Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Recommended Posts

phil andrade
On 04/11/2019 at 14:05, adk46canada said:

 

 

I do not have detailed gas casualty figures but they were relatively few in the campaign. There were several particularly bad incidents, including the crippling of a company by mustard gas, but overall the gas effects were minimal in respect to casualties.

 

Regards

Bill

 

 

Bill,

 

Monash provides a tabulation of the Australian battle casualties from  8 August to 5 October :

 

Killed : 3,556

Died of wounds : 1,432

Wounded : 16,166

Missing ( surely POWS?) : 79

 

Total 21,243

 

I cite these because they bear out your comment that gas casualties were relatively few in the Hundred Days.

 

They also contrast strikingly with the rendition of Australian battle casualties that I cited in post #29, in which gas cases accounted for about 17.5% .

 

If I'm right, this reflects the very intensive use of gas made by the Germans in the spring and earlier summer of 1918, when they were on the offensive. Armentieres was especially badly deluged in April, with hundreds of civilians dying as a result.....so the high number of Aussie gas cases makes sense.  Clearly, the effectiveness - or the use of - gas by the Germans was every much diminished in the Hundred Days. I wonder how the German experience compares.

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
adk46canada

Phil,

 

There is probably an interesting article in the relative effectiveness of gas attacks in the different periods. I do not have any archival details from the German side but certainly Canadian reports had the Germans using gas quite extensively in low-lying areas like river valleys. Most battalions had to mask up when crossing through these areas at night. The gas discipline, however, was tight enough that few casualties resulted. I think this was a result of rigorous training in the period between May and August. From the war diaries, every battalion had at least one day of gas training and mask fitting every month. I suspect the rise of casualties from gas attacks was in part an artifact of less-well training troops arriving at the front. The Corps did not suffer severe losses at Amiens and  replacements it did receive had the full 14-week training course. They also had time in the Corps' replacement camp where they got additional practical training. Later in the campaign, the training period dropped to 10 weeks with limited time in the replacement camp.

 

On the German side, there were several references in the available German field artillery regiment histories of having to fire gas shells because of the shortage of anything else. While, the only gas used by the Canadians was in counter-battery fire, there were numerous statements of gas attacks in German regimental histories. One of the side effects of the extensive use of smoke was the threat that it would mask a gas attack. Thus the presence of smoke, that the Canadians used frequently, was interpreted as a potential use of gas and reason to mask up.

 

Regards

Bill

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Bill,

 

Many thanks for providing these details.  This really does help me get a better appreciation of what was happening, and how it can be reconciled with the statistical data.

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2ndCMR
On 06/11/2019 at 00:39, phil andrade said:

 

That explains it : Haig was educated at St Trinian's, not Clifton !

 

There is an innate tendency, I suppose, in military hierarchies, for jealousies to surge as rivalries develop. I have to admit that I was a bit shocked when I read somewhere that Haig had a grudge against Allenby because the latter had been chosen, instead of him, to be Master of the Hunt in some pre war societal competition to be the most highly regarded officer in the Mess.

It all sounds ludicrous to our ears : but that's what life was like back then.

 

At the beginning of the war, there was the mutual detestation of John French and Smith- Dorrien, which Kitchener seemed to have overlooked...or was there something deliberate in this choice ?  Keep the blighters at each other's throats, and they will be trying so hard to out perform each other that performance will edge up a notch or two ?  I think of Stalin's fostering of mutual suspicions between the commanders of several  soviet armies as they approached Berlin in 1945.  A bit of a stretch to compare that with the Hundred Days, but it does cross my mind.

 

Phil

 

Most would probably agree that such jealousies exist in almost every human organization, today more than ever perhaps.  In those grim times, when "self-advertisment" was not thought a positive attribute, and cheating at cards could be social death, being a back-stabbing ingrate was less widely approved than in our enlightened times.

 

Haig was a dour, determined climber of a kind not unknown north of the borders, where "chips" were nourished like pets and internecine feuds were the national sport.  

