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Remembered Today:

Back to the Front


jamesmcdonald
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I read this book (By Steven O'Shea) and have never read more scathing opinions of Haig.

Was he really ..Quote "A dangerously stupid man"? I never thouht of him as stupid, maybe callous. But they were different times and the class distinction was more evident than it is today. As a member of the upper classes, he lived in a different world from the Tommies.

any opinions on this?

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I have not read this particular book but I have read various others on and around the same subject and I although some are good I beleive that what you say is true that it was a different time and the class factor does play a part, in that the Generals and upper classes who were running the show saw the men and equipment merely as pins and markers on a map and were quite callous in their use, and were carrying out the battles in the manner they had been taught and had learned during their careers. As history shows battles are remembered by the leaders not, as on this forum by the men who actually fought them. I beleive that the majority of the leaders in WW1 were mindful only of the need for victory, and were not stupid, as is often suggested merely conditioned to acheive at any cost so to speak. I think that in trying to relate these stories some authors try and apply modern ideals and perspectives to events that happened in a different time and a world away, thus portraying these men as "stupid" because their ideas do not suit the modern methods of thinking and warfare.

Regards daveo

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I have this Book in my collection,and to tell the Truth i found it a Poor Read,to much Moaning on His Part about Bad Weather,Local People,How much His Feet Hurt,more bad Weather,and too much supposition on His Part.And as you have stated He seems to have a Downer on ALL Senior Officers in the British and French Armies.I have just flicked through it again,and i can still not find much in it that i could reccommend about this Book.His descriptions of St.Georges Chapel in Ypres is very weird in that he calls it a "Fetish House".He is a very negative Writer.If anyone wants my copy of this Book,they are most welcome. :angry:

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Having just read In Flanders Field author Leon Wolff,the book certainly gives one a good insight to Field Marshall Haig

"A disquieting event took place in 1912,when during war games Haig commanded a corps and was seriously out-manoeuvred.The official report referred significantly to the way he had pursued fixed aims without regard to new information"

Sadly events at the Somme four years later and Passchendaele a further year on would seem to give the impression that lessons had not been learnt from 1912.

We have come to think that there are two schools of thought,you either think Haig was a great leader or a man who did not listen to others and as a result many thousands of men died because of his actions.How could any sane person still think in 1916 that horses are a match for machine guns and gas?.

My own view is Field Marshall Haig stayed in charge simply by the fact he was too close to the King,he would write to the King stating certain Generals were not fit to command,can that be judged as a right thing to do?

Both my Husband and I know that there will be a lot of you out there that will pull this to pieces,but as already stated,you are either for or against the man,and by now it is obvious where our thoughts lie.

Joan and Terry

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My own two cents is that I felt very much the same way after I read the book the first time. I couldn't understand why someone would write a book about a topic they seemed to have no interest in - and almost disdane for.

HOWEVER, after I did my own trip to the Front I saw this book in a different light. I saw a lot of what he was say - not that I agreed with it, but I could relate a little more. There are a couple of other threads on this book out there. I would suggest reading through some to see what other people have also said.

Andy

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My own two cents is that I felt very much the same way after I read the book the first time. I couldn't understand why someone would write a book about a topic they seemed to have no interest in - and almost disdane for.

HOWEVER, after I did my own trip to the Front I saw this book in a different light. I saw a lot of what he was say - not that I agreed with it, but I could relate a little more. There are a couple of other threads on this book out there. I would suggest reading through some to see what other people have also said.

Andy

Which book? In Flander's Field? I think it is probably everyone's early book about the Salient and it shapes our view ... It is only after seeing Tyne Cot and the Menin Gate that I began to study and see value. I never thought Haig the donkey but have learned much about it since my initial blush. I think most with an open mind see it as an evolving story. My biggest hole is no Lynn MacDonald books yet.

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I was refering to Back to the Front. I have not read In Flander's Field - thats one of the biggest holes in my library. Andy

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We have come to think that there are two schools of thought,you either think Haig was a great leader or a man who did not listen to others and as a result many thousands of men died because of his actions.How could any sane person still think in 1916 that horses are a match for machine guns and gas?.

My own view is Field Marshall Haig stayed in charge simply by the fact he was too close to the King,he would write to the King stating certain Generals were not fit to command,can that be judged as a right thing to do?

Joan and Terry

Yes, you are right in saying that there do seem to be two schools of thought, butcher and military mastermind. There is, however, a more centre ground view which accepts that Haig made many mistakes which cost many lives and also acheived a great deal by producing a very efficent fighting machine which helped to win the war.

I would disagree with you argument that Haig only remained in position due to royal patronage. He might have had royal support, but it was Robertson the CIGS and Lloyd George who had the real power to pull Haig down from command. Robertson had a good deal of faith in Haig and supported his attrition strategy while Lloyd George could never find a suitable replacement. Furthermore Haig was also supported by his Army Commanders Horne, Plumer, Rawlinson, Byng and Bordwood, his ability to retain their loyalty is important for it prevented rupture at the top of the army.

