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on 7 February 2008
Well, this is a tricky one.

On the one hand,the editors are to be congratulated on providing us with the first ever comprehensive-ish volume of Haig's diaries that attempts historical scientific rigour. Consequently, it is a fascinating read - far beyond what one might normally expect of a diary.

On the whole, this is a work that exonerates Haig from the wilder accusations flung at him over the years. For he was, in reality, an educated, intelligent man; a professional soldier and an excellent general officer who was, in many ways, years ahead of his time - he was so good, in fact, that he was obviously several levels above almost all of his contemporaries in tactical and strategic thinking.

And yet... well, of course, this work is Haig's own writing, and so,although there is no great evidence for showmanship and recrafting of events on his part (indeed, this would not be in character), it is nevertheless only one side of the story. And he is also a man of his times, in his bigotries and Victorian piety, and in his adherence to class.

There is a lot to be read between the lines that leads one to ask further questions, not least about the strange dichotomy in Haig's ever-present enthusiasm for 'the breakthrough leading to mobile operations' (upon which much of his love for technology is founded) and his strategic assessment from the very beginning that the war would be one of horrendous attrition, and that victory could only go to the contender who blinked last.

Given that Britain was hardly a massively populated nation, it is hard to see how anyone could suggest that the British would be the victors in such a scenario.

But Haig was right, although his conviction led to an acceptance of human loss that others could not contemplate - this being the source of his spectacular falling out with Lloyd George, although, reading here, one will be amazed to read of the Prime Minister's skulduggery bordering on treason. I always suspected LG to be not entirely as heroic as popular history has painted him, and here, it seems is proof in spades.

So the debate will continue, although surely it must be admitted that no-one else could have done any better, at least. Haig was a first rate soldier trying to do an impossible job with the single aim in mind of defeating his enemy. His only problem really was that no-one (on either side) knew how to execute this mission without killing tens-upon-thousands of men at a time.

I don't think that is Haig's fault.
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on 8 January 2015
The editors have selected passages from Sir Douglas Haig's manuscript war diary, housed in the National Library of Scotland, spanning the period 4 August 1914 to 30 December 1918. The diary passages are supplemented by extracts from a number of Haig's wartime letters to his wife and others. The variations between manuscript passages and Haig's post-war typescript are noted, although purists will regret that the editors have reduced Haig's use of capital letters, pruned many of his exclamation marks and spelled out surnames in the text rather than use explanatory footnotes. The selection is valuable as an indication of Haig's manifold responsibilities as Commander of the British armies on the Western Front: his thoroughness, generally even temperament and sense of democratic accountability (in contrast to the attitude of Sir William Robertson) come through clearly. The selection, however, has clearly been made to showcase these better qualities: passages from the diary showing Haig's less attractive side have been omitted consistently (although an entry from 4 September 1916 (p. 226) reveals Haig's unpleasant habit of judging the effectiveness of an attack by the number of casualties the attacking force sustained). From the perspective of military operations what the selection demonstrates is Haig's remoteness from the battlefield--an occupational hazard when commanding such a large force, but greatly increased by the corresponding remoteness of his army commanders and the interminable and culpable optimism of Brigadier-General John Charteris. In an otherwise competent Introduction, the editors base a favourable judgement of Haig on `[a] cool assessment of all the available evidence', which takes us back to 1922 and George Dewar's grotesque apologia (`long and cool study of the evidence' (George A.B. Dewar assist. Lieut.-Col. J.H. Boraston, Sir Douglas Haig's Command: December 19, 1915, to November 11, 1918, 2 vols. (London: Constable, 1922), I, p. 47). That is polemic, not scholarship.
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on 4 May 2005
The name General Haig certainly arouses great passions to all historians of World War I, many blame him directly for the deaths of millions of our boys on the western front, many of whom were only 14 years old, that he knew underage boys were taking part in active service and turned a blind eye and sent them to an early death, whilst others argue that he was doing a difficult job that was never going to be free from criticism and that we couldn't have won the war without him, whatever the modern reader thinks, here they have the oppurtunity to read his personal diaries and gage his own thoughts and opinions on the situation of the time, what he thought of PM's Asquith and Lloyd George and his close relationship with his No.2 Lord Kitchener, the original diaries fill many many volumes, so complete publication may never be possible, but here you have the nearest thing with a selection of his letters to boot, they are unique in the sense that here we have the diary of a man that was no.1 in the chain of command of WWI. This review is not intended as a judgement on the charachter of Haig, that is something left to you, but whatever your thoughts are, there is no denying it is one of the most interesting reads of a brutally destructive and savage period of the 20th Century, one which continues to shock and shame us all
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on 12 March 2015
Part of a course very good and good price
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on 17 January 2010
The book is good as it is taken from his diaries. Whether or not I believe much of those diaries is another matter. However, I cannot stomach the pandering to this monstrocity of a man who was directly responsible for thousands of British lives. This book is almost trying to justify the unjustifiable. And while thousands died because of Haig's intransigence, he was well fed and comfortable like most of the generals of the day - in the rear and as far away from danger as possible. I think All Quiet on The Western Front is a much more believable version that this book.
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on 12 December 2006
This is a 25% edit of the diaries, which is quite proper given the amount written by Haig. However the edit avoids dwelling on Haig's more bizzare flurries. So many other works quote critical material that damns Haig that is not reproduced here. Even so what is printed shows Haig as having written a self-serving yet naive account. What is ommitted leaves the reader asking whether the ommission was one of Haig's or the current editors' and reading between the lines still leaves the reader struggling to account for Haig's bombastic, egotistical and empty military mind. One cannot help but feel that the authors have tried to make a silk purse from a sow's ear. A valliant attempt to soften the indictment.
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