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specster

Haig at the Somme

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horrocks

If you don't believe that there is a conversation to be had, but one is taking place anyway, surely it is not incumbent upon you to take part?

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David Filsell

Easier probably to Court marshal the corporal for ordering an unsupported assault on a well established position with strong defences in place.

Edited by David Filsell

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Hyacinth1326

Like many others on here I evolved (slowly) away from the Lions-led-by-donkeys thing. But evolve, I did to a more nuanced appraisal. It is quite traumatic to see the old dichotomy re-emerge like this.  I am going to lie down for an hour.  Still it is a fascinating thread.

Edited by Hyacinth1326

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phil andrade
13 hours ago, specster said:

.So many people here want to put a feather in Haig's  hat.  For what?  

 

Winning .

 

Phil

 

Editing : I hope you don’t think my response was facetious : and, please, it would be an absolute pleasure for me if we were to discuss the American Civil War : if you choose to contact me with a private message about Grant, Lee or Burnside and their battles, I would be delighted.

Edited by phil andrade

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Ron Clifton

Against Churchill's criticism referred to in an earlier post - and we must also remember that Churchill himself bore a load of criticism for the handling of the naval actions at Gallipoli - we must place his later criticism of Haig:

"He may have been - indeed he almost certainly was - unequal to the scale of events, but no-one was perceived as his equal or superior" (my emphasis). The same applies to Lloyd George's wish to replace him at the beginning of 1918 - replace him with whom?

 

I would also like to read specster's opinion (and that of any other contributors) as to the grounds on which Haig could have been court-martialled, i.e. under which section or sections of the Army Act?

 

Ron

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David Filsell

Why prolong the pain of Spector's fixed opinions?

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charlie962
On 08/03/2019 at 10:25, nigelcave said:

commissions do not sit (to my knowledge and with the type of composition, scale and the scope of the Dardanelles Commission) until the whole particular campaign was over,

The Mesopotamia campaign was certainly not over but had suffered a significant check at Ctesiphon and the subsequent fall of Kut when the Mesopotamia Commission was launched (and that followed on from and absorbed the Vincent Bingley 'commission'). By the time the report was released all was well with the organisation in Mespot and Baghdad had been captured.

 

On 08/03/2019 at 08:01, michaeldr said:

Without the political will, the effort to challenge the waste of men and materiel failed at this point.

There was also some doubt expressed at this time, as to whether or not there was any mechanism in place to allow the politicians to interfere.

With 2 Commissions under way, Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, wouldn't it be inevitable that there was absolutely no political will to launch a third. It really would have been a clear statement to all (including the enemy) that there was no confidence in the British ability  to conduct any war on any front.

 

India bashing was probably acceptable?

 

Charlie

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nigelcave

I accept that this is all 'old hat' so far as the forum is concerned, in the sense that we have all trodden the road. I hoped that (1) I could answer the question stated - and was interested in the follow ups from others; but (2) at a certain point you have to realise that nothing you say will make much difference to a fixed opinion (which amy well have validity, I hasten to add). So one tried. 

 

 

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PhilB

I don't think we should assume, gents, that once a question has been discussed It should never be discussed again. Nor should we assume that our own ideas are any less fixed than the other chap's!

 

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Muerrisch

PhilB

 

a reminder of how we got here:

 

I would imagine this has been asked before...I am new to the site...bear with me if you can,  has Haig ever reprimanded or court marshaled for his negligence at the start of the Battle of the Somme?  To my Yankee brothers and many others...he acted much like Burnside at Fredricksburg  (American Civil War late 1862) -   They kept sending troops needlessly to their deaths as if they were blind.

 

I have no fixed idea on Haig or the Somme, or indeed most other matters.

 

What I and others have struggled with is the fact that the OP has a fixed and biased idea and is looking for agreement or argument, not any degree of enlightenment. There have been many balanced and civil and educating discussions on the Forum, but this was never going to be one of them. The OP will learn nothing from me, nor I from him.

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specster
On 09/03/2019 at 03:05, phil andrade said:

Haig was born to great wealth : a family of distillers whose name is still to the fore in the world of whisky.

 

I think you are mistaken as to the immunity to censure that such privilege entailed.  There was a reckoning made with Haig’s predecessor, Sir John French, who was regarded as culpable for his failure to deploy reserves sufficiently close to the front at the Battle of Loos in September 1915 : he was sacked ....and it was Haig himself who did much to bring this about.  

