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Remembered Today:

Haig`s Diary


PhilB
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I`m up to October 1915. So far I`ve noticed:-

1/ A lot of motoring from HQ to HQ. Of course, it may have been necessary given the communications of the time.

2/ A fair amount of bitchiness although H claims to be above all that.

3/ A surprising tendency to quote praise and complements that people gave to him.

4/ An absence of any self criticism.

All in all, it`s not quite on the intellectual level I expected. Perhaps it gets better, or are my expectations excessive? Phil B

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I am also a little bit into the book and I'm just reading a little bit at a time and dipping in for reference when the need arises. I expected to read a diary which was kept in the full knowledge that parts were being read by extremely important people just a few days after writing. Reading it from that point of view, I have not been disappointed. Very thin ice here, mustn't wake the Haig demons. :ph34r:

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Phil,

I think you may be looking for something that is not there. I found that it reinforced much i had preconcieved about Haig, especially that he was full of his own greatness, which is not necesserilt bad in a commander.

It also did highlight his apparent idea that others bitched he did not he just stated facts as he saw them!

As far as praise, it was after all his own diary!

I found the book/diary to be good from the point of view that if it had been edited he would have left much out. It says much about Haig if you read between the lines in my opinion.

keep reading and then let me know what you think, or post along the way and we can discuss it.

regards

Arm

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October 1916 now. Little changes. All the previous comments apply plus some irritation at the awards that seem to be showered on the people around H. (Joffre arrived with 50 C de Gs for me to hand out. I managed to find 10 deserving officers..... King stayed to lunch. He knighted Kiggell and handed me the GCVO as a mark of his own personal appreciation) etc!

I find little evidence of empathy with the men doing the fighting and the suffering. (Casualties 25 Sept - 2 Oct 1916 were 19,025 "This must be considered small judging by the results gained").

The Grand Stategy seems to be simply to keep up the offensive, along the whole front if possible and to wait for the German collapse (always imminent) and send in the cavalry. I don`t get the sense of a highly intelligent man, but a rather narrow minded, inflexible person. Perhaps that`s what you need for a C in C? :( Phil B

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Phil ... your post got me to thinking ... "Narrow minded, inflexible" ... needed in a CinC ...

Well, yes and no ... (how's that for a reaction?" ... Maybe compartmentalized would be better. I think that Haig, or what I know of Haig, was that sort of person ... and maybe, as you suggest, he had to be ... I mean Lee probably submerged his perception of casualties in terms of duty and patriotic defense of home ... we know Grant drank beause of the casualties ... Haig seems to be ignoring them ...

Recently I tried to explain what it's like being an officer and the difference from being a Sgt ... it's not really all that different from Lt Col down ...except for getting to pick ... but can being responsible for men's destruction is something a Sgt does by face and mutual risk ... the General does this with paper ... I know I'm beginning to sound like the screenplay for Dawn Patrol ... but I think there's something there ...

VonF statement about attrition and Verdun ... Haig and his plans for a break through ...

One of the real issues we both realize but seldom really give weight to is that a commander who thinks himself defeated or prevented from some action (ie a victorious breakthrough) is defeated from the beginning ... one who belives it can be done and keeps trying ... and trying things new ... has a better chance of being victorious than one who "knows and understands" the reality of war ....

I keep coming back to Grant and spring of 1964 ... he loses 4 straight battles and ends up at the gates of Petersburg setting up final victory ... Everyone ... literally everyone considers him a butcher ... but he deprives Lee of his one real advantage (a manuver capable army) and drives the war home, never to be repulsed by simple defeat ...

I believe we owe Haig ... if for not being great or visionary ... for being immune to defeat ... He did not have the luxery of Churchill to rise from ignominious ashes each time he was wrong ... he could only keep one foot in front of the other. We would wish a Jeb Stuart, a Lee or Stonewall ... maybe a Marlborough, Wellington or Monk ... a Gudarian (sp) but what we got was a determined man ... who would not believe in defeat or defense ... the invader must be repelled forcibly ... otherwise why not negoitate till they do it again ...

