and characterisation of Haig, the man-on-the-street view seems unchanged.

You would be hard pressed to find as strong and engaging a collection of work as this in any historical field - and for the price of the paperback it is a steal. The papers by John Hussey, Ian Beckett, David Woodward, Keith Grieves and Stephen Badsey are, in my opinion, particularly strong and cover Haig as a man, his relationships with his predecessor Sir John French, the CIGS Sir William Robertson, the Asquith and Lloyd George Governments and the press. Haig is shown throughout to be a strong, steady, rational leader but his weaknesses and foibles are also ruthlessly exposed. Nigel Cave's work on Haig, his religion and and his lionisation by the British Legion is also novel and offers another insight into how the Haig myths developed. The writing remains fresh and relevant; John Peaty's paper on Haig and military discipline has been to a large extent been overtaken by events (the pardons of those men executed under military law), but even that is a weighty statement as to Haig's position on this and the arguments against pardons.

This is a first class work and strongly recommended.
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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential work., 21 Mar 2010
This review is from: Haig: A Re-appraisal 80 Years on (Paperback)
This is an essential work for anyone interested in building up from divergent viewpoints a picture the evolution of Douglas Haig as a soldier and as a man. Its merits of approach and scope are discussed in my comment on the unsustainably negative Amazon customer review by the poorly informed Haig iconoclast, 'Clio'.
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13 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still Vague On Haig, 1 Mar 2009
By 
Neutral "Phil" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Haig: A Re-appraisal 80 Years on (Paperback)
The British Army in the First World War were characterised as "lions led by donkeys". The softly spoken, taciturn, Douglas Hague, has long been considered to be one of the donkeys. He has been vilified as an inept and incompetent commander who showed callous disregard for the lives of his soldiers, sending tens of thousands of them to useless deaths with outdated tactics on a war front he never personally visited during his time as commander of the British Expeditionary Forces.

This view was quickly established after the conflict. The military historian Basil Liddell-Hart (who only saw seven weeks of active service) lambasted him, as did Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George whose self serving memoirs were designed to reduce their own culpability for the military failure as blame fell on Haig and his generation who had entered the army when cavalry was still king.

This view was epitomised in Joan Littlewood's Oh What a Lovely War which made a major impact on popular culture in the anti-war years of the 1960's and continued by the character "General Melchett" in the Blackadder television series. In 1998 there was a campaign led by the Daily Express to have Haig's statue removed from Whitehall.

This book is unapologetically "pro Haig". Its contributors consider Haig has been unfairly treated. The general tone of the various contributors is that Haig has been misunderstood as a person and his decisions taken out of their historical context. The latter led John Peaty to oppose the rehabilitation of the 306 soldiers shot for "cowardice and desertion" on the grounds that it was the order of the day and maintained military discipline. Thankfully between the first and second editions of this book justice was finally done.

Haig was no innocent. He disliked the French - whose army was as divided as the nation itself - and considered his first loyalty was to the British army, not its allies. He also believed the British army won the war despite the efforts of the politicians to lose it. Haig liked the unanimity of military decision making and assumed the British public was fully behind its troops. He was political enough to save his own skin at the expense Sir William Robertson.

J P Harris defends Haig against the charge that, as a cavalry officer, he under-used the tank while several other contributors concluded of the British Expeditionary Force that there was no alternative to the tactics used which were applied in accordance with the information available at the time rather than with the benefit of hindsight.

As a re-appraisal the book serves Haig well. While it may knock the rougher edges off the unfair criticism of previous generations it leaves a lot to be desired in re-establishing the reputation of a military leader incapable of thinking beyond his time and place. A time and place that left millions dead.
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10 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Revisionist History of Haig, 22 Aug 2009
This review is from: Haig: A Re-appraisal 80 Years on (Paperback)
Brian Bond writes with blinders on. His revised edition has corrected errors in numbers of casualties, in the Vietnam War, for instance. But, he is adept at taking snippet quotes of, say, historian John Keegan, and turning it into a whitewashed revisionist position. Keegan, for instance, did NOT say that the best military leaders occurred during the Great War, as Bond implies. Keegan DID say, "On the Somme he (Haig) had sent the flower of British youth to death or mutilation; at Passchendaele he had tipped the survivors into the slough of despond." (John Keegan: "The First World War," p. 393). Bond is as flighty on facts as was Douglas Haig a liar about his.

