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Eric Geddes


Arnie

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I read a little article the other day about Eric Geddes who was the general manager of North Eastern railways in 1914. In 1916 he was asked by Lloyd George to sort out the Transport infrastructure supporting the British front line. The ‘Donkey’ sorry the General in charge at the time had made a complete 'dogs breakfast' of the supply system.

The Prime Ministers nomination of Geddes led to a storm of protest by the military establishment especially Haig, the incumbent was a friend and a former colleague of Haig’s. The problem with supply had been brewing through the 1915 battles and at the Somme in 1916. Where horse fodder had been given priority over shells and trains loaded with vital supplies and troops were found shunted into sidings and to wait in their for days.

Geddes had been promoted Brigadier General to give him authority; he was however such tremendous success that Haig became on of his greatest supporters. He went on to a similar job with the Royal Navy being made an Admiral. He ended the war as First Lord of the Admiralty. The man ever to be an Admiral and General at the same time.

I would suggest that the war was one by such gifted civilian soldiers and less by those Donkeys of 1914 -15 -16.

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Geddes may have helped to win the war but he did a great deal to make the world an unsafe place after the war when he spoke of squeezing Germany "until the pips squeak."

After the war - like many a modern adherent to the cult of business 'efficiency,' he thought that Great Britain Inc. could do with a dose of retrenchment, and gained notoriety for chopping out costs with the 'Geddes Axe'.

Thank goodness there were soldiers to fight the War for Geddes in 1914-15-16, and soldiers who escaped his Axe to fight the next one - caused in part by the urge to squeeze Germany "until the pips squeak."

William the Revisionist ;)

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I Quote,

There is a great deal of critisism being made at the appointment of a civilian like Geddes to an important post on the headquarters of an army in the field. These critics seem to fail to realise the size of this Army, and the amount of work which the army requires of a civilian nature. The working of the railways, the upkeep of the roads, even the baking of the bread, and a thousand other industries go on in peace as well as in war. So with the whole nation at war, our object should be to employ men on the samework in war as they are accustomed to do in peace. Acting on this principle, I have got Geddes at the head of the railways and transportation, with the best practical and Civil engineers under him. At the head of the road directorate is Mr Maybury, Head of the Road Board in England. The docks, canals and inland water transport are being managed in the same way i.e by men of practical experience. To put soldiers who have no practical experience of these matters into such positions, merely because they are Generals and Colonels, must result in utter failure.

Haigs Diary 26-10-16.

Doesn't sound like The Haig you descibe and that is from his own mouth. Haig may have had many faults like all of us but he cared deeply about his men and he was brilliant at logistics. Finally that old line about fodder being more important ! Well actually it was true. Nothing on the front moved without horses, food, equipment, wounded, SHELLS. It WASN'T much for what you are hinting at THE CAVALRY.

Tim. :angry:

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Douglas Haig had initial reservations about Eric Geddes. However once in post Haig's view of him changed completely as can be seen from the entries he made in his despatches shown here:

Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatches - Eric Geddes references

Page 77

At the close of the campaign of 1916 the steady growth of our Armies and the rapid expansion of our material resources had already taxed to the utmost the capacity of the roads and railways then at our disposal. Existing broad and narrow gauge railways were insufficient to deal with the increasing volume of traffic, an undue proportion of which was thrown upon the roads. As winter conditions set in, these rapidly deteriorated, and the difficulties of maintenance and repair became almost overwhelming.(1) An increase of railway facilities of every type and on a large scale was therefore imperatively and urgently necessary to relieve the roads, For this purpose rails, material and rolling stock were required immediately in great quantities, while at a later date our wants in these respects were considerably augmented by a large programme of new construction in the area of the enemy's withdrawal.

The task of obtaining the amount of railway material required to meet the demands of our Armies, and of carrying out the work of construction at the rate rendered necessary by our plans, in addition to providing labour and material for the necessary repair of roads, was one of the very greatest difficulty. Its successful accomplishment reflects the highest credit on the Transportation Service, of whose efficiency and energy I cannot speak too highly. I desire to acknowledge in the fullest manner the debt that is owed to all who assisted in meeting a most difficult situation, and especially to Major-General Sir Eric Geddes, Director-General of Transportation, to whose great ability, organising power and energy the results achieved are primarily due.