 

I did refer earlier to a “ military caste” that afforded a degree of mutual support to its members : that was clearly in existence then, as it is now : such a thing  exists throughout various strata.  That didn’t provide immunity from allegations of culpability , and failing generals were sacked or censured....more so in the French and British armies than in the others, I daresay. 

 

Haig was meticulous in his planning for the Battle of the Somme.  The immense loss of British life that occurred on the first day was not attributable to negligence on his part, even if some of his precepts were flawed.

 

Phil

 

Perhaps I am wrong bu I thought it took more than money to become part of British Aristocracy.  I thought bloodlines were also involved but I dont know all that much about British government at that time.  I thought DH rose to his rank thru long and hard work.  You bring up French being censured but being asked to resign after really doing nothing wrong and getting ambushed by those people who should have been his friends -  Im not sure this is a great example.  Comparatively, were Frenches' mistakes even legitimate?  Loss of confidence -  if the right people sow those seeds you can make that argument about many military leaders.

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Hyacinth1326

  There was deliberation in the selection of Bemersyde post War.  He came from a line of border lairds, not Kerrs or Homes but the stock was sound. Thomas the Rhymer was it ?(14thc) 'Tide, Tide ere betyde, there'll aye be Haigs at Bemersyde'

 

 

Oh and would/could anyone, anyone at all, have been equal to the task in hand ???   Some say Plumer. I say maybe.  But I have yet to see the evidence that Plumer would have made a better job than Haig.

Edited by Hyacinth1326

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towisuk
12 hours ago, David Filsell said:

Why prolong the pain of Spector's fixed opinions?

Now, Now! ....he's not the only one on the forum with  what are perceived as "fixed opinions"

Tom

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keithmroberts
6 hours ago, specster said:

You bring up French being censured but being asked to resign after really doing nothing wrong and getting ambushed by those people who should have been his friends -  Im not sure this is a great example.

 

The problem is that French was arguably and probably demonstrably not up to the job.  He wasn't reckless, but it became evident that he lacked the ability and mental strength to command a great army in wartime.  I agree that the support behind him was weaker than that which developed later behind Haig, as both Government and the armed forces responded to the demands of an all out war, but at a stage in the war when personal leadership was arguably more critical than it became as the whole machinery of the state and even the nation, was mobilised; French lost the confidence of both government and senior army commanders. What did he do wrong? Not much, but what did he do to win the confidence of colleagues and government - rather less; surely that was why he had to go.

By comparison Haig did retain respect, although his position was under threat in 1917, when Lloyd George would have liked to replace him, but could see no other commander who could and would replace him. I have great respect for Plumer, but my understanding is that he would have nothing to do with the idea of replacing Haig, and although I am pretty weak on the domestic politics of those years, I can't see any other possible alternative who might have been either better or different. The ill fated French experiment with Nivelle surely demonstrates why Haig was able to serve until elements of his victorious army marched into Germany behind their colours. His resolute and steady approach, always obedient, sometimes despite frustration, to his political masters and his ability to adopt to new methods and technologies surely demands respect, just as much as his grasp of the strategic moment in 1918 when he, rather than government, recognised that the moment for a full blown attack had come.

 

I have moved on from the 1916 Somme campaign, but surely Haig's competence and willingness to take such great responsibility through the later years of the war strongly demonstrate why your original premise is unsupportable. he was a fit and proper leader who met the dreadful challenges that had to be confronted with resolution and courage before devoting the remainder of his life to the welfare of the soldiers he led.

 

Keith

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David Filsell

Certainly - but few are as unwilling to consider others expert opinions . The horse has been flogged to death.

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Ghazala
1 hour ago, keithmroberts said:

 

I have moved on from the 1916 Somme campaign

 

Keith

 

And as David stated the horse has been flogged to death.

 

Perhaps, for the old timers on the Forum.  But it is ‘The Great War Forum’ and we should continue to discuss this topic for many years to come.   I for one find it fascinating and cannot get enough information on The Somme.  Whether it be regurgitated or current, bring it on.

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Jervis
41 minutes ago, Ghazala said:

 

And as David stated the horse has been flogged to death.

 

Perhaps, for the old timers on the Forum.  But it is ‘The Great War Forum’ and we should continue to discuss this topic for many years to come.   I for one find it fascinating and cannot get enough information on The Somme.  Whether it be regurgitated or current, bring it on.

 

I could not agree more. 

