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Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig: A2 Coursework


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armourersergeant

Do not the last two posts just prove my dilemea given that you have both put your own interpretation on it and you are both perhaps correct. :(

Arm.

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Do not the last two posts just prove my dilemea given that you have both put your own interpretation on it and you are both perhaps correct. :(

Arm.

Well said Arm.

You have summed up the controversy in a nutshell. Criticism is easy with the benefit of hindsight, constructive criticism with just the tools and information available at the time is much harder.

Tim

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What are your opinions with regards to Sheffield and Warner? Have I chosen rightly? I will acquire more, no doubt about it, but this is just a starting point. I have considerable time to gather texts, sources and notes, make an introduction, and finally write the essay.

Regards,

Matt

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armourersergeant

Both are pro Haig and whilst they may not be wrong you need to get a taste of anti haig to even the balance.

A peice of advice i would give is if you have a question abvout something regarding what you have read or heard post it as a question and see what answers you get back. i have started many posts that have given me much info on an area that i knew little of and have gain much knowledge from these crazy pink skirted men and women on this forum.

Arm.

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Matt

Good luck you are opening a real can of worms. (So you know where I am coming from I personally think he was a blundering dullard and that's the best I can say about him!)

It's a big task you are undertaking and you will find that most modern books are generally written in favour of him as that is the fashion of day amongst the majority of military authours. The general public will mostly see him in a bad light and the media will change from week to week. Don't forget the class issue that often gets forgotten in debates about Haig.

Rather you than me mate! :D

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Matt

One useful source re Haig, not yet mentioned, is a Timewatch video (1998 BBC 2, I think).

It features historians from both sides of the debate: Laffin, Wilson, Sheffield, De Groot. Generally, it seems to align itself with the revisionist interpretation. Gary Sheffield stresses the 'learning curve'achieved by the British command - i.e. by 1918 (see battle of Amiens 8 August) the British employed sophisticated 'integrated arms' tactics. 'The Forgotten War' (Sheffield) will contain all this in detail.

steve

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Arm, as far as the anti-Haig element is concerned, I have a book (simply called "14-18") that contains first-hand accounts of Great War veterans, including survivors of the Somme Offensive. Their accounts are as mixed as the opinions on Haig, some appear to praise his ability to shorten the "learning curve" of the BEF, and believe him to be the one responsible for the final victory and the remarkable professionalism that characterised the BEF at the war's end. Others however, do adhere to the anti-Haig stance, very much supporting the "lions led by donkeys" line of thinking...

Regards,

Matt

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Do not the last two posts just prove my dilemea given that you have both put your own interpretation on it and you are both perhaps correct.

Arm.

Yes Arm, that is exactly the dilemma that faces anyone studying Field Marshal Haig...

Regards,

Matt

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Matt,

I hope that this thread has given you many useful pointers and I trust you will feel able to look at the material and draw your own conclusions on the material you have regardless of the myriad of views expressed by others.

I would make one plea on behalf of us all, however. Please do let us see and read the results of your deliberations. I, for one, would be delighted to hear you put your arguments and learn of your conclusions.

Good Luck

Martin

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Two other points: 'purposely misused tanks' - how could any serious historian argue that Haig 'purposely misused tanks'?! This would be the ultimate of all conspiracy theories since it seems to suggest that Haig was an agent of the Germans intent on trying to lose the war! If so, he was frankly c**p at it as the British Army won the war...

Secondly, "the awful mess he had already made in conducting the Somme offensive" wasn't seen as such in early-mid 1916 when the tanks were being trialled 'cos the battle hadn't started - and, anyway, that's a with-hindsight opinion based on the events of the first day. Whilst the Somme Offensive was proceeding I would suggest there was no 'black and white' answer to the question of whether it was going to be the FINAL muddy graveyard of the German Army.

Signals

Just to emphasise I didn't say YOU said Haig purposely misused tanks. I said no serious historian could argue that - because, in my opinion, a proper historian who has examined the evidence in detail couldn't do other than conclude otherwise. My point about 'conspiracy theories' was a logical extrapolation of what would be an illogical viewpoint.

This can be linked to Alan Lines's point about Haig being a 'blundering dullard' and to Arm Sarge's point that "...to go against Haig nowadays in academic or semi-academic circles is often seen to be 'Mad'" - I don't think that 'mad' is the right word but with the opportunities to consult sources previously unavailable the 1960s 'black and white' views are so dated. It's not that Haig was wholly wonderful or a 'blundering dullard' - you expect a more sophisticated analysis now of a man who lead such a huge army and was responsible not just for its fighting but every aspect of its existence. The 'Haig despised tanks' myth has been debunked through examination of evidence not just because people kept saying so. There's still the 'Haig used tanks too soon in the wrong way, etc' 'view'. I don't believe it. I'm surprised anyone does - but they do. An academic (or indeed any reasonable person) would think anyone 'mad' if they did not come to a logical conclusion based on evidence.