(1) So great did these difficulties become, that it became necessary at this time to adopt a new system on out Lines of Communication, involving the creation of the new Department of Transportation, of which Sir Eric Geddes was the first Director-General. See also Sir Douglas Haig's final Despatch, page 337-

Page 337

The successful co-ordination and economic use of all the various kinds of transportation requires most systematic management, based on deep thought and previous experience. So great was the work entailed in the handling of the vast quantities of which some few examples are given above, so complex did the machinery of transport become and so important was it that the highest state of efficiency should be maintained, that in the autumn of 1916 I was forced to adopt an entirely new system for running our Lines of Communication. The appointment of Inspector General of Communications was abolished, and the services previously directed by that officer were brought under the immediate control of the Adjutant-General, pie Quartermaster-General and the Director-General of Trans¬portation. The last mentioned was a new office created with a separate Staff, composed for the greater part of civilian experts, to deal specifically with transportation questions. At the same time, the command and administration of the troops on the Lines of Communication were vested in a " General Officer Commanding the Lines of Communication Area."

Page 351

The Director-General of Transportation's Branch was formed under the brilliant direction of Major-General Sir Erie Geddes during the autumn of 1916, as above stated. To the large number of skilled and experienced civilians included by him on his Staff, drawn from the railway companies of Great Britain and the Dominions, the Army is deeply indebted for the general excellence of our transportation services.

Douglas Haig's was an open mind leader whose reputation as a narrow minded dinosaur was created by David Lloyd George. One should remember that Lloyd George was a politician seeking votes! In his "War Memoirs" he cleverly writes himself out of any responsiblity for the losses sustained in the Great War.

Martin Hornby

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Ah, Tim ... your words are music to my ears:

Haig may have had many faults like all of us but he cared deeply about his men and he was brilliant at logistics. Finally that old line about fodder being more important ! Well actually it was true. Nothing on the front moved without horses, food, equipment, wounded, SHELLS. It WASN'T much for what you are hinting at THE CAVALRY.

Like you, I don't support Haig. I just believe that

* he did his best for his armies;

* his contemporaries at the helm thought of him as the best for the time being (else they would have sacked him); and

* he deserves as much respect as any other WW1 Veteran in this forum.

It's a breath of fresh air to hear a balanced view of a man often depicted as a "butcher." (As if Ludendorff and von Hindenburg were aloof from the fighting and had no interest in killing allied service men and women - they could leave it all to Butcher Haig. What rubbish!)

Well done and welcome to this place. A Corporal in two days, I see!!

William

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I dont think Haig's Diary can be considered a sound record of happenings as it was found to have been rewritten on several occasions to suit the final outcome of any situations

Haig appointed the soldier who made the mess of the supply system and fought to keep him. Geddes was after all a Lloyd George appointment to sort it out.

Who says Haig's planning was so Good? His organisation of the infrastructure behind the lines for the Battle of the Somme was a disaster that led to Lloyd George stepping in

What ever Geddes did after the war, still does not alter the fact that his reorganisation was a winning factor. After all its an old Army saying; 'that in any war the regulars old the line, then the civvies come in and win it'!

Were to we get this idea he cared deeply for his men he was a Victorian General who though that it was his men's duty to die what ever the circumstances. He was one of the Generals in the Boar War who supervised the disgraceful state of the Military hospitals. A man who cares for his men does not have them shot or commit them to a war of attrition. A General who never ever visited a field hospital after a battle and never visited a unit until all its casualties had been replaced. These replacements were always placed in the front rank so Haig would not have to look the survivors in the face, a moral and physical coward.

I only stated a fact that in the middle of the 1915 battles when the artillery was short of shells, consignments were shunted into sidings to allow forage through for the Cavalry awaiting the breakthrough. One battalion on its way forward was shunted into a siding and was left there for two weeks, if that was not bad enough nobody missed them until the CO who had gone on ahead started asking where they were.