 

Haig's animosity to someone like Allenby or Smith-Dorrien would be a product of his insecurity.   Aside from mere competitiveness, the striving type often finds hostility a useful way of sublimating or reshaping a nagging sense of inferiority, which if allowed to exist in the mind, saps his (or as often her) sense of entitlement and the self assurance they instinctively sense is necessary to their advancement.   Having reached their goal, as Haig did, such types live in perpetual fear not only of being discovered as inadequate, but of being replaced by someone better.  Indeed, the mere presence of those whose superiority cannot be denied is a rankling annoyance to such people constantly reminding them that they are not after all the "best man for the job", and that they did not "get there" buy any natural selection, but by dint of their frequently unscrupulous methods, which they are equally wont to forget!  And so the campaign immediately begins to get rid of all possible competitors...and to surround oneself with "sleek and fat men, such as sleep o' nights" 

 


 

 

 

 

Edited by 2ndCMR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Curiosity prompts me to refer to Haig’s Diaries and Letters.  Perhaps I can join up some dots.  The unedifying traits in his nature and conduct that have been alleged in this thread lead me to wonder whether Haig’s memoirs should  be treated with circumspection at best, and disdain at worst.

 

I’ll consult my volume edited by Gary Sheffield and John Bourne, and select entires that have a bearing on the themes we’ve been discussing . 

 

Looking forward to pitching this, and awaiting the responses.

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
squirrel

Edmonds, editor of the OH, has some views on Haig in his memoirs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Here’s my attempt at joining the dots :

 

Haig’s Diary , 7 August 1918 :

 

Canadians are very keen to do something.  Up to date they have not had a hand in the battle.  I reminded Currie that 55 British Divisions had withstood the attack of 109 picked German assault divisions from 21 March to 27 April ! ...

 

Why does Haig say that he “ reminded” Currie of this ?

 

1 September :

 

The Cabinet are ready to meddle and interfere in my plans in an underhand way, but do not dare openly to say that they mean to take the responsibility for any failure though ready to take credit for every success ! .......If my attack is successful I will remain on as C-in-C. If we fail, or our losses are excessive, I can hope  for no mercy !.....What a wretched lot of weaklings we have in high places at the present time !

 

That’s  a heartfelt bitch, isn’t it ?  Does he “unload” some of this on Currie ?

 

2 September :

 

The officer examining the prisoners stated that the morale of German officers was terribly low. He had at no period in the war seen such a despicable state.

 

This rather endorses the impact of the extraordinarily high ratio of  German officer casualties in their spring offensive that I have alluded to.  I would also draw attention to the impact of the influenza that ravaged the armies : the Germans suffered severely from this, although remarkably few of their men actually died from it, great numbers were incapacitated by it.

 

3 September - this is a good snippet to address the OP :

 

In my opinion it is much less costly in lives to press the Enemy after a victorious battle than to give him time to recover and organise afresh his defence of a position !  The latter must then be attacked in the face of hostile artillery and machine guns, all carefully sited.

 

 

 

 

 

27 September :

 

I told Currie that with Enemy in his present state there was nothing to fear as to his flank !

 

Now that’s something !  Haig reassuring Currie, as if to suggest that the Canadian might be wobbling.

 

Plenty more, I’m sure, but enough there to get our teeth into.

 

Phil

Edited by phil andrade

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
adk46canada

Phil,

 

We have to be a bit careful in discussing German morale and not treat it as a single entity. Overall, German morale was lower than before but there was enormous variability between units. Based on my research of the Second Arras campaign, elite units, like machine gunners, Guards, and Wurttemburgers, continued to fight with their customary ferocity. Average units sagged quickly in unfavourable conditions but would put up a good fight if they though they had the advantage. Weak units collapsed regardless of the situation. Canadian reports have battalions talking about taking shoals of prisoners while the battalion next to them discussed the fierce resistance put up by the enemy. The key was in the methods used by the Canadian Corps. If they launched a properly supported attack with an effective barrage, they would succeed. This was especially so if smoke accompanied the barrage. The Germans had no proper response to these attacks.