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Ron Clifton
2 hours ago, keithmroberts said:

By comparison Haig did retain respect, although his position was under threat in 1917, when Lloyd George would have liked to replace him, but could see no other commander who could and would replace him. I have great respect for Plumer, but my understanding is that he would have nothing to do with the idea of replacing Haig

That is the case. As Henry Wilson once said of him, "Plumer is a good judge of what to avoid."

 

Ron

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horrocks
2 hours ago, David Filsell said:

Certainly - but few are as unwilling to consider others expert opinions . The horse has been flogged to death.

 

With respect, I think that the very statement 'the horse has been flogged to death' denotes a closed mind.

 

I, for one, have never seen a consistent and satisfactory explanation - despite reading many 'expert' tomes on the subject - as to why it was considered necessary to expend so many lives on hopeless, utterly futile, poorly planned and supported limited objective attacks inbetween the Somme's great setpieces. I can accept that it might have been deemed necessary to keep the enemy off-balance, and that there was both political and strategic necessity to keep the pressure on, but you can sit and read account after account of costly, doomed attacks that could have served no useful purpose at all, any attritive advantage being more than offset by the horrendous losses to the attacker.

 

I do accept that, as the battle went into the autumn, official reports to Haig's HQ indicated that the German spirit and morale was being broken, and that he was running out of manpower, but surely the actual events on the ground repeatedly and expensively cast into doubt the quality of such intelligence assessments..

Edited by horrocks

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Hyacinth1326

 How could a better planned attritional phase between say, July 14 and September 15 have taken shape ?  How should the Switch Line or Guillemont have been dealt with ?  What should have happened on the Pozieres Ridge ?  It is easy to recoil at the plethora of ill supported 'penny packet' attacks in these sectors but if it is accepted that pressure had to be maintained on the Thiepval Ridge, what alternatives to the slogfest existed ?  How could the burden of attrition have been eased  ?  I am not uncritical of Haig but my criticisms apply for prolonging the campaign post Morval.

Edited by Hyacinth1326

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Don Regiano
9 minutes ago, Hyacinth1326 said:

 How could a better planned attritional phase between say, July 14 and September 15 have taken shape ? 

 

Perhaps the accounts of 14 July around High Wood and what wasn't done actually give a clue.  Just sayin'.

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Hyacinth1326

Do you refer to the stalled cavalry advance ? Baird’s advance past High Wood with his right flank unsecured ?  The first attack on the Delville Wood/ High Wood line ?  just  wondering ‘what should have been done”. I for one visit this site to learn.

Edited by Hyacinth1326

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phil andrade

Flogging a dead horse turns out to be quite a compelling pastime .

 

We always do it on the GWF.

 

Some  would argue that Haig himself did it on the Somme.

 

Those who protest the loudest about it are the biggest culprits.

 

Phil

 

 

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phil andrade
3 hours ago, horrocks said:

 

With respect, I think that the very statement 'the horse has been flogged to death' denotes a closed mind.

 

I, for one, have never seen a consistent and satisfactory explanation - despite reading many 'expert' tomes on the subject - as to why it was considered necessary to expend so many lives on hopeless, utterly futile, poorly planned and supported limited objective attacks inbetween the Somme's great setpieces. I can accept that it might have been deemed necessary to keep the enemy off-balance, and that there was both political and strategic necessity to keep the pressure on, but you can sit and read account after account of costly, doomed attacks that could have served no useful purpose at all, any attritive advantage being more than offset by the horrendous losses to the attacker.

 

I do accept that, as the battle went into the autumn, official reports to Haig's HQ indicated that the German spirit and morale was being broken, and that he was running out of manpower, but surely the actual events on the ground repeatedly and expensively cast into doubt the quality of such intelligence assessments..

 

Let me offer - with diffidence - an explanation as to why the British were expending so many lives on the Somme.  The Germans were not just passive defenders, sitting back and waiting.  They were proactive and aggressive. They exploited every chance they had to inflict damage, especially when the British gained limited lodgements which exposed them to enfilade fire and counter attack.  Even if the British had tried to draw back and reduce the tempo of the fighting, would the Germans have let them ?

 

Phil

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Muerrisch

Quite so, A good point.

 

It occurs to me, after a careful re-read of the entire thread, to ask a question of the OP in the light of General Mangin's:

"Quoi qu'on fasse, on perd beaucoup de monde" ("Whatever you do, you lose a lot of men").

 

The question is thus:

what number of dead and wounded on 1st July would have been deemed acceptable IN 1916 ?

 

 

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