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Field Marshal Earl Haig (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) Paperback – 3 Mar 2003
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Biography of a deeply controversial general: Douglas Haig, commander of the British Army in France 1915-18
About the Author
Philip Warner served in the Far East and was a senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He is the author of many books, including biographies of Kitchener, Auchinleck and Horrocks and histories of the First and Second World Wars.
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To answer the other reviewers question the officer who beat Haig in 1912, General James Grierson,another Scot, died on a train in 1914 before the BEF had even come into action. Grierson may have been a better general than Haig, and that is a very big 'may' since he saw no action. Grierson won because he used air reconaissance, which untill 1912 Haig did not take very seriously.
As with all of his mistakes Haig never made this one again, becoming a convert to air power, Trenchard and Salmond being amung his closest advisors.
My only major gripe with this book is that Warner makes too much of this incident. What general has not been beaten in an exercise? In fact to be beaten is often more important to a commander's learning curve, as he knows what mistakes he has made. Haig had to learn the hard way about aircraft, but he learned the lesson. A similar system is used by the US Army at their large exercise area at Fort Irwin where the Oposing Forces always initialy beat the units sent to train there. To make so much of one blemish, which may have been in the long term beneficial, on an officer's carrer is to blow the incident out of all proportion.
However this is only a minor falt, and I would reccomend this book as an introduction to Haig, followed by Neilland's Great War Generals on the Western Front. The more serious student should follow up with Terraine's work and the collection of essays edited by Brian Bond and Nigel Cave - Haig: A Reappraisal 70 Years On.
The author goes to great lengths to point out the strategic beginnings of the colossal battles at the Somme and Passchendaele, and how Haig was caught between loyalty to his own subordinates, and an obligation to defer the ultimate decisions to the French Generals. Warner purposefully seeks to offer alternatives to Haig's chosen strategies, and it must be noted that (for the most part) he discovers very little in such a field.
In short, the author argues that whilst Haig did make strategic errors, his own achievements in the great victory of 1918 deserve serious attention to detail, as does Haig, as man thrust into limelight to command an army of great proportions, never before seen in the vast, intricate history of the British Armed Services.
A recommended read for anyone interested in British (or Great War) military history.
My only slight problem were that some of the Illustrations could have been a little more clear & sometimes the titles of the people involved can be confusing (although the author does explain these in some sections)
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