 

That the German morale was not universally poor can be attested by the fact that almost 20% of all the battalion attacks made by the Canadian Corps, including British units, failed during the campaign. Further, the Corps suffered 17,500 casualties during the campaign, so someone was fighting.

 

Regards

Bill

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2ndCMR
On 08/11/2019 at 13:44, phil andrade said:

Here’s my attempt at joining the dots :

 

Haig’s Diary , 7 August 1918 :

 

Canadians are very keen to do something.  Up to date they have not had a hand in the battle.  I reminded Currie that 55 British Divisions had withstood the attack of 109 picked German assault divisions from 21 March to 27 April ! ...

 

Why does Haig say that he “ reminded” Currie of this ?

 

1 September :

 

The Cabinet are ready to meddle and interfere in my plans in an underhand way, but do not dare openly to say that they mean to take the responsibility for any failure though ready to take credit for every success ! .......If my attack is successful I will remain on as C-in-C. If we fail, or our losses are excessive, I can hope  for no mercy !.....What a wretched lot of weaklings we have in high places at the present time !

 

That’s  a heartfelt bitch, isn’t it ?  Does he “unload” some of this on Currie ?

 

2 September :

 

The officer examining the prisoners stated that the morale of German officers was terribly low. He had at no period in the war seen such a despicable state.

 

This rather endorses the impact of the extraordinarily high ratio of  German officer casualties in their spring offensive that I have alluded to.  I would also draw attention to the impact of the influenza that ravaged the armies : the Germans suffered severely from this, although remarkably few of their men actually died from it, great numbers were incapacitated by it.

 

3 September - this is a good snippet to address the OP :

 

In my opinion it is much less costly in lives to press the Enemy after a victorious battle than to give him time to recover and organise afresh his defence of a position !  The latter must then be attacked in the face of hostile artillery and machine guns, all carefully sited.

 

 

 

 

 

27 September :

 

I told Currie that with Enemy in his present state there was nothing to fear as to his flank !

 

Now that’s something !  Haig reassuring Currie, as if to suggest that the Canadian might be wobbling.

 

Plenty more, I’m sure, but enough there to get our teeth into.

 

Phil

 

The sort of stuff one would expect.  Odd misuse of "despicable" if accurate.

 

The character of the man unfailingly comes through, despite the postwar rewrites of the diaries: jealous, insecure, spiteful, perpetually assigning blame elsewhere and quite adept at little disingenuous & stilted remarks calculated to give a false impression of events.  

 

One of Wolsey's "school girls"; or what might be called a narcissist today.   The icing on the cake being the inability to see how the diaries would read to others, then or in the future.

 

Sure enough, one more screw-up and he was done.  Whether he had heard of the Currie as C in C idea or not, he was "on notice"!  No wonder he would be in a rush to get rid of Currie; if nothing else the quick dismissal of a scapegoat or two might satisfy the politicians, or at least make it hard for them to act against Haig as well.  If a "colonial" could be made the scapegoat so much the better!  Horne would have known Haig's M.O well; the more insecure his position the quicker and wider he would look for scapegoats, and the faster he would act to preempt Whitehall.  No wonder Horne was alarmed lest the crossing of the Canal du Nord should fail!

 

 

Quote

...that they mean to take the responsibility for any failure...

 

Must be something missing there.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by 2ndCMR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Bill,

 

Your points strike home  : the very intensity and cost of the Hundred Days attest the stern resistance put up by the Germans.

 

No doubt morale varied from unit to unit, in all the armies : and the damage incurred in the spring offensive worked both ways.

 

There was a particularly pernicious aspect in regard to the Germans, though, in respect of the cost to their officers.  For reasons which I would like to discuss, or investigate, there was a profligacy in the expenditure of German officers’ lives in the March and April fighting in 1918. I wonder if this was a function of a “do or die” approach, in which failure occasioned not only colossal casualties, but also a sickening despair.

 

2nd CMR,

 

Like you, I was also arrested by that word “ despicable “ .

