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A masterful analysis of Haig's military career,
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This review is from: Douglas Haig:The Educated Soldier (Cassell) (Paperback)
John Terraine was regarded by the late Richard Holmes as the finest First World War historian of all, and this book shows us why. As with all the greatest historians, Terraine has such a firm over-view of his subject-matter, that he can make even the most complex seem straight-forward, and this 500 page book is a surprisingly easy read.
We are taken through Haig's military career, first in Egypt and South Africa, then as an Edwardian staff officer, and in no time we are into the First World War. Initially the British were very much subordinate to the French, and had to fight battles (Loos and the Somme) on battlefields and at times not of their own choosing. Despite the numerous attempts of Lloyd-George to get rid of Haig, and when this wasn't possible to undermine and discredit him, we see him building up a vast well-equipped and trained army, confidently pressing on to victory in 1918. In showing Haig variously placating and confronting French generals and British politicians, we are given an insight into why the war proceeded as it did.
Terraine is not one to gloss over Haig's weaknesses, and in particular his faith in Chartaris, as head of intelligence, and Gough in 1917 in the Flanders Offensive. But Terraine believes that the allied victories in the summer and autumn of 1918 were among the most decisive in modern history, and were of Haig's doing. Postwar, Haig was philosophical as the newly re-elected Lloyd-George seldom missed an opportunity to vindictively belittle his achievements and to deny him public office. Haig dedicated himself to setting up the British Legion to help the soldiers who had fought for him, and their families.
There is a gulf between popular perceptions of Haig (in the 1990s the Daily Express launched an unsuccessful campaign to have the statue of him removed from Whitehall) and the scholarship of military historians, many of whom hold him in high regard. Those who only know about Douglas Haig from "Oh What a Lovely War" and "Blackadder Goes Forth" will, if they can overcome their prejudices, find this wonderful book a revelation