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Martin Bennitt

Lloyd George becomes prime minister

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Jonathan Saunders
However, he did his best to lose it by interference in the work of the High Command. He did not have Haig's clarity of thought in that Germany could only be defeated on the Western Front, the main theatre. He was very much a sideshows man e.g, Italy. He also denied Haig soldiers so numbers piled up in the UK when they were needed in France which made us very vulnerable to the Kaiser's offensive of March 1918. He was lucky that Ludendorff's failings as a strategic commander got him out of gaol.

If we hadnt of sent men to Italy would the Italians - whose morale at that time was worse than the Austrians - have thrown the towel in?

Also I am not sure that L-G did much wrong by keeping "numbers" back - he was answerable to an electorate that had suffered the Somme, Passchendale, Cambrai. On the otherhand Haig was not.

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armourersergeant

It has just occurrred to em that perhaps you need to have a head of army and head of country (political) that do not see eye to eye accept about winning.

Take Chruchill and Allanbrooke. Did not see eye to eye yet they managed to keep each other on the straight and narrow. I also have to say who else was there but LG.

Now I definately need some of that gut rot Andy mentioned.

Arm

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Andrew Hesketh
Cheers Andrew. It would be quite funny if the subject matter was not, in reality, so serious.

Quite true. Denis Winter, in 'Haig's Command: A Reassessment', gives an interesting alternative interpretation on the subject of LG holding troops back. Can't remember what it was now, but it was interesting....

I'll go check.

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Bernard_Lewis

Hurry up! How big is your house?

Bernard

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Julian Dawson

It seems that Lloyd George always invoked conflicting opinions. Baldwin was so apppalled by the least attractive characteristics of his regime that he was determined to prevent Lloyd George ever returning to office. But according to Macmillan, Baldwin failed to recognise "the genius of the greatest war leader that Britain had known since Chatham.....with Lloyd George's departure, a certain dynamic energy disappeared from Whitehall, which never returned until Churchill took control."

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Andrew Hesketh

Sorry Bernard. The book was in the other Library - the one in the East Wing. Tush.

Anyway, the gist of Winter's argument (errors of understanding are obviously my own):

1. GHQ had not made serious requests for manpower increases prior to March 1918.

2. GHQ had been upset by the reduction in battalions etc., but not the manpower issue.

3. When pressed on how the Germans had broken through so easily in March when we hadn't in 1916/1917 GHQ initially responded that actually they hadn't.

4. A couple of weeks later GHQ began putting about the lack of manpower argument + the extension of the British line.

5. The Gov't line in late 1917 had not been to deliberately starve Haig of reinforcements. LG didn't want Haig to have the green light for another Passchendaele it's true, but policy dictated a switch to the defensive whilst the Americans built up their forces. No point in squandering lives in the meantime. So, not a reduction in manpower - just maintaining the status quo .

6. The growing power of the Americans leads to a mention (unsupported by Winter) of a 'restive home front' which allowed the Gov't to hold back the rate of conscription a bit.

7. The assumption in early 1918 was that the Americans would feed into British Divisions rather than go it alone, so there was no urgent need to send over more Brits. According to Winter, Pershing allowed this thought to develop in Jan 1917.

8. Thus, taking the above into account, LG's decision not to send unecessary troops to France "made good sense".

9 Quote: "One would expect the British Commander-in-Chief to have been warning the Government and clamouring for men after Passchendaele. He did the exact opposite in fact.".

10. Haig met the Cabinet on 7 Jan 1918. He was asked his opinions on the prospects for 1918. Winter then explains that Haig gave the impression that the growing German numbers were not a concern to him.

11. According to Wilson, "Robertson called Haig a fool. Haig told the War Cabinet that he was quite confident he could hold his own and never insisted on the necessity of being supplied with men".

12. Haig's private correspondence suggests that he did not expect Ludendorff to launch an attack that would differ in any particular way from Haig's approach at the Somme and Passchendaele. So, because he could defend as well as the Germans had in 1916 and 1917, he believed it made sense to hold men back for use later in 1918.

13. Quote: "As he put it to Sir. George Greaves, nine days before the German attack, 'England is able to run the show herself if our government will only give us more men before the autumn [Haig's emphasis]. That may possibly be the anxious time for us'."

14. Quote: "Haig believed that he would have time to control an attrition battle and feed in drafts as required, For that reason he rejected a mass of men classified as B1 at the start of January and went on to take a phlegmatic view at the Cabinet session on 7th January. Only after strong war Office pressure did he request reinforcements."

So, basically, LG had lots of good reasons for not releasing new drafts to Haig, the army wasn't reduced, Haig wasn't bothered about the issue, or at least did not bang on about it before March 1918, believed he could cope perfectly well until before the autumn and only came up with the excuse of being starved of men as an excuse for the virtual collapse in the face of the German onslaught in March 1918.