 

In some accounts, I’ve read that it was Horne, rather than Haig, who displayed jealousy of Currie.

 

I’m still wading my way through Simon Heffer’s huge book Staring at God : the British Home Front in the Great War, and he cites a priceless verdict on Haig by the wife of H.H. Asquith, the British PM.  On first meeting Haig ( perhaps before the war), she confided to her diary ...a remarkably stupid man, but a splendid soldier..

 

Whether this says more about Haig, Mrs Asquith, or the regard in which soldiers were held in Britain, is moot !

 

Phil

 

 

Edited by phil andrade

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
12 hours ago, phil andrade said:

Here’s my attempt at joining the dots :

 

Haig’s Diary , 7 August 1918 :

 

Canadians are very keen to do something.  Up to date they have not had a hand in the battle.  I reminded Currie that 55 British Divisions had withstood the attack of 109 picked German assault divisions from 21 March to 27 April ! ...

 

Why does Haig say that he “ reminded” Currie of this ?

 

 

 

Phil

Hi

 

Probably because what Currie had been saying earlier in the year about British troops.  Nicholson, page 380, has the following:

 

"The situation was not improved by the Canadian Commander's criticism of the performance of some of the British formations.  On 14 April, he noted in his diary, "Army Commander called in the afternoon, [and] resented any reflections on the fighting ability of British  Divisions.""

 

However, Currie was not keeping these comments about British troops to his diary, as a note at the bottom of the page  has the following:

 

"Currie's strictures had evidently not been confined to the pages of his diary, where for instance he had noted on 11 April, "Many British troops are not fighting well."  General Pershing,who visited the Canadian Corps Headquarters on 20 April, has recorded that on that occasion "General Currie deplored the fact that the British had so easily given up Passchendaele Ridge, which the year before he had been told to take at all cost, and for which the Canadians made the tremendous sacrifice of 16,000 casualties."

    When he expressed these criticisms Currie could not have weighed carefully all the factors affecting the British performance during the initial German offensive.  These have been well presented in a critical analysis of the situation by the British Official Historian.  They include the overwhelming German superiority opposite the British Fifth Army, the recent reduction of the British divisions to a nine-battalion structure, the weakening caused by a compelled extension to take over more from the French, and te absence of the General reserve."

 

To which should be added the loss of British (and French) divisions to Italy, some of whom started to return to the Western Front due to the German Offensive.  

 

The BEF did not decide to give up Passchendaele area lightly (rather a lot of British troops had died there as well), however, the decision shortened the line and freed up troops to fight in the Lys valley.  At the time it appears that Currie was not fully aware of the German strength in these attacks, for the present reader then I recommend Zabecki's 'The German 1918 Offensives', to get the details.

 

Mike

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
18 minutes ago, phil andrade said:

 

 

In some accounts, I’ve read that it was Horne, rather than Haig, who displayed jealousy of Currie.

 

 

Phil

 

 

Hi

 

Returning to Nicholson, page 380, Horne, after visiting Currie as mentioned, is stated as saying to Haig that Currie was:

 

"suffering from a swollen head"

 

The comments by Currie about British troops  and his previous 'demands' of keeping the Canadian divisions together while there were major battles going on putting the whole BEF and the senior officers under immense strain, were probably considered 'unhelpful' to say the least.  Especially since Currie and the Canadian Corps had not been involved in the major fighting against these 'full strength' German attacks, so he was not speaking from experience of them.

 

Mike

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2ndCMR
On 09/11/2019 at 03:05, MikeMeech said:

Hi

 

Returning to Nicholson, page 380, Horne, after visiting Currie as mentioned, is stated as saying to Haig that Currie was:

 

"suffering from a swollen head"

 

The comments by Currie about British troops  and his previous 'demands' of keeping the Canadian divisions together while there were major battles going on putting the whole BEF and the senior officers under immense strain, were probably considered 'unhelpful' to say the least.  Especially since Currie and the Canadian Corps had not been involved in the major fighting against these 'full strength' German attacks, so he was not speaking from experience of them.