To explain another point in my previous post - Haig was trying to get an idea of what tanks he was going to get and when he might use them BEFORE the Somme battle started - hence my point about Mid-1916.

You may have taken my points to be about you in a narrow sense. They were intended as a wider analysis.

Unlike many Baker Pals who have money for fridge magnets, polo shirts, foreign get-togethers and the like ;) I'm not blessed with the financial wherewithal to attend these Pal Gatherings and wouldn't expect that you'd be at such an event as 'Mr Signals' but if our paths should cross, you can stand this poor fellow a pint and we'll reach an amicable agreement on Tanks and Douglas Haig. :)

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armourersergeant

Bryn,

just to wind the clock up a bit more.

When i used the word 'Mad' i was trying to get over that if you say something that is seen to condem Haig you get a bombardment of posts defending and the basis seems to be ' are you really serious, how can you believe that?'

I think that this certainly, in my time on this forum, often negates a good debate on the man as peolpe will not post for fear of 'ridicule' and that is one of the reasons i posted that we should organise a debate.

I so want to believe i really do but it is important to me that i believe because i do and not because the majority tell me it is right to do so.

Of course the reason you may seem to be 'Mad' is because the majority are actually right and Haig was not managing director of 'Bungelers r us'

This stance is in no way a criticism of the passion shown of anyone who wishes to shout for there corner on this forum as is there right as members and something i have often taken advantage of myself. I merely try to indicate that it is difficult to show an even discussion if one person takes on twenty.

Arm.

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Matt,

I hope that this thread has given you many useful pointers and I trust you will feel able to look at the material and draw your own conclusions on the material you have regardless of the myriad of views expressed by others.

I would make one plea on behalf of us all, however. Please do let us see and read the results of your deliberations. I, for one, would be delighted to hear you put your arguments and learn of your conclusions.

Good Luck

Martin

Certainly, I'll look forward to it!

Regards,

Matt

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Jonathan Saunders

Bryn, if you stand at the bar with me then I will buy you a beer :)

I was adamant I wasnt going to post on Haig again but this is a barrier you might be able to help me with. One of my problems with Haig are the seemingly contradictions I find when trying to profile him from what evidence comes my way. For example his motives for using tanks 15 Sept and the manufacturing order he subsequently tried to place for 1000 more. When I apply the revisionist view of Haig and tanks against his mid-20's comment, which was something similar to "I believe a well bred horse still has much opportunity. The aeroplane and tank are only accesories to the soldier and horse and a horse will do as much in the future as it has done in the past". (This is not an exact quote but as close as my memory allows. It was part of a much earlier thread on the forum and whilst I cannot remember the source it was, I am sure, finally verified by one of the PALS).

The difficulty is when I look at pre 15 Sept motives, subsequent placement orders, comments Haig made on tanks immediately after 15 Sept, learning curves, and past experience: 15 Sept, Cambrai, 1918 etc, and contrast it with his mid-20's comment then something just doesnt sit right, in my mind, to the view of Haig as the Educated Soldier.

Do you have a view on Haig's comment?

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Signals

Better late than never!

The quote is:

"Some enthusiasts to-day talk about the probability of horses becoming extinct and prophesy that the aeroplane, the tank, and the motor-car will supersede the horse in future wars. I believe that the value of the horse and the opportunity for the horse in the future are likely to be as great as ever. ...

I am all for using aeroplanes and tanks, but they are only accessories to the man and the horse, and I feel sure that as time goes on you will find just as much use for the horse - the well-bred horse - as you have ever done in the past."

It appears in The Tanks Vol. 1 by a certain Captain Basil Liddell Hart (p.234) and was written in 1925. I am not exactly sure where, but would imagine it's in something like the RUSI journal or the Army Quarterly or some such.

Context: Written in response to the publication of a book entitled 'Paris, or the Future of War' by ... a certain Captain Basil Liddell Hart. This immediately sets the alarm bells ringing about the '...' at the end of the first paragraph of the Haig quote. Without going back to the original source, we'll have to leave that aside for the moment. LH was certainly not one of DH's biggest fans! I've spent some time recently reading Alex Danchev and John Mearsheimer on Liddell Hart and learnt a lot (see some of my other postings). Unfortunately, I don't have copies of these to hand so I'll take a punt from another angle or two about aspects of this remark.