If you would like to discuss the roll of the Cavalry I would gladly do so.

Arnie

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Hi Arnie,

Who says his diary was rewritten, Lloyd George, Alan Clarke, Basil Hart or the like ? more blinkered men it would be hard to find. Anyway that is neither here nor there. We can discuss many things about general policy and the like forever and still not agree as it isn't a perfect science, but that is what makes history great.

But I take great exception to you calling Haig a Physical and Moral coward. As I stated firstly, he had many faults but you seem to miss the point that war is a terribble filthy thing and slaughter and suffering are part and parcel of it.

Haig was never an attrition man and always looked for the breakout but when that didn't occure what was he to do ? He had to keep on fighting. You can't just wind up a campaign and start again. If we hadn't fought the Somme, France would have collapsed ( WAR OVER ), and the French moved the goal posts over Third Ypres. It was a coalition war.He encouraged new technology and listened to all around him ( sometimes too much ). Haig had to deal with army men of all sides and the Politicians.He wasn't removed as he was the best man for the job. And he was able to carry the enormous burden of the terrible losses. Any man that thought too much of the suffering would have blown his own brains out. As for the shot at dawn argument only ten percent of those sentenced were executed. Yes some were questionable from our hindsight situation, but with strong discipline we had no major mutinies. Take a look at a lot of the cases and I think there is a strong case for the heaviest penalty, what ever that is in any particular time !!!

Finally Haig refused the first title he was offered at the end of the war until veterans pensions were sorted out and only accepted his title on the intervention of the king. His home was paid for by public subscription and he work tirelessly for the Haig fund until his death. His coffin was visited by tens of thousands of those veterans. The Welsh Wind Bag destroyed his reputation for political gain, but I for one Know that for all his faults Haig was an honest, patriotic and fearless leader.

R.I.P. DOUGLAS HAIG.

Best Wishes

Tim.

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For a good commentary on the role of Eric Geddes and Logistics in general on the Western Front (for the BEF) look to British Logistics on the Western Front by Dr Ian Brown - an excellent book on how it came to be that the British could sustain an offensive (just) across the same battlefields that the Germans could not (in 1918) and all the problems that they overcame in the years leading up to it.

Dr Brown was a most entertaining speaker and luncheon companion a couple of weeks ago.....

Cheers

Edward

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I dont think Haig's Diary can be considered a sound record of happenings as it was found to have been rewritten on several occasions to suit the final outcome of any situations

Arnie

Have you seen Haig's Diaries yourself? If so, where?

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No I haven't seen Haig's diary, but Denis Winter has and he found discrepancies in both the hand written and type written versions. Have you seen both? Also there are a number of articles published before the war that I have seen, that challenges Haig's Diaries. Strange Haig rushed to get his history of the war out; based on his diaries, in the early twenties, the book was a failure because it did not match the war experiences of those who had fought in it.

Your assertion the Haig was not an attrition man fly in the face of all the history of the battles he conducted and you can shut down a battle when necessary, you don't follow one failed attack after another each time reinforcing failure.

The French difficulties at Verdun in 1916 had long passed, but were still used by Haig as an excuse for his battle of attrition. Continuing the battle long after it was apparent that there would be no real conclusion. He used a similar excuse, plus the phoney one about the U-boats and the Channel ports, to get the War Cabinet to agree to 3rd Ypres. There was no break through and the French were at the time fighting superbly but Haig locked the British Army into a bloody battle of attrition in the worst condition any army had ever been asked to fight in.

Haig did not encourage technology he attempted (or rather Kiggel did) to cancel the order for a thousand more tanks. When warned of this via a Major on Haig’s staff Churchill with the Prime Ministers authority re instated the order only to find that GHQ had made no allocation of men to use the tanks. Haig was strongly against the Lewis Guns introduction again it was on the insistence of Lloyd George. Mind you Haig was quick to use tanks in a desperate attempt to break the rate of attrition both on the Somme and Passchendaele. In both cases they were used improperly against the advice of the Tank Corps.