 

Mike

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Canadian Corps together as a fighting force made absolute sense from a military perspective.  Though not of course if you resented a 'damned colonial amateur' being in command and accruing credit for their successes.  

 

Poor Haig and his fellow "professionals" hopefully had other reasons for being under "immense strain" in 1918 than not being able to divvy out the Canadian divisions between their commands. :rolleyes: Divvying up the "colonial" formations of course allowed their submergence under the "British" banner and any credit to accrue to the general's commanding.  The press would be sure not to notice!

 

Haig's decision not to use the Corps at all against the German advance turned out to be providential as they spent the time training hard for open warfare, which was probably vital to the later victories.  It was a curious decision indeed at a time when the war hung in balance, and showed the depth of his antipathies and the extent to which he was prepared to indulge them despite the risks. 

 

As for the quality of the British Army by that point, "See How They Ran" by William Moore covers it well enough I think.  The butcher's bills were coming due.  Currie was very conscious of the limitations of Canada's human capital and hated to waste it.   Hence his anger over the loss of Passchendaele, which he knew had been a futile exercise in Haigian obstinacy (and of course careerism) in the first place.   Kitchener, Haig and who knows how many others seem to have viewed men as a munition of war rather than a finite resource and one which the nation was obliged to supply  them in whatever quantities they demanded.

 

 

 

Edited by 2ndCMR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2ndCMR
On 09/11/2019 at 02:43, MikeMeech said:

Hi

 

Probably because what Currie had been saying earlier in the year about British troops.  Nicholson, page 380, has the following:

 

"The situation was not improved by the Canadian Commander's criticism of the performance of some of the British formations.  On 14 April, he noted in his diary, "Army Commander called in the afternoon, [and] resented any reflections on the fighting ability of British  Divisions.""

 

However, Currie was not keeping these comments about British troops to his diary, as a note at the bottom of the page  has the following:

 

"Currie's strictures had evidently not been confined to the pages of his diary, where for instance he had noted on 11 April, "Many British troops are not fighting well."  General Pershing,who visited the Canadian Corps Headquarters on 20 April, has recorded that on that occasion "General Currie deplored the fact that the British had so easily given up Passchendaele Ridge, which the year before he had been told to take at all cost, and for which the Canadians made the tremendous sacrifice of 16,000 casualties."

    When he expressed these criticisms Currie could not have weighed carefully all the factors affecting the British performance during the initial German offensive.  These have been well presented in a critical analysis of the situation by the British Official Historian.  They include the overwhelming German superiority opposite the British Fifth Army, the recent reduction of the British divisions to a nine-battalion structure, the weakening caused by a compelled extension to take over more from the French, and te absence of the General reserve."

 

To which should be added the loss of British (and French) divisions to Italy, some of whom started to return to the Western Front due to the German Offensive.  

 

The BEF did not decide to give up Passchendaele area lightly (rather a lot of British troops had died there as well), however, the decision shortened the line and freed up troops to fight in the Lys valley.  At the time it appears that Currie was not fully aware of the German strength in these attacks, for the present reader then I recommend Zabecki's 'The German 1918 Offensives', to get the details.

 

Mike

 

 

 

Do we know in fact what the substance of any of these criticisms were?  "Criticism" is after all a term very much in the perception of the hearer.

 

One man's suggestion is another man's criticism. 

 

Currie had been dodging daggers since 1915, I suspect he was under "immense strain" himself, not so much because he was afraid he might lose his job, like some people, but because he saw the best men of his country, indeed of the whole Empire itself being steadily used up.  If the war was brought to a successful conclusion, all the idiocies and waste of the past three years would be to some extent made up for.  But if the war ended in a draw, or worse defeat, all the terrible sacrifices would be in vain.  Narcissists and those on the psychopathic side of the spectrum of course suffer only their own account.  Personally, I see no evidence that Haig ever suffered emotionally for the losses the war ensued.  Indeed, he asked for a quarter million pounds as his "bounty", but had to settle for a hundred thousand as I recall, and didn't spend it on the human wreckage of the war.  No, he spent it, as much as he did, on buying the estate of the better part of the Haig line and doing up the place IIRC.  Similar personality to the maniacal Kaiser who spent his retirement chopping trees down as the only way he could express his destructive impulses.

