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Remembered Today:

NAM Britain's Greatest General Poll


Brian Curragh
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Vote early and vote often! - Current leaderboard

"If you think Marlborough is mightier than Monty or Slim surpasses Wellington, here's the chance to have your say.

The National Army Museum is conducting its first-ever poll to find out who is Britain’s greatest general. We have selected 20 of the nation's all-time greatest military leaders and now it's your turn to decide who comes out on top.

This online exhibition provides you with some essential facts about the figures in our 20-man shortlist, featuring quotes, portraits and brief biographies.

Once you have picked your favourite general, you can use the button on their biography page to register your vote. You can also keep track of the online voting by visiting our live leaderboard.

The top five generals, voted for by you, will determine the five talks given by celebrity speakers at our Britain’s Greatest General event on Saturday 9 April 2011. The voting at this event, combined with the online poll results, will decide the outright winner.

The names of the final five generals, who will be represented at our celebrity speakers event, will be revealed on Sunday 27 February 2011."

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"Butcher" Haig.

Nothing perjorative there, then. :lol:

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I posted a reply on there in the fashion that the writer of the piece merits.It'll probably get pulled.

I like NAM & visit whenever possible but,there are dozens of folk on here that could have written a far far better biog from this forum & with no bias.

What are 1st timers going to think about Haig after reading that?

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Just had this reply from an 'anti'=

David

25 January 2011, 5.44pm

The British Army turned itself into a war winning organisation with Haig in the driving seat - it seems that it is a moot point as to whether that was Haig's achievement or whether he merely failed to impede the process. Being in charge of the winning side when the cannons fall silent is a major plus, on the minus side he connived at displacing his predecessor, seems to have been unwise in the choice of some of his subordinates, did great damage to the army by persisting in 3rd Ypres and reacted rather unevenly to the March Offensive. Some have suggested that he was less than pro-active in the conduct of the counter-offensives of the last 100 days. B- at best I would say. Plumer would deserve to be rated higher and he doesn't even make the list.

I feel another thread coming on......

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I've just posted on the site (awaiting moderation) pointing out that Plumer wasn't tested to the same level & turned down the offer of the CIGS position so rather difficult to see how David can justify him being rated higher than Haig.

The use of the "nickname" was a particularly crass comment and very disappointing coming from the NAM

Brian

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The use of the "nickname" was a particularly crass comment and very disappointing coming from the NAM

Given the source of the comment, I'm not sure even crass is the word for what the NAM has written! Absolute disgrace.

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Isn't the whole idea of a "contest" a bit crass?

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Of course it is - but I fully understand the NAM's need to drum up business - and this is one way to achieve that. We may well think it "crass" but if it gets more people to come in through the doors...or attend a day's debate then that's fine with me.

What I do object to is the use of an extremely pejorative "nickname" which belongs back in the 1960s with the "Lions & Donkeys" argument. This might be understandable if it had come from an English Literature teacher* but to hear the Museum, one of whose official purposes is "To reconnect the Army with society", trot this out again is truely "crass".

Yours fraternally...

* - apologies to those teachers who realise that we didn't actually have a Poets Battalion serving on the Western Front

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Just catching up with this having been away for a couple of days. I totally agree with the criticisms of the way the NAM have gone about their inclusion of Haig in this exercise. Calculatingly pejorative is the only way to describe it - the best sidebar quote which they could come up with for Haig was a damning with faint praise one from 'Gallipoli' Churchill. Clearly the designer of this contest included Haig in such a manner in the hope that he would languish with the least number of votes and their Laffinesque and Winterish depiction of him would be vindicated. It must therefore be sticking in their craw that Haig is currently top of the leaderboard. I have posted a comment which is awaiting approval by the NAM's moderator, which I reproduce below:

"There would seem to be two possible explanations for the manner in which the NAM have chosen to include Haig's name in their 'Britain's Greatest General' feature. Neither brings credit to the NAM as an institution. One is that whoever wrote it did so in a manner deliberately and mischievously designed to be outrageously at odds with prevailing academic views of the nature of Haig's achievement. Or alternatively, and more seriously, what is written here in the profile of Haig accurately represents the NAM's view of Haig as being akin to the level of John Laffin or Denis Winter. Haig's nicknames during the Great War were 'The Chief', 'DH', or 'Douggie', for the use of each of which there are numerous contemporary primary sources. I would be most interested if the NAM's author could direct us to an example of Haig being referred to as "'Butcher Haig" prior to 1918, or, indeed, prior to the 1950's/60's. No? I thought not.