I think I know a bit about war. It’s claimed Haig could not stand the sight of blood, his own! A Commander who has the courage to sentence a sixteen year old boy to death by shooting and send thousands of men to their deaths fighting for a few yards of Bloody mud, should at least have the courage to go see the results of hid tactics. Of Course Haig was not a fighting soldier he had only commanded troops in battle once, at Elland in the Boar war and was trounced by a Boar gentleman called Smuts. A good a proper fighting General would have known that you do not have to shoot British Soldiers to get them to fight. If he had only shot one that is one to many especially for an officer who spent most of his career avoiding the fighting, spending all his time as a staff officer.

He might have had a little more respect if he had spent less time writing his Diary more time visiting the trenches and seeing for him self what condition the Army was fighting under. But, this after all was the man who refused pilots and balloonists parachutes because he thought that it would undermine their fighting capacity. Same feller in the salient refused proper defence stores because he thought the men would make them selves too comfortable and make the position too permanent. At the time we were only losing 8500 men a week.

It was impossible for Lloyd George to dismiss Haig because of his relation ship with the King and the establishment press He was also part of the Army Officers Masonic like organisation that took part in the Curragh mutiny. Haig at Aldershot Command was a supporter, threatening that his command would not move against the Curragh mutineers. Gough one of Haig’s friends was one of the leaders of the mutiny. The Government was helpless against this threat and this was not lost on Lloyd George.

The reason that the Germans could not traverse the old battle field was simply the condition of the ground at the time causing exceedingly slow going.

Can I suggest that you revisionists go to a second hand bookshop and get some of the Books written in the twenties and thirties, when minds and memories were still fresh?

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Arnie - you must be a damned good friend to have because when you dislike someone you really hate them!

Your hatred leads you by the nose ... What was the name of the sixteen year old boy Haig sentenced to death by shooting? Was Haig the presiding officer at the court martial?

Or do you mean he confirmed a death sentence?

Come on Arnie, give Haig a break. You talk yourself out of a sale every time because you are so over the top (excuse the pun).

By the way, correct me if I'm wrong, but Dennis Winter wasn't writing in the twenties and thirties, when minds and memories were still fresh?

Let's have a virtual beer together. Here's to you, Arnie. Cheers!

William

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Arnie

There are so many points on which I disagree with your posting it's difficult to know where to begin. Here are some but I think there's none so blind as them as can't see and I have no desire to convince you away from your obviously strongly held views. However, for the sake of some historical accuracy, I think there has to be some attempt to address the points you make:-

1)"No I haven't seen Haig's diary, but Denis Winter has and he found discrepancies in both the hand written and type written versions. "

Other historians have found discrepancies between Denis Winter's writings and the documents they claim to quote to the extent that a learned Australian (note the nationality, Arnie) historian, Dr Jeffrey Grey, demolished Winter's book 'Haig's Command' so convincingly as a poor piece of historical research that made its own conclusions from what Grey practically indicated was fabricated evidence - It's a fine day when an Australian defends Haig, I say. Gary Sheffield and John Bourne who have seen BOTH versions (and there is no handwritten vs typescript issue actually) are about to produce a new edition of the Haig papers. Having heard Gary on the subject at the Institute of Historical Research, I understand there may have been perhaps three versions of the diary and the whole idea of an original version is a bit of a myth - anyway, if Haig did produce two versions in your conspiracy theory with a second version portraying events differently, he was spectacularly incompetent in not ensuring that the first version was destroyed (Where are they to be 'found'? The National Archives and the National Library in Scotland... ).

2) "He used a similar excuse, plus the phoney one about the U-boats and the Channel ports, to get the War Cabinet to agree to 3rd Ypres." How convenient that Jellicoe provided that phoney excuse then. Should Haig as Commander of the ARMY in the field ignore the senior NAVY figure in the government?