1) 1925: FW War was over in 1918. Haig's in his mid-60s and out of touch with the 'modern' army. Possible but not likely.

2) During the war, no British tank had existed that could work as a true weapon of exploitation - the Whippet at 8mph was hardly 'fast', was it? The Medium Cs and Ds etc never saw war service. So, as some historians like Dr Stephen Badsey will point out, cavalry remained the only possible arm of exploitationin the war. (MAYBE Armoured cars - but NOT tanks.)

3) So, looking at the British Army in 1925, we should inform the discussion by looking at the main British battle tank of that period. What were its capabilities? Because, assuming Haig knew about it, it certainly doesn't appear he believed it was capable of acting in that role. I don't know if it was the Vickers Mark I by this date.

4) Of course, he was quite possibly wrong - No, I don't think he was infallible (that's where those who use the label 'revisionist' often make an error). He did say: 'I am all for using aeroplanes and tanks, but they are only accessories to the man ...' I have no problem with that part. That's what I still believe was the right approach during the war given the state of development of these weapons. I think he was wrong about horses, but it's not 1925 as I write this.

5) I can't get around the fact that this is an argument against the line Liddell Hart took in his book. What that was I don't know as I haven't read 'Paris'. So, this will remain an incomplete answer until the gaps identified in this long post are filled in.

I don't find it inconsistent with Haig's attitude to the tank or the horse in the war and I still think his approach to the employment of tanks IN THE WAR was basically correct.

Interestingly, I couldn't find a reference to the Haig comment in the Liddell Hart catalogue of material held at Kings. In summary, it's an incomplete quote taken out of a context to illustrate a particular point LH wished to make - that doesn't mean I'm saying '... so that makes it all right ...' - I need some more info.

If I don't reply for a while now please don't think I'm being rude or have nothing else to contribute - I've just got a lot on my plate!

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Whilst looking at material for the previous posting I found the following:-

A report released in 1919 on the lessons of the First World War concluded:

"Important as has been the effect of these mechanical developments and special services, their true value has been as auxiliaries to the Infantry. Nothing in this war has changed the fact that it is now, as always heretofore, the Infantry with rifle and bayonet that, in the final analysis must bear the brunt of the assault and carry it on to victory."

This was written by the US Army Chief of Staff. It's interesting that, whether or not you regard this as the wrong conclusion, it was a conclusion arrived at independently and separately by two of the war-winning combatant nations. I think it's very relevant to any discussion of whether Haig and GHQ misused tanks.

I wasn't aware of this before and would like to know more about this report and it's conclusions. Who was this CoS - James Harbord or Peyton March?

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Jonathan Saunders

Bryn,

There is no hurry for any reply and I appreciate the benefit of yr thoughts.

With regard to 1) I would think it unlikely, virtually inconceivable in fact, that Haig, the career soldier, was not aware of any progress/development in military spheres post WW1. Cutting across points 2) and 3) I have always understood that throughout the 1920's tank development (particularly light and medium tanks) was fairly constant in Russia and Germany and I would expect Haig would have been aware of this and he would have discussed these issues in his military circles. Also aeronautical development did not slow down after the end of the war and couple this with the effect caused by bombers such as the Gothas and Handley Pages etc and I would think it would certainly stimulate the thought patterns of a "redundant" military tactician. Please understand I am not trying to catch you out, but these are merely thoughts that came to mind when I was trying to evaluate this quote myself. Unfortunately I dont necessarily have the depth of knowledge to adequately progress (or dismiss) these thoughts further.

Also another couple of points spring to mind - after nearly 4 years of entrenchment do you think if Haig believed another war would occur, that he believed it would be a mobile war? Also bearing in mind the incredible technological advancements in military "tools" during 1914 and 1918, that it would be conceivable that the horse, would still be used as it had been pre-WW1. I do understand yr point about selective quoting, context, etc. Also I am aware that the horse was used in certain terrains for most, if not all, of WW2.

We can never totally remove our benefit of hindsight but I am trying to consider what would have been the thought process of a Field Marshall in 1925.

Finally with regard to yr next post and I wouldnt dispute the role of the infantry. However I have read of cases of where Haig was asking on the spot subalterns for their report and what advice they would give (please dont ask me for sources as I cant tell you), but with tanks Swinton was 1) reluctant at best to their introduction in Sept 1916 and 2) against their deployment spread along a battlefield rather than used in concentration to punch a hole for the infantry (and subsequently cavalry?) to exploit. I think that remains my main grievance with Haig on this point.