Just a few thoughts,

Jon

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Yes, you are right in saying that there do seem to be two schools of thought, butcher and military mastermind. There is, however, a more centre ground view which accepts that Haig made many mistakes which cost many lives and also acheived a great deal by producing a very efficent fighting machine which helped to win the war.

I would disagree with you argument that Haig only remained in position due to royal patronage. He might have had royal support, but it was Robertson the CIGS and Lloyd George who had the real power to pull Haig down from command. Robertson had a good deal of faith in Haig and supported his attrition strategy while Lloyd George could never find a suitable replacement. Furthermore Haig was also supported by his Army Commanders Horne, Plumer, Rawlinson, Byng and Bordwood, his ability to retain their loyalty is important for it prevented rupture at the top of the army.

Just a few thoughts,

Jon

Was it not Haig that in 1915 on more than one occasion wrote to the King advising him to sack Sir John French explaining that he is quite unfit for his command at a time of of crisis? Which certainly was a cheek seeing how the year before during the 1914 retreat he had been to say the least inactive as a corps commander,his troops retiring in the wrong direction while the adjacent corps under Smith-Dorrein stood and fought.I do not recall reading anything about Smith-Dorrien writing to the King advising him to sack Haig.

Yes I know you or someone else will have a reply which makes History such a wonderful subject to discuss,we all read books and have our own interpretations of events and the people who play their part in making the history.I welcome all arguments for and against and respect their views.

Joan and Terry

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I have a copy of both books in my library, and have actually enjoyed both of them. 'In Flanders Field' was a well researched book, possibly quite ahead of it's time when it was published, and if you can get beyond the Haig bashing in 'Back to the Front', its a rather pleasant read.

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Was it not Haig that in 1915 on more than one occasion wrote to the King advising him to sack Sir John French explaining that he is quite unfit for his command at a time of of crisis? Which certainly was a cheek seeing how the year before during the 1914 retreat he had been to say the least inactive as a corps commander,his troops retiring in the wrong direction while the adjacent corps under Smith-Dorrein stood and fought.I do not recall reading anything about Smith-Dorrien writing to the King advising him to sack Haig.

Joan and Terry

I did not say that Haig did not have Royal support, he did and it helped him. But he also had a great deal of support from other areas, the King was not in charge of who ran the army, he had influence but that was all.

Jon

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I did not say that Haig did not have Royal support, he did and it helped him. But he also had a great deal of support from other areas, the King was not in charge of who ran the army, he had influence but that was all.

Jon

Field Marshall Haig thought the King had a great deal of influence,all through 1915 Haig kept writing to the King and Kitchener advising them to get rid of French,when French was eventually sacked,who took his place?

I know times and attitudes were different in those days,but I feel uneasy about someone being in command of the British Army who thought the spirit of Napoleon was always near him and attend spiritualistic seances,and to ask a medium how the Territorial Army problem could be solved,just as one example,beggars belief.Why did he not consult with his fellow Officers,surely they should have known?

Joan

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I know times and attitudes were different in those days,but I feel uneasy about someone being in command of the British Army who thought the spirit of Napoleon was always near him and attend spiritualistic seances,and to ask a medium how the Territorial Army problem could be solved,just as one example,beggars belief.Why did he not consult with his fellow Officers,surely they should have known?

Joan

Did Haig do any of those things? What are your references? (am not trying to give you a hard time, but am genuinly interested)

Jon :)

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Did Haig do any of those things? What are your references? (am not trying to give you a hard time, but am genuinly interested)

Jon :)

I certainly did not make it up,try and get hold of a copy of In Flanders Field by Leon Wolff,makes interesting reading,I honestly thought it was common knowledge that Haig used to go to medium type meetings and in fact consult on a regular basis with one.He was a religious man,but had this thing about Napoleon and the use of mediums.

It has been nice going through this topic with you and do hope you manage to get hold of a copy of the book,like I said the facts will also be in other books,In Flanders Field just happens to be one of our favourites.

regards

Joan and Terry

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I certainly did not make it up,try and get hold of a copy of In Flanders Field by Leon Wolff,makes interesting reading,I honestly thought it was common knowledge that Haig used to go to medium type meetings and in fact consult on a regular basis with one.He was a religious man,but had this thing about Napoleon and the use of mediums.

It has been nice going through this topic with you and do hope you manage to get hold of a copy of the book,like I said the facts will also be in other books,In Flanders Field just happens to be one of our favourites.

regards

Joan and Terry

Interesting, very interesting.

Nothing that Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding did not do, although I think he waited until the battle was over. Although I might be wrong.

regards,

Jon

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BACK TO THE FRONT

I have recentlu come acroos this book and am enjoying it to the full.

War is an obscenity, much as we tend to forget it as we study one aspect of it.

It is true that much of it is imporessionistic writing, but who cares if the author is a well-read man both in French (what a relief to find a Canadian or anyone else writing in English) and English literature ?

Recommended reading.

All the best,

Fred

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