3)"Haig did not encourage technology he attempted (or rather Kiggel did) to cancel the order for a thousand more tanks. When warned of this via a Major on Haig’s staff Churchill with the Prime Ministers authority re instated the order only to find that GHQ had made no allocation of men to use the tanks. "

I had thought we'd laid this particular canard to rest in other posts. Haig was fascinated by technology, without claiming to be an expert. Tanks were not the only technology the BEF employed - what is an artillery piece after all, but a piece of technology? You have to train someone how to use it properly. Haig no more claimed to be an expert on artillery, aircraft or trench mortars than he did on tanks. He did NOT cancel the 1,000 tank order - in fact he originally requested that number. Kiggell had nothing to do with it.

4)"Haig was strongly against the Lewis Guns introduction again it was on the insistence of Lloyd George." Evidence? I've never heard this one and as the Lewis was introduced when French was C-in-C, I fail to see how he could influence matters anyway.

5) "It’s claimed Haig could not stand the sight of blood, his own! " I suppose this to be a joke as it's certainly another unsubstantiated remark. It's claimed Lloyd George was actually a German agent trying to get all the senior British Army figures and the Royal Family executed by Bolshevists - but only by me on a posting on a discussion forum to get a rise out of other users. Where is the evidence?!

6) If by Elland you mean Elandslaagte - wasn't French the senior cavalry officer there? Haig was his Chief of Staff. My Boer War knowledge is a little rusty. WAS Smuts the opposing commander? Anyone who really knows something about Haig and the Boer War care to help Arnie and me out? If you'd like to clarify, please do.

7) "A good a proper fighting General would have known that you do not have to shoot British Soldiers to get them to fight. " A fair number of good, proper General's had done the same thing before the First World War and Sir John French did before Haig. Doesn't make it right, but it's what the British Army as an institution did in the FWW ... and the French ... and others...

8)"But, this after all was the man who refused pilots and balloonists parachutes" Balloonists had parachutes and pilots would have too - if the planes could've flown carrying the extra weight.

As a 'revisionist', can I say that Haig died in 1928 and therefore anything HE wrote was whilst his mind was fresher than Lloyd George's later 'War Memoirs'? Should I disregard anything else, Arnie, that I've read from the same period that doesn't fit your view? What about the unit war diaries and after action reporst written when the war was going on? They were'nt always accurate and they were written as close to the events as you can practically get. I use these all the time and they support my general impression of a British Army developing and going forward under Haig's command - and one that in 1918 had become a well-honed weapon striking into the heart of the Germans to defeat them in the field. Pl,ease don't tell me that the BEF did not defeat the German Army as this was what the Nazis tried to say in their stabbed in the backs claims. If you do, you will make me really angry. Our forebears BEAT the Germans in the FWW. If you refuse to accept that that army and that commander did that, you need to be aware of where you are going with that one.

A 'revisionist' is someone prepared to look at the evidence afresh and form fresh opinions, perform new analyses and possibly come to different conclusions (some big, some small) - not just trot out the same stories that have been knocking around since the 1960s. Denis Winter's a Revisionist - he just doesn't agree with other revisionist. Mind you, I don't agree with him because he has now become (in my book) a thoroughly bad historian if he has had to resort to manufacturing 'evidence'.

Arnie, you should do more about the Curragh Mutiny - if you could substantiate what you've written on that, you could produce an interesting book/article. At least it would be controversial... For me your views on the FWW aren't, as they are things I have heard over and over in Alan Clark, Denis Winter, Lloyd George, Wolff, and so on. Scratch the surface and those writers had no substance to their 'controversial theories'.

Bryn

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Hi To You All, :rolleyes:

What a brilliant read this whole thread has been. I only wish I was more educated, I for one have learnt so much and to 'hear' such well put arguments on both sides is a pleasure. All I can say is that nothing I have heard changes my view of the war and in my opinion, when balanced people look at 'THE BIG PICTURE', and get rid of the brain washing we've had for so long they will one day accept, that for all OUR faults, OUR country won An almost impossible war and OUR Generals played their part. I salute you one and all from the Privates to Haig.

Cheers

Tim.

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Sorry I forgot to add, that in My Opinion Eric Geddes was a brilliant man who did help to win the war,and If the argument had been left at that I would have supported Arnie. It was just the Donkey Smear, that was too much. Also from my point of view If the New assessment of the War Diaries by John Bourne and Gary Sheffield confirm Haig as a BUTCHER, I will be the first to hold my hands up !!!