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I must admit that when considering what other option H had, I could not produce a realistic alternative. I suspect only the politicians could have done that. He didn`t have the option of doing nothing. Unlike Grant, he didn`t always have a handy flank to go round (usually the left one!) And I wouldn`t be surprised to find that an interest in decorations and a bit of bitchiness are not uncommon in commanders! Phil B

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Phil, once you have finished Haig's diary, take on Ludendorff's memoirs. You will find some interesting similarities and differences.

Robert

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There was a reference in another thread, about an officer and a private being buried close to one another, and the comment was (similar too) one great life lost one cr@p.

Did Haig not give the impression that the ordinary soldiers life was justifiably forfitable as they are only cannon fodder. There existence worthless (but to serve) in the eyes of the upper class?

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I think you have to lose your Marxist eyes here ... a General kills soldiers to accomlish projects ... depending on the project is whether or not the cost is worth the objective. As soldiers our job was to fight and try not to die in the process of gaining an objective ... a General makes those decisions ... While Haig is from an "upper class" family ... the field ranks were porous - certainly increasingly so - to lower classes infiltration ...

But, the job, is the job ...

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aye, but in the same vein was Montgomery not accused of being too 'careful' with his soldiers lives?......having seen the slaughter of ww1, his planning and use of resources, was more meticulous than ever, and in fact surprised everyone with his daring 'market garden' offensive.

how would you compare the two?

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... the field ranks were porous - certainly increasingly so - to lower classes infiltration ...

You may not be familiar with the subtle nuances of the British class system, Andy. I doubt whether many members of the "lower" class made it to field rank, though some members of a class lower than upper class certainly did! Phil B

PS No, I`m not going to try to define the classes!

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Any General will have to balance caution against aggression. Judgements on battles are made in retrospect. The victor "got it right", the loser "made a hash of it". Since any action is going to cost lives, it will always be possible to argue that lives could have been saved , on either side, by using different tactics.

I'm still reading the Diary and, for what it's worth, I think Haig has been badly maligned. He adhered stubbornly to his misplaced faith in cavalry. He was too reluctant to give up when a battle had ran its course. These were side effects of one of his main virtues. Stubborn refusal to give up.

He was not unique in either of these faults. For really bad generalship, have a look at the French conduct of the opening few weeks. It's just as well that the French soldiers were heroic in the extreme. They held on until the Marne in spite of their leaders. (bang goes my chance of a Legion d'Honneur)

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You may not be familiar with the subtle nuances of the British class system, Andy. I doubt whether any members of the "lower" class made it to field rank, though some members of a class lower than upper class certainly did! Phil B

PS No, I`m not going to try to define the classes!

" Wullie" Robertson?

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I`ve always felt slightly suspicious about Wullie`s rise. He was commissioned into a cavalry regiment at 28, not into QM branch (as rankers often did) but into staff duties. Most unusual! He was from a "big house" background. I have a conspiracy theory that he was actually the illegitimate son of a nobleman, by a serving girl and that`s where his backing came from. Before writing my exposee, I need to know what upper class men visited his house 9 months before his birth and then a batch of DNA tests. Then it`s plain sailing! :) Phil B

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I`ve always felt slightly suspicious about Wullie`s rise.

.........

I need to know what upper class men visited his house 9 months before his birth and then a batch of DNA tests. Then it`s plain sailing!  :)  Phil B

Easy-peasy then. :)

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"The following is written as one might talk in a Pub, not a serious, academic or legalistic debating manner ... please see the smile and joy in my words." - Andy

Actually, for an American, I might be fairly sensitive to the English Class System ... I tried to pick my wording carefully (not on this board!!!) and lower meant that ... not from the coal mines, but middling sort ... There are lots of examples of people coming from Respectable or lesser strains of noble lines or of -gasp- gentry and making it to field rank ... Let's start with Ligonier ... and work up ... Robertson is a clear example ... THere are lots more ...

People seem to think that your an "upper" with a title and a fortune, but that wasn't so. The British nobility was probably the thinnest at the top of any European power, most transitory and open to talent. There were always new Dukes and the like .... down to our ignominious "Bart." ... I mean what was that other than a distant relation to somebody who once was important and looking for a job.

