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This review is from: Douglas Haig and the First World War (Cambridge Military Histories) (Paperback)
As part of the MA in British First World War studies at the University of Birmingham I reviewed this book and to do so read it twice - it'll be read again in due course as it offers a balanced and detailed assessment of the man rather than the attention seeking polemics written in the 1960s. That said, I'd still like to see Haig's statue remived and his hereditary title taken from his offspring. The unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands lie squarely on his shoulders - his obstinancy and desire for establishment position drove him, not the welfare of his men.
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Initial post: 12 Jan 2014 07:40:51 GMT
oh dear oh dear. we're back with the hackneyed clichés of yesteryear. For the avoidance of doubt, it was the Central Powers which killed the men of the BEF, not their own Field Marshall. The German Empire possessed the best and one of the largest armies in the world. It is inconceivable that she could have been defeated without suffering and inflicting mass causalities. Anyone fought Germany 1914-45 suffered mass casualties, in every single theatre. The claim that somehow Britain's position was unique and that therefore this must be Haig's fault is lazy thinking.
Again, for the avoidance of doubt, 1914-18 saw any attacking general having to wrestle with exceptional problems: no portable radios, lack of portable machine guns, superiority of defensive weaponry, huge advances in the technology around artillery, the development of an all arms battle, advances in airpower, abundance of barbed wire etc. The fact that the generals of the British Empire eventually overcame these problems and defeated an exceptional foe without their army collapsing (unlike Italy, Russia, Austria Hungary, France and the Ottoman Empire) suggests that Haig was not quite as culpable as you suggest.
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 09:45:51 GMT
Jonathan F. Vernon says:
Robinson would have spared a few hundred thousand? Whether or not he was the victor there is a side to Haig's personality that is distasteful, stubborn and even blind. Or was the view amongst leaders universal that losses of men as well as shells was a numbers game and little if no regard was given to their suffering - that that was their lot?
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2014 12:24:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Jan 2014 12:43:53 GMT
Thanks for the response btw. It's always nice to discuss these things with people who are genuinely interested and I like that you have the courage of your convictions to put your real name (and indeed photo) on amazon.
I am sure that there was a side to Haig's personality which was distasteful. Soldiering is about killing people. For someone to reach the top of their profession, when that profession is about the killing of others and indeed about having to order your own men into danger, then it's likely that the individual has some distasteful elements. That does not place responsibility for 100s of 1000s of deaths squarely on Haig's shoulders. If you can think of a way in which the German empire could have been overthrown without mass deaths then you are a better man than anyone who held a senior position in any of the British, French, US, Russian/ Soviet high commands at any point from 1914-1945.
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jan 2014 10:12:39 GMT
Jonathan F. Vernon says:
The historian Liddell Hart saw command in the individual, not as managerial role and took issue with John Terraine on the way Haig was portrayed so much so that he quit the TV Series 'The Great War' and wrote an open letter to The Times (According to Hew Strachan says Keith Grieves in Bond (ed) The First World War and British Military History (1991:53). We have to hold our leaders responsible for the orders and actions they take - then as now. I don't doubt that without exception the leaders on all sides were sending men to their deaths in a way that we find obnoxious a century later.
In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2014 11:28:24 BDT
that maybe so, but then how to win the war?
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