Cheers Again

Tim. :)

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William the revisionist

Can I deal with you first?

Fusilier Herbert Burdon was shot at the age of 17 but was 16 when the offence was committed. There was a soldier of 16, a Pte Aby Bevistien a Jew from the east end of London who enlisted under a false name was 16 when sentenced and 17 when shot. Several 17 year olds were SAD. What does it matter whether Haig sentenced them or confirmed their sentence SAD was the outcome

No Winter was writing in the 50s, and 60s but Fuller, Bean and Liddell Hart. I know that these Historians who were regarded to be at the top of their profession are berated by a bunch of revisionists trying to defend the indefensible.

Tim

The purely tactical situation is readily evaluated by quoting G.H.Q.'s special instructions for dealing with the Passchendaele sector and the new bulge created after Cambrai, dated 13 Decem¬ber, and withheld from the War Cabinet:

These salients are unsuitable to fight a decisive battle in. It is, how¬ever, desirable to retain possession of them if they are not attacked in great force; and in the event of attack in great force to use them to wear out and break up the enemy's advancing troops as much as possible before these can reach our battle zone of defence, which will be sited approximately as a chord across the base of each salient.

Sounds a bit like attrition to me!!!

‘Any man that thought too much of the suffering would have blown his own brains out’ This is a feller who was surrounded with servants, ate well, had a bed with sheets out of range of the shells, went for a ride very day, went home to see his family frequently and never went in the trenches. What about the poor ******* who went out in 14 fought in all the battles saw their friends blown to pieces, floundered in the mud and the blood, went home for two weeks every 18 months if they were lucky, often suffered several wounds in the bargain and lost hope after Passchendaele knowing they could only really rely on the men in the battalion. You’re quite right Haig did not worry about such things, mind if the soldiers didn’t worry or strayed over the line Haig could have them shot.

‘Yes some were questionable from our hindsight situation’ Most were questionable at the time that why all the findings were kept quite The case of Sgt Stone and the other DLI soldiers SAD, was denied in Parliament by the War Office, when questioned about the case by a Mr Tuttle MP, that was during the war. Charges of unfair court martials were levelled at the army during the war. By the way I have read every case even those that were weeded and they were unfair then. I suppose that why they changed the procedure 4 times during the war and again in 1930.

‘Haig’s Diary’ according to Edmonds the official war historian Mrs Haig held a copy that was type written and in which events were amended. Haig kept a copy and sent a copy to his wife to be typed (Very secure and he had the nerve to blame a nameless Irish Serjeant for betraying the plans for 3 Ypres) together with amendments.

‘Tanks’ your assertion that Kiggle did not cancel the 1000 tanks is not bourn out by Churchill who was responsible for producing them. Fuller mentions it and so does Col Baker-Carr of the Tank Corps and I have seen a copy of a document showing that no manpower provisions had been made for any extra tanks. ( a copy of the relevant passage is copied on this site somewhere).

‘The Curragh’ I cannot understand your remark. Haig’s and Gough's part in the mutiny are well documented as is the outcome.

‘Artillery’ it’s strange you should mention the artillery in the same breath as Haig. He was the Chairman of the War Office Committee deciding on the future of the artillery before the war started and decided to ignore the lessons of the Russo Jap war. Deciding on the horse artillery methods of direct fire, with a predominance of shrapnel ammo. There by denying the Artillery the heavy guns required in a trench war and also giving the Germans a lead.

Max Tosh eh! and you would know about that. Haig was a born and double dyed base wallah his only attempt at commanding troops in action was in South Africa and he failed miserably Was he ever decorated for gallantry I don’t think so. A soldier who could not stand the site of blood, yes Moral and Physical Coward, always willing to sacrifice some one to cover his mistakes. Now you tell me what he had ever done that meant he put his own life at risk, nothing - or even his career)!

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Both haig and Robertson knew that the U boat threat had dissapeared. Jellicoe was roped in to give their case a little more punch. The U boats had long been with draw to the baltic ports. and that my friend is in the official history.