 

Why was there no strategic reserve?  Why was the Fifth Army so easily destroyed?  Why was the front over-extended for years and innumerable lives expended to keep it so? 

 

Let's face the facts.  The culture of "good enough", "we'll muddle through", "we've always done it this way" just about did us in both world wars.   As for what it has achieved in peacetime, the postwar world speaks for itself.

Edited by 2ndCMR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Are you suggesting, 2ndCMR, that the Hundred Days were successful despite Haig, rather than because of him ?

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2ndCMR
On 11/11/2019 at 00:37, phil andrade said:

Are you suggesting, 2ndCMR, that the Hundred Days were successful despite Haig, rather than because of him ?

 

Phil

 

I would tend to the former view.  C in C's are always surrounded by a large staff who, in many cases do most of the thinking and planning.  In Haig's case one would definitely expect most of the mental heavy lifting was done for him.   One would need to study the record very carefully to determine where the concepts for various operations originated and in some cases I expect it would be impossible to determine at this distance of time.

 

Furthermore, "superiors" are very wont to take credit for the ideas of their subordinates if they can, and subordinates rarely feel able, then or later, to go against that.  Unless of course things don't go well in the execution whereupon subordinates will usually find their intellectual patrimony miraculously restored; indeed they are often forced to adopt the unwanted orphan of defeat!

 

On 09/11/2019 at 02:28, phil andrade said:

I’m still wading my way through Simon Heffer’s huge book Staring at God : the British Home Front in the Great War, and he cites a priceless verdict on Haig by the wife of H.H. Asquith, the British PM.  On first meeting Haig ( perhaps before the war), she confided to her diary ...a remarkably stupid man, but a splendid soldier..

 

One wonders what "splendid" meant in Mrs. Asquth's mind. presumably she meant Haig cut a good figure in scarlet?  In fairness to Haig he was known to be somewhat tongue-tied I believe, so he may not have kept up with with society conversation, or else expressed some views Mrs. Asquith took exception to! ^_^  His inability to communicate would have increased his frustration and resentment greatly, and he likely channelled that into his ambition to get ahead of those he felt looked down on him, "by hook or by crook."  IIRC he was known for a surly and abrupt demeanour even at Sandhurst.  Those who rightly or wrongly regard themselves as superior to their colleagues or contemporaries are particularly infuriated by patronizations or assertions of social superiority in others.  Robert Graves in the mess at Laventie(?) perhaps.  In those of a narcissistic inclination, I suspect the anger and resentment is redoubled.

 

Haig's dour and determined mien would have impressed some as a contrast to the calculatedly lackadaisical air apparently popular with many of his contemporaries, especially those with "superior" origins; or merely pretensions thereto.  One tends to assume that those who appear to be in great earnest are necessarily accomplished, and such is often true of course, but not always...!

 

 

Edited by 2ndCMR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Haig ...was competent by his lights.  They were dim.

 

So said another narcissistic person : Bernard Law Montgomery .

 

There must, surely, be aspects of the Hundred Days that might be cited to Haig’s credit .   ?

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
On 12/11/2019 at 17:06, 2ndCMR said:

 

I would tend to the former view.  C in C's are always surrounded a large staff who, in many cases do most of the thinking and planning.  In Haig's case one would definitely expect most of the mental heavy lifting was done for him.   One would need to study the record very carefully to determine where the concepts for various operations originated and in some cases I expect it would be impossible to determine at this distance of time.

 

Furthermore, "superiors" are very wont to take credit for the ideas of their subordinates if they can, and subordinates rarely feel able, then or later, to go against that.  Unless of course things don't go well in the execution whereupon subordinates will usually find their intellectual patrimony miraculously restored; indeed they are often forced to adopt the unwanted orphan of defeat!