A couple of thoughts here ... compared to French, Russian or Prussian nobility ... there are very, very, very few British titles that aren't "Middle Class" and frankly, bought. You can't go back 300 years in most of them not finding an "interesting" character who rose by his wits, brain, well placed loans or a incredible ability to kill people ... (okay this is a generalization but again, compare it to the Contintental shelf of titles and noblemen) ... Heck the HRH level are bounders compared with Bourbons and Romanovs ...

British "nobility" regularly finianced itself through marriage with talented genteel families ...

Nobility, other than HRH level, rarely outweighed talent. And the Navy, the senior and important military branch, next to ignored it, as did the Engineers and Arillery ...

For every fat, unmilitary but titled colonel, there was a hard working almost middle class Lt Col making the regiment work ... Take a look at the Operational Army for the entire 19th Century and find me a majority of High Aristocrats ... I think what you'll find is a lot of guys who were at the entry level of respectability and ambitions ... The Howes and Cornwallis's weren't big shots ... Wellington himself wasn't from a family "in" at Court ...

Okay, I could go on and on (don't I?) Some of the data here is in my MA Thesis, The Forgotten Army (it's at the BA museum) about the system between 1716 and 1746 but the analysis of the officer corp was to be the main platform of my dissertation ... the flexibility and practice (not the legend and dejure rules) of the BA allow democracy and the rule of talent to gain such a commanding position in Britain that it never succumbed to Military expenditure problems of the 18th and 19th Centuries as did those issues did in Prussia or France ...

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By "lower class" then, Andy, you mean not titled or royal? Phil B

Probably ... meaning those below true aristocratic blood lines with money ... I would think the Royals / Dukes / Marquess ... titled, in Britain encompasses a LOT of people .... I was aiming at the upper .1% really.

I was not saying that the 1914 officer corps was even middle class ... certainly not ... at least from my study, those who held field rank ... came from good / some level though usually lower titled background ... and were not filthy rich ...

But I could be wrong ...

Compared to America it was a bastion of priviledge - much of it ancestral ... compared to Russia ... it was middle class ...

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You are quite correct. I just couldn't resist. Incidentally, why was he "Wullie"? He was a Londoner I believe. Did he serve with a Scottish unit on his way up?

He was from Lincolnshire I believe, though IIRC his father was Scottish (I may well be wrong!)

Incidentally, you can find him on the free 1881 Census, http://www.familysearch.org as:

Birth Year <1860>

Birthplace Grantham, Worcester, England

Age 21

Occupation Corporal 16 Lancers

Marital Status U <Unmarried>

Institution "Cavalry Barracks" Fulford Road

Census Place Gate Fulford, York, England

There is a likely match for his birth at http://www.freebmd.org.uk

Births Mar 1860

ROBERTSON William Robert Sleaford 7a 404

Sorry to go OT :)

Cheers

Shaun (Robertson! Sadly, no relation)

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I have a conspiracy theory that he was actually the illegitimate son of a nobleman, by a serving girl and that`s where his backing came from.

Shaun (Robertson! Sadly, no relation)

Are you absolutely sure about this, Shaun? ;)

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There is a good article/bio about him on the mother site.

He had a habit of dropping his 'h's' and in later life some have implied he did this continually to make a point of his origins!

he was accepted by his fellow officers through sheer hard work and ability IMO.

Haig often referred to him as 'Iron ration' this typified the man to him, wether it was a term of enderament or not remains to be seen. i think it was begrudging respect.

I am often reminded of an apparent story that is true. It was after the armastice and there was a function or something and Robertson had been replaced by Wilson, someone he hated with a passion. Haig gave a speach that complimented Wilson. It is aledged that Robertson said as he left "I shant go fartin' wiv 'aig again!"

regards

Arm

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I`ve always felt slightly suspicious about Wullie`s rise. He was commissioned into a cavalry regiment at 28, not into QM branch (as rankers often did) but into staff duties. Most unusual! He was from a "big house" background. I have a conspiracy theory that he was actually the illegitimate son of a nobleman, by a serving girl and that`s where his backing came from. Before writing my exposee, I need to know what upper class men visited his house 9 months before his birth and then a batch of DNA tests. Then it`s plain sailing!  :)  Phil B

Robertsons family migrated south some centuries previous to Williams birth. His father was a village postmaster and was not in service. his mother was very religious and he was one of many children

It was infact William who went into service before he enlisted.

You can squash that theory Phil :(

regards

Arm

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