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from 1920 until the sixties the accepted opinion of the war was one of Butcher General and incompetance. This was accepted by the majority of the men who fought the war and the historians had access to the individuals concerned

Men Like Bean, Fuller, hart had been heavily involved in the war, people like Churchill had both served in the Trenches and been in the war Cabinet. Hart was respected and admired through out the world for his military writtings.

Even now Hart is quoted at the very highest level his mrstership of tactics and strategy were at a level Haig could never achieve. There is also a Historic Gallery in his name in one of our Universities.

I leave the last remarh to Basil;

'the most consistently successful commanders, when faced by an enemy in a position that was strong naturally or materially, have hardly ever tackled it in a direct way. And when, under pressure of circumstances, they have risked a direct attack, the result has commonly been to blot their record with a failure'.

- Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart

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Dear Arnie

You write

Fusilier Herbert Burdon was shot at the age of 17 but was 16 when the offence was committed. There was a soldier of 16, a Pte Aby Bevistien a Jew from the east end of London who enlisted under a false name was 16 when sentenced and 17 when shot. Several 17 year olds were SAD. What does it matter whether Haig sentenced them or confirmed their sentence SAD was the outcome

That is disingenuous. Your original remark was that Haig had

the courage to sentence a sixteen year old boy to death by shooting

He didn't do any such thing. You know it. I know it. It's an example of your prejudice against Haig leading you to say something about Haig that just ain't so.

Cheers

William

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Arnie

It's when I read your posts that I realise that it's a waste of time trying to present reasoned arguments as you will only meet them with unsubstantiated and undocumented 'opinions'. Saying 'that's official history, my friend" or whatever doesn't make it so - its just your prejudiced viewpoint. I note the points I made that you steered clear of. I note that facts don't get in the way of your opinions - Churchill's position at the time when tanks were first used being a case in point, for example.

As for your views on Basil Liddell Hart and Fuller, since their writings appear to be the prime source of your views I suspect it would be invidious to point out that neither of them ever had the main responsibility for the largest British Army ever in the field in the greatest conflict Britain had ever fought. But then, neither have you or I. Your blindness to other people's persuasive arguments and factual information, seem to indicate you are exhibiting some of the characteristics of the breed you affect to despise - the Donkey. You have never admitted being wrong in any posting, as far as I can see. It seems Haig may have had a more open mind than you.

As for CEW Bean - a great man, a great writer and a man I admire for his role in the development of his nation's identity. However, I'm sure even he would admit he was not always right.

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from 1920 until the sixties the accepted opinion of the war was one of Butcher General and incompetance. This was accepted by the majority of the men who fought the war and the historians had access to the individuals concerned

Men Like Bean, Fuller, hart had been heavily involved in the war, people like Churchill had both served in the Trenches and been in the war Cabinet. Hart was respected and admired through out the world for his military writtings.

Even now Hart is quoted at the very highest level his mrstership of tactics and strategy were at a level Haig could never achieve. There is also a Historic Gallery in his name in one of our Universities.

I leave the last remarh to Basil;

'the most consistently successful commanders, when faced by an enemy in a position that was strong naturally or materially, have hardly ever tackled it in a direct way. And when, under pressure of circumstances, they have risked a direct attack, the result has commonly been to blot their record with a failure'.

- Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart

First "St Basil" ....

He was well reputed for his writings but even he was not above a little embellishment at times.

From my memories of Alex Danchev's "Alchimest of War" where he discusses the interviews between L-H and the German Generals after WW2 (and their mutual backscratching") in particular the mention of L-H in the English Translation of Panzer General that did not appear in the original German text (and coincidentally L-H was tied up in the translation......).

Next we move onto Fuller who became distinctly odder as he became older (not that he is one that could be said to be exactly "normal" at any time!). His early work was his best.