 

 

One wonders what "splendid" meant in Mrs. Asquth's mind. presumably she meant Haig cut a good figure in scarlet?  In fairness to Haig he was known to be somewhat tongue-tied I believe, so he may not have kept up with with society conversation, or else expressed some views Mrs. Asquith took exception to! ^_^  His inability to communicate would have increased his frustration and resentment greatly, and he likely channelled that into his ambition to get ahead of those he felt looked down on him, "by hook or by crook."  IIRC he was known for a surly and abrupt demeanour even at Sandhurst.  Those who rightly or wrongly regard themselves as superior to their colleagues or contemporaries are particularly infuriated by patronizations or assertions of social superiority in others.  Robert Graves in the mess at Laventie(?) perhaps.  In those of a narcissistic inclination, I suspect the anger and resentment is redoubled.

 

Haig's dour and determined mien would have impressed some as a contrast to the calculatedly lackadaisical air apparently popular with many of his contemporaries, especially those with "superior" origins; or merely pretensions thereto.  One tends to assume that those who appear to be in great earnest are necessarily accomplished, and such is often true of course, but not always...!

 

 

Hi

 

Haldane when he was Secretary of State at the War Office appears to have had a high opinion of Haig when they were working on Army reform pre-war eg.  "Haldene was the first to recognise his dept to Haig and their admiration of each other's qualities remained constant." (page 167, 'Haldane of Cloan' by Dudley Sommer), this is elaborated on with a quote from Robert Blake on the same page, in relation to Haldane stating:

 

"He was the first War Minister since Cardwell in the 'seventies to think clearly about the actual function of the army in war.  But without Haig to translate his ideas into a detailed and practical form it is doubtful whether Haldane could have achieved as much as he did."

 

Obviously opinions differ on people depending on the context they meet them, I doubt Mrs Asquith had that much knowledge of military matters.

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
MikeMeech
5 hours ago, phil andrade said:

Haig ...was competent by his lights.  They were dim.

 

So said another narcissistic person : Bernard Law Montgomery .

 

There must, surely, be aspects of the Hundred Days that might be cited to Haig’s credit .   ?

 

Phil

Hi

Of course BLM never commanded an army as large as Haig had (BLM was a 'junior' Staff Officer during WW1) and his comments are sometimes made to make himself look 'better' than others, so rather awkward to compare the two.

 

The question is, how do you compare the work of Haig as commander of the BEF over a number of years, with responsibilities for much more than an Army Commander let alone a Corps commander.  Not to mention the politics of dealing with his own and allied governments as well as allied military etc.  Where do we put put his support for the introduction of the Tank in 1915/16 with its use in 1918.  His support for the 'experts' (even if they were civilian like Geddes over logistics) over professional senior regular soldiers?  His support for Trenchard over Horne and Rawlinson when the latter two tried to get the RFC 'artillery' machines taken over by the RA during 1916?  Can Haig and GHQ be classed as separate?  He would have been responsible over the decisions made by the staff at GHQ, so GHQ's role in the improvement of tactics and training with all the associated  pamphlets and training schools at all levels and continuing attempts to 'standardise' training throughout the BEF, which led to improvements by the '100 Days' (and before).  Do we put that down to Haig as well as any failures?

Most 'new' technology was introduced onto the battlefield with at least some 'complaint' by a few senior officers (and men at times), the support of GHQ for Sound Ranging during 1916, with expansion before and more expansion after the Somme, despite its effectiveness being low until the introduction of the Tucker microphone from June 1916.  It appears Haig was rather keen (may too keen at times) about new technology and methods (eg Gas).  However, most of the technology and tactics introduced under Haig played a part during the '100 Days'.

The bigger question would be that; Can we put down various aspects of the '100 Days' success to individuals, whether Haig, Currie, Monash, Plumer, Rawlinson etc. when most of the techniques and equipment used were developed over time with lots of people involved?