In view of yr other obligations, please only reply if and when you find the time.

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armourersergeant

Just bring my tuppence worth,

Is it worth considering what the Cavalrys role exactly was before WW1, because i would have thought that Mounted infantry, recce and flanking movements were more predominenet. I always when cavalry are mentioned seem to have the 'Charge of the Greys' in mind, but surely this had really passed. I know there were instances of Cavalry charges in the early stages at Mons etc but these were i believe desperation events, not planned actions.

Given that Tanks were of a speed to support the infantry, mobility and breakthrough were a thing of the future, though not to distant, the only weapon was the armoured car and surely in some circumstances this still had limitations. Reliability, costs, feul, etc. When these comments were made could he have forseen how development would gain ground. Did anyone forsee the T-34 and Panthers as a natural progression from the MKVI in 1925?

I may be wrong but i think not just Haig but military thinking on the British side almost upto WW2 was that the tank would be infantry support, the Matilda comes to mind. Obviously the fact others thought the same does not make Haig correct.

Also how much use did the Cavalry get in the later days of the fighting in 1918, when mobility got under way? (i do not know the answer here!) But if a fair bit i bet they were used to outflank and reece areas behind the enemy etc. This could have left a remaining imprint on Haigs memory.

Sigs,

Is your stance that the tanks should have been held back and used in Cambrai like style in 1917 to force a breakthrough? Because if it is you are probably right but i have to say that it would have took a great strength not to have used them to help on the Somme when all other eventualities had failed. If we criticise Haig for using them perhaps we should give him the credit for trying to break the dead lock and save more lives. What we can say is that he should perhaps have listened to those more closely connected to the subject and their opinions..IMO

Arm.

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Wow! Never believed this thread would roll over into four pages! Thanks for your invaluable assistance. I look forward to displaying my finished piece on these boards, so as it may face the forum's critique!

Regards,

Matt

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Jonathan Saunders

Matt,

Apologies for continuing this thread to 4 pages but it is certainly educational for me and I hope for you as well.

Arm,

My stance is that Swinton was against the introduction of tanks in Sept 1916 and their deployment spread over a long line. Haig's subsequent decision to 1) deploy the tanks 2) in an unconcentrated form, doesnt reflect other decisions from his thought making process ie. rather than make decisive decisions, I have found he made compromise decisions or decided not to dispute his Generals ie. Rawlinson and the Somme in 1916 and Byng and Arras in 1918. Therefore, as at this moment, I find it contradictory with Haig's character that he decided to over-rule Swinton on both the above points.

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Signals

Back with some more thoughts on this one as I indicated.

Allocation of tanks for 15 Sep:

My research tells me it was primarily Rawlinson and not Haig who distributed the tanks between the three Corps of Fourth Army, but I appreciate the buck stops finally with Haig.

Swinton's advice

In a Section of his Note on tanks of Feb 1916 in a section entitled 'Impossibility of Repeated Employment,’ Swinton had written:

“11. Since the chance of success of an attack by tanks lies almost entirely in its novelty and in the element of surprise, it is obvious that no repetition of it will have the same opportunity of succeeding as the first unexpected effort. It follows, therefore, that these machines should not be used in driblets[swinton’s own emphasis](for instance, as they may be produced), but the fact of their existence should be kept as secret as possible until the whole are ready to be launched, together with the infantry assault in one great combined operation”

AFTER the war he wrote about being unhappy with how they were used too spread out but the principle difference between Fourth Army and Swinton seems to have been a matter of an extra 50 yards between each tank.

I DO think Haig used tanks too early EXCEPT this was the major British offensive of the war so far and Haig had expected to get them earlier. Swinton kept giving him revised deadlines for their arrival because of production difficulties. I DON'T think Haig should have waited until 1917. Late September (Battle of Morval) might have been an appropriate time, but 15 September battle was the intended breakthrough battle NOT 25 Sep.

I STILL haven't got the exact source for the Haig 'Well-bred horse' quote. Help me out here someone! It's a book review I think...

That aside, I am going to put this one to bed as far as I'm concerned as I think I can't give sufficiently detailed info as I'd prefer to in the time I have available. Hope no-one minds... That doesn't stop anyone criticising what I've just said, does it? Sharpen the e-pencils...

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The "well-bred horse" quotation came from a book-review by H**g in 1926:

"I believe that the value of the horse and the opportunity for the horse in the future are likely to be as great as ever. Aeroplanes and tanks are only accessories to the men and the horse, and I feel sure that as time goes on you will find just as much use for the horse - the well-bred horse - as you have ever done in the past."

Tom

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