Brian Bond is, after all, one of the new 21st century's revisionist historians, who, despite showing some merit here in examining some of the television and movie interpretations of the Great War, whines on consistently about the high moral leadership of the inept and self-righteous Haig, whilst undercutting more serious research/historians who have gathered the facts and presented them in a methodical way.

"Chateaux General" Haig never bothered to visit the forward field hospitals, speak to survivors as they came out of battle, or question the intelligence estimates which his fawning underlings gave him. As a result of the Battle of the Somme, Haig should be remembered as the greatest serial murderer in British twentieth-century history; guilty of the crime of stubbornness. This man was personally responsible for the slaughter of the cream of the British population, the new volunteer army that had been raised.

Brian Bond's Haigiography testifies to the power of British patriotism and loyalty into which, as a British general, Haig tapped. Bond's defense of Haig's asininity horsed cavalry convictions is only exceeded by defense of Haig when he was faced by the evidence that his major push into the Somme had failed...and let's not forget his deceit and outright lies to the British government and public in covering up the enormity of that failure. Brian Bond omits how Haig and his headquarter staffs concealed and ignored British casualties, while reporting only the numbers of enemy troops captured!

Bond ignores the fact that, by retrospectively changing the purpose of his non-battle plan, Haig was able to avoid disgrace or dismissal....it was brilliant strategy for keeping his position...but which squandered the lives of British and Commonwealth soldiers...it was, in essence, a most elaborate perversion of historical truth.

Bond's 101 page diatribe (I omit his 5 page self-congratulation in being part of the Lees Knowles Lectures, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the main thesis of his book) of glossed-over facts, and poor research, is quickly read and poorly researched. Don't waste your time or money. He is the archetype of revisionist history.
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6 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why is there an effort to rehabilitate this awful man?, 20 Nov 2009
By 
Michael J. Brett "Michael Brett" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Haig: A Re-appraisal 80 Years on (Paperback)
He was a man of his time, trained to run a British Army that was a colonial gendarmerie and little prepared for dealing with an organisation like the German Army. He was well-networked, was a personal friend of the Duke of Cambridge and over-promoted.

The casualty lists tell their own story.

Passchendaele and the Somme Disaster were one thing on the first day, but the insistence of continuing to send men into a swamp after the artillery had destroyed all the land drains, in Northern Europe where it rains a lot, was unforgiveable.

Winter, in Haig's Command, has him rewriting his memoirs to coordinate them with a fictionalised Official History which is supported by the wholesale burning of unit records.

It is often said that he was popular with his troops.

However, many of these would have been people of their time, incredibly deferential and unquestioning, and without the sort of endless news and analysis that we receive 24 hours a day. Many had never been educated beyond contemporary Board School levels. and were from backgrounds so poor that to be given a headstone by the War Graves Commission would have represented a move up in the world.

On a personal note, an old friend of mine, long dead, was in the RA in France. One day they were sitting beside a lonely road alone with their gun and limber. A staff car pulled up. Haig and aides climbed out, had lunch on a collapsible table. My friend Bill said it would have bucked them up no end, had he come to speak to them. They sat and ate for half an hour, totalling ignoring these men, then drove off.
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5 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars reinventing the past, 8 Mar 2010
This review is from: Haig: A Re-appraisal 80 Years on (Paperback)
Intelligently structured book selected and assembled by an self-confessed fan (note the glowing review from a fellow member of the 'Haig Fellowship' on this page). The contributions within this work provide a compelling - if skewed - mosaic portrait of our General. Pity that the central thesis lacks the slightest vestige of credibility. Haig was a lousy general seventy years ago and seventy years on, most of us still regard him as a lousy general. Maybe we visit places like Serre No 2 Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery and see the all-too-apparent evidence of Haig's generalship that the more roll-eyed revisionists either can't or won't see.
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Haig: A Re-appraisal 80 Years on by Nigel Cave (Paperback - 15 Jan 2009)
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