The matter of the allocation of personnel for tanks - Haig did not want to diminsh the replacement stream for those weapons that he knew of and had been proven - artillery and infantry (plus keeping up the cavalry in case an opportunity arose to use it). Tanks were really unknown (even after Flers) and could not justify in his mind their rapid expansion at HIS expense. If they were to come, they would have to come from Home Forces or overseas (other than BEF) allocations of personnel.

Bean never suscribed to the Donkey theory; just that it was a bloody slaughter no matter who was in charge - neither Birdwood, Godfrey or Monash could prevent a daily toll of Australians being maimed or killed no matter what the circumstance. Remember he also plotted against Monash taking the Australian Corps because of anti-Semitism and friendship of White.

Others have referred to Winter's faults (and I have discussed them with Jeffrey Grey and Peter Stanley who worked with Winter when was preparing his "work" on Haig)and don't need to expand any further.

I suggest that anyone who wants a balanced outlook on Haig and have read/believed Winter should read Dr Grey's work on it. It is quite amazing what he got up to....

Cheers

Edward

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Bryn

Not that this matters much, nor will it change opinions, but the incident in South Africa that Arnie mentioned is the clash at Elands River, Cape Colony, on 17 September 1901. It involved one of the five columns then under [then] Colonel Haig's direction, and involved the regiment he then commanded - but he was not present during the action. In essence, Jan Smut's Commando attacked a column from C Squadron of the 17th Lancers, under Captain Sandeman, primarily in an effort to capture horses and ammunition. The approaching Boers were mistaken for British troops, as many of them were wearing articles of British uniform, and were able to closely approach the Lancers' camp before opening fire.

29 British soldiers were killed (including Capt Sandeman and Lord Vivian, whose sister was to be Col. Haig's wife) and 41 were wounded, while 1 Boer was killed and 6 wounded.

When Col. Haig learned of the Battle he was at Tarkastad, fourteen miles away. He then galloped to get to the site, reaching it in only an hour and a quarter.

I don't think Haig can be blamed for something that happened well away from his direct control.

For more information, see The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham and Commando by Deneys Reitz.

Regards

Gareth

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Edward/Gareth of the Dolphin

I thank you both for your posts - from which I have learnt more.

Edward's post re: Bean echoes what I have felt about Bean without having read enough of the Australian Official series to be sure it was anything other than a general impression.

Fuller's book Tanks in the Great War (1920) is excellent but I have to say I think he was always an odd character - especially his dabbling with the occult and Crowley.

Thanks again chaps.

Bryn

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Hart was respected and admired through out the world for his military writtings.

Even now Hart is quoted at the very highest level his mrstership of tactics and strategy were at a level Haig could never achieve. There is also a Historic Gallery in his name in one of our Universities.

Now if there was ever a man who was a master of spinning his own reputation it was Liddell Hart....

His reputation although strong in the 1920s hit a low point in 1940 and was in the dog house for some years afterwards. Why? Beacuse his writings had led Western governments to make serious errors in defence strategy and spending in the 1930s. Hart had learned some wrong lessons from WW1, and these nearly proved fatal in 1940. The man who nearly lost WW2?

He spun his way out of it - as Edward says - by assisting the German generals in their memoirs. His influence was nothing like as strong as legend would have you believe - few German generals had actually read him. His reputation only recovered in the 1950s and 1960s as this self perpetuated myth took hold.

See JJ Mearsheimers "Liddell Hart and the Weight of History" which is pretty damning, also Danchev's biography.

LH had experienced WW1 as a regimental officer (KOYLI I think), but not at the operational level. His study of WW1 - The Real War (1930), later expanded into Liddell Hart's History of the First World War (1934) has been picked apart as unreliable as its strategic and operational perspectives are limited. There is an interesting essay by Hugh Strachan in which he compares LH with two other one volume histories of WW1 by Cyril Falls and CRMF Cruttwell. (See "The First World war and British Military History" ed Brian Bond 1991.) LH comes out in third place.

LH was an original thinker (and I believe does deserve recognition for this) and a excellent teacher of some of today's leading military historians. However, even they will argue that LH should be handled with a good deal of care. See his best known former student Brian Bond who wrote a balanced critique in "Liddell Hart: A study of his military thought."

regards

Charles

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