As I said - an interesting alternative interpretation

Anyway, must nip off - I can't remember which of the rooms the maid has made up for me to sleep in tonight.

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Bernardlewis

Thanks Andrew - the butler will know which room. Ring the bell and summon him.

Yours respectfully,

Bernard

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Alan Tucker

It is idle to speculate what would have happened if DLG had fallen in wartime. There was no possibility of this. He was the head of a government with total support in the House of Commons excluding the Asquithian Liberals and the Irish Nationalists.Baldwin would never have been a possibility. He was a nobody at this stage. The only alternative PM was probably Andrew Bonar Law as leader of the Conservative Party within the Coalitiion.

Alan Tucker

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Andrew Hesketh

Interesting thoughts Alan. Do you think Balfour would have been in the running? LG paints a sympathetic portrait of him in his memoirs.

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SiegeGunner
Mick - I think we are on the same hymn sheet.

But should the above say 'by him'? This is not a field I am remotely knowldegeable of, but LG's memoirs (yes, I know, self-glorifying little sh*t etc. etc.) suggest strongly that the teams were created by him not for him. If this is another case of LG spinning the story to reflect more glory upon himself I would be interested in the correction.

Andrew,

I composed a great long answer to this, and then contrived to lose it while navigating around to pick up a quote from another post. :( In my earlier post I was writing from memory, as I no longer have access to the Official History of the Min of Mun and 'Arms and the Wizard' (R J Q Adams) that I was able to consult when I worked for the DTI.

When I wrote 'Largely thanks to the calibre (appropriately) and practical skills of the team of officials put together for him when the Min of Mun was set up, mostly drawn from the Board of Trade Labour Department, and specialists seconded from industry', I meant that the officials drafted into the Min of Mun from the BoT Labour Department and the War Office were selected by senior civil servants from those departments, notably Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith, who transferred to the new Ministry himself and became its General Secretary. The phrase 'put together for him' was not meant to include the specialists brought in from industry, but IIRC the choice of people brought in from industry to head the supply departments was strongly influenced by those business figures who had participated in the consultations that led to the formation of the new Ministry — chief among them being Sir Percy Girouard, a director of Armstrongs, who became Director General of Munitions Supply. DLG almost certainly picked the men he wanted, but I would be fairly sure that the list of candidates was proposed to him by talent-spotters like Girouard and Eric Geddes.

Thanks for raising this, because it reminds me that I should look for a copy of 'Arms and the Wizard' — the 12-vol Official History of the Min of Mun has, alas, never been reprinted, so I'll have to go to the IWM if I want to consult that.

Mick

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Andrew Hesketh

Mick,

Many thanks for this. I'm new to the political aspects of the war (as you can probably tell) so I much appreciate your comments and clarifications. I suspect from your comments that my assumption that LG was slightly bending the truth is about right.

Cheers,

Andy

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SiegeGunner
I suspect from your comments that my assumption that LG was slightly bending the truth is about right.

Andy,

You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment ...

The ministerial 'I' is a bit like the Royal 'We'. Constitutionally, the Minister was responsible for everything done in/by his Ministry.

I've just ordered a copy of 'Arms and the Wizard' for £5.00 + postage.

Mick

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Alan Tucker
Interesting thoughts Alan. Do you think Balfour would have been in the running? LG paints a sympathetic portrait of him in his memoirs.

No despite his rank as Foreign Secretary. He had been replaced as Conservative leader c1912 by Bonar Law and had already served as PM 1902-5. He was very much the elder statesman 1916-1918. BL would have taken precedence. BL was also 10 years younger in early 1917 - 68 to 58.

Alan Tucker

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Ken Wayman

Just to stir it up a bit: hands up all those who wanted Lloyd George to speed men to the front post Passchendaele so that DH could run them quickly through the grinder?

Agree with most of what you've said but do you win wars by starving your military commanders of fresh troops?

We'll soon relapse into the Haig debate!

Regards

Ken

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Bernard_Lewis

Not sure meself Ken! Helps move the thread along though...

Bernard

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Martin Bennitt

The thread has moved along very nicely indeed. Haven't said mush mysefl since I started it but thanks to all the much more knowledgeable people who have contributed.

cheers Martin B

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Bernard_Lewis

My current views are that generally Haig has had a 'rough press'. He was by no means perfect but I am always drawn back to Churchills comment (which largely echoes the Forumite view) that 'he might be, he surely was, unequal to the prodigious scale of events; but no one else was discerned as his equal or his better'.

I think that DLG - due to his political shenanigans and his misuse of his memoirs - has also had a rough press. Grigg has gone a long way to restore his reputation as far as his war leadership went. He was an eternal optimist - no bad thing when facing the casualty lists and the German attack in March 1918 - Churchill was with him as they took in the dreadful news on the early German gains. He comments that at the darkest hour of the nation DLG was still able to see things positively and his statemen like resolution inspired those around him. If you could bottle it you'd make a fortune...there is no doubt that rightly or wrongly he did not want Haig to squander men from a pool that was diminishing in size and so held them back.