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DarrellDuthie
7 minutes ago, MikeMeech said:

The bigger question would be that; Can we put down various aspects of the '100 Days' success to individuals, whether Haig, Currie, Monash, Plumer, Rawlinson etc. when most of the techniques and equipment used were developed over time with lots of people involved?

Hi,

 

And were this ever truly to be a question, one might simply question whether there are EVER good generals or bad? Or is every battle in every time simply a team effort?

 

Darrell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
phil andrade

Darrell,

 

Isn’t successful team effort a testimony to good generalship ?  Maybe that’s where we might find the admirable attributes in Haig’s command : his achievements  in getting the teamwork to function. 

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Robert Dunlop

Planning was a complex, multi-layer process. In 1918, Herbert Lawrence (Chief of General Staff, reporting directly to Haig) was the key driver from the top-down perspective. Haig and Lawrence worked closely together; Haig maintained a close interest in the planning process, as evidenced by his personal annotations on some planning documents, but Lawrence ensured that he had the power to issue orders equivalent to Haig. Lawrence introduced a much more collaborative approach, accompanied by more frequent visits to and discussions with frontline commanders. This was in sharp contrast to Kiggell's approach. Under Lawrence, the Operations section was headed up by Davidson (who survived the cull that included Kiggell and Charteris). Within Operations there was the Oa (Planning) sub-section, headed up by Brigadier-General John Dill. It was Dill who re-introduced the role of liaison officer, facilitating to- and fro- communications with the next levels of command.

Army commanders were always planning offensive (and defensive) options during any lulls in operations. This was a continuous process, cascading down to Corps and Division commanders. Details were often worked out at Brigade level too, rising back up through the command layers. The lower-level plans were aggregated back up and would be presented back to GHQ via the Army commanders typically. This process meant that a new directive would not fall on fallow ground but would build on a set of plans that already existed but needed finessing. Thus the next major operation to follow the Battle of Amiens had been a work-in-progress initiated by Byng but requiring a second iteration at the request of GHQ. It was Lawrence who approved Byng's final plan, though Lawrence undoubtedly keep Haig informed.

Robert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DarrellDuthie
On 14/11/2019 at 10:42, phil andrade said:

Isn’t successful team effort a testimony to good generalship ?

Hi Phil!

 

Of course! Given there were so few moments in the war where the generalship (on the Allied side) proved both excellent and important, the 100 Days is one of the few shining examples where it did make a difference (although I'm not thinking of Haig, by the way, even though in all fairness I do think he'd made an important comeback at this stage of the war). The point of my question was simply: if you throw doubt on whether certain individuals (i.e. Dominion generals, one suspects) played a crucial role in the all-important 100 Days - which seems painfully obvious to the point of being self-evident - why, in Heaven's name? Perhaps no general or individual is ever so important? If the primacy of techniques and equipment were so critical (regardless that this train of thought was well dealt with above), why was III Corps not in the van of the advance 3 months long? Or does something else lurk beneath the surface?

 

All the best,

Darrell 

Edited by DarrellDuthie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2ndCMR
On 14/11/2019 at 01:42, phil andrade said:

Darrell,

 

Isn’t successful team effort a testimony to good generalship ?  Maybe that’s where we might find the admirable attributes in Haig’s command : his achievements  in getting the teamwork to function. 

 

Phil

 

Nothing about the man suggests any inclination to teamwork, or even appreciation of it.  Armies are top-down organizations.  You do as you're told or suffer the consequences and sometimes you suffer if you do do as you are told!  Everyone, almost, wanted the damn thing over, so everyone had at least an incentive to work hard to that goal.  Those who never had worked hard of course continued as per usual.  Those who were stupid continued to be so.  The subordinates have an incentive to work together, and unless they have some personal, professional, social or other animosities that inhibit that, will do so.  Particularly when victory seems to be in sight.  Indeed, even the slothful tend to get ambitious at that point as to make a good showing at the end may garnish them some honours they would not have got otherwise.  Squabbles arise as to prizes: get the Canadians out of Cambrai for example...all the usual human stuff.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...