It is noteworthy that - uniquely amongst the candidates they have put forward for 'Britain's Greatest General' - the NAM's accompanying biography of Haig is the only one riddled with pejorative allusions from start to finish. So, for instance, we are told that "Haig's character remains mired in mystery." Mired? Leaving aside the fact that the idea of Haig the man being an unknowable quantity is a myth, the prejudicial nature of the NAM's phrasing throughout is ludicrous. This prejudice is not reflected in their biographies of any of their other candidates for 'Britain's Greatest General.' And for any organisation with the stature of the NAM within the realm of serious military analysis to end a précis of Haig with the sentence "Yet today he is widely perceived as the archetypal bungling First World War general and historians continue to debate his tenure of high command" betrays an ignorance which is truly appalling. The likes of the 'Daily Express' might still base their unenquiring journalistic opinions of Haig on Laffin, Winter, Clark, Greenwood et al, but there is no excuse for a body of the stature of the NAM to be so apparently unaware of the position of Haig in the current academic literature. National Army Museum? More like national disgrace, I'd say. I shall be writing formally to the NAM's new Director, Mrs Janice Murray, to complain about this travesty of a depiction of Haig on their website. If, as a result, their pejorative portrait of Haig is revised, whoever is charged with doing so might like to bear the following in mind as their starting point:

The late John Terraine highlighted an experience and achievement which is only shared by Haig and two other British commanders, Marlborough and Wellington. Terraine writes:

“The toughest assignment in modern British military history (ie. since the creation of our first real Regular Army, the New Model, in 1645) has been high command in war against the main body of a main continental enemy. Three British officers have undertaken such a task and brought it to a successful conclusion: the Duke of Marlborough, the Duke of Wellington and Field-Marshal Lord Haig.”

Douglas Haig, however, commanded an army and operations on a scale which had never been experienced by the British Army before, and nor has it since. The fact of the matter is that there is nothing in the annals of British military history before or since to meaningfully measure Haig’s command in the First World War against. At Waterloo, Wellington commanded 67,000 men – of whom just 24,000 were British. Haig, by contrast, commanded an army of almost 2 million men by the end of the First World War, whilst at the same time overseeing a vast support infrastructure of railways, roads, shipping, canals, agriculture and factories, with the whole set-up between the frontline trenches and the Channel ports being akin to a large metropolis. Haig, I would suggest, was the equal of any other contenders who went before him (there have been none since), and in many ways his achievements place him in a unique class of his own in several key other areas as C-in-C of the largest army ever fielded by Great Britain. The role of C-in-C between 1915-1919 was astonishing in scope and complexity, besides which that of the 'Great Captain' of earlier centuries, directing operations from a convenient vantage point on the field of battle, bears little meaningful comparison.

George

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Good afternoon All,

I thought you must have been away, George !!!

I don't see anything wrong in the poll, particularly if it gets more people interested in the subject. It appears to be a bit like TV's "Greatest Briton". Neither do I disagree with the content of the leaderboard as it stands, for the top 5 to go forward, which includes Terraine's top 3. Like fellow posters where I object is the depiction of Haig, (although it does occur to me, might that not be an example of reverse psychology ?).

Haig's "nickname" aside, the main concern I have is the overall number of votes cast; any newspaper that chooses to run with the story can surely influence the result, where the leader currently has 106 votes !

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Well said, George.

I wish I'd been able to copyright the word "perjorative" when I used it ... :whistle:

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It's a historical version of the X-Factor and the result will be decided by whichever special interest Internet group can mobilise the most people and persuade them to vote. Not really a measure of greatness, is it?

Tom

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I don't think anyone has disputed that this poll is an exercise in frivolous futility. What is rightly in dispute, though, is the absolute tosh in the appreciation of Haig which the NAM has produced to accompany it - "Butcher Haig" was his nickname? If what you call 'special interest Internet groups' can use their knowledge to deploy some correctives to these misconceptions, then that ought to be welcomed I should have thought - if only to raise awareness that there are evidentially based views which are contrary to the outmoded and discredited ones espoused by the NAM.

George

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Whoa - I thought I was posting in further agreement to what had been said before. You're right when you say that nobody is disputing the frivolity of the poll. Neither is anyone denying anyone or any group the opportunity to question misconceptions. Not in my post, anyway. I thought we were on the same side re. this poll.

Tom

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I thought we were on the same side re. this poll.

Indeed, Tom. I was merely taking the opportunity to emphasise that what is more important is that the opportunity for internet based Great War interest groups to correct the factual errors and historiographical misrepresentations of the NAM's accompanying piece on Haig be taken up.

George

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It's a sad day when the N A M has to stoop to these tactics to lure punters through the door. The potted biog is a disgrace, a startling display of ignorance and possibly a clue as to why they are struggling for visitors. George, put the lady's name and email addy up then we can all let her know what we think of this faux pas.

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I have never visited this museum and on the basis of their description of Field Marshal Haig I don't think I will bother.

Old Tom

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Do we know who will be presenting the 5 "winners''' cases in April ? Will Haig's case be presented by whoever wrote the description.......or are you free that weekend George !

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It is interesting to look at the NAM online exhibition on the Western Front.haig is mentioned in the first two cameo's, as commanding the depleted forces of spring 1918 , and apparently contributed nothing from then on. Foch devised the strategy, Rawlinson did some of it. That is it. Probably the same lead author.

Keith

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  • 5 weeks later...

Voting is now closed.

I wonder who the 5 folk to do the talks will be?

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