Striking the balance between that and still holding the line was a tightrope exercise that would have ruined him (and killed many more men) had it backfired more than it did. Once the die was cast he acted with determination and drive and did what was required. It was finely judged but it worked even if it was 'another close run thing'. The German army was never the same afterwards.

Bernard

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Ken Wayman

Hi Bernard

A few random observations.

I always get the feeling that DLG 'played politics' (something that DLG could never resist!) in his relationship with Haig rather than view him as the best (of too few an) option to win the war.

Equally, I tend to feel that DLG showed his debatable grasp of military strategy in his 'Easterner' stance early in the war.

I know that Haig could never be given 'carte blanche' but did he need to feel that at times he was almost fighting his political master?

I'm beginning to sound like an apologist for Douglas Haig, which I'm not. I just can't see who might have effectively replaced him and won the war while not sustaining high numbers of casualties.

Like I said previously, this is in danger of relapsing into the Haig debate!

Regards

Ken

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Martin Fowkes

I am nowhere near as informed as most of you, this is only my second contribution to the forum an any subject. However I think we may be missing the point. In modern war as far as Leaders are concerned, you can have have fighters or dealers. DLG was a fighter, WSC was a fighter. Remember that we could have had Halifax in WW2...much more qualified, but he would have ended the war after dunkirk.

DLG was a fighter, responsible to an electorate whose sons were being mown down in their thousands. Haig and the aristocracy of the British High command did not understand the wider picture.

finally and this may be simplistic I know, but isnt it time that we stopped balming politicians for our military failures and put the blame where it really lies,,with the incompetence of our generals. Gallipoli was lost by the incompetence of the Generals, somwas Kut so were the disasters of the Boer war, so was Arnhem so was tobruk, and singapore. i can count competent British lgenerals on two fingers of one hand

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delta

Martin

I cannot argue with most of your post; however I can think of more than 2 competent generals.

I would be intersted in who you think the two are

Stephen

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Ken Wayman
I am nowhere near as informed as most of you, this is only my second contribution to the forum an any subject. However I think we may be missing the point. In modern war as far as Leaders are concerned, you can have have fighters or dealers. DLG was a fighter, WSC was a fighter. Remember that we could have had Halifax in WW2...much more qualified, but he would have ended the war after dunkirk.

DLG was a fighter, responsible to an electorate whose sons were being mown down in their thousands. Haig and the aristocracy of the British High command did not understand the wider picture.

finally and this may be simplistic I know, but isnt it time that we stopped balming politicians for our military failures and put the blame where it really lies,,with the incompetence of our generals. Gallipoli was lost by the incompetence of the Generals, somwas Kut so were the disasters of the Boer war, so was Arnhem so was tobruk, and singapore. i can count competent British lgenerals on two fingers of one hand

Martin

You make an excellent case for politicians not getting their people into wars from which such 'incompetent' generals have to extricate them.

Regards

Ken

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Take on me
I am nowhere near as informed as most of you, this is only my second contribution to the forum an any subject. However I think we may be missing the point. In modern war as far as Leaders are concerned, you can have have fighters or dealers. DLG was a fighter, WSC was a fighter. Remember that we could have had Halifax in WW2...much more qualified, but he would have ended the war after dunkirk.

DLG was a fighter, responsible to an electorate whose sons were being mown down in their thousands. Haig and the aristocracy of the British High command did not understand the wider picture.

finally and this may be simplistic I know, but isnt it time that we stopped balming politicians for our military failures and put the blame where it really lies,,with the incompetence of our generals. Gallipoli was lost by the incompetence of the Generals, somwas Kut so were the disasters of the Boer war, so was Arnhem so was tobruk, and singapore. i can count competent British generals on two fingers of one hand

I can certainly agree that it was very important the DLG arrived and took up the fight, especially after Asquith began to wane. I do not, however, think that the blame can simply be placed upon 'the incompetence of our generals'. The examples you mention all were, however there are other factors over incompetence such as technology, the sheer fact that in the two total wars of the twentieth century the two sides were, in military terms fighting with the same sort of equipment, in the same numbers. Hence the high casualties.

I think that it is also ungenerous to say that the 20th Century produced only two British generals who were competent. There were thousands of them, anyone above Brigadeer-General was a general. What about the high ranking men such as Byng, Plumer, Horne and Birdwood during WW1? Even Rawlinson and Haig performed very well in 1918. Allenby certainly made some impressive acheivements in the Middle East.

What of WW2 generals? Montgomery-El Alaimein, Normandy, the Reichswald and the Rhine were all important battles even if Arnhem was a disaster. Then there are others, the CIGS FM Alan Brooke, Slim, Alexander and all the other thousands who were also generals.

There certainly were incompetents but lets not throw them all into the same basket.

Regards,

Jon

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Martin Bennitt

To get back to LG and DH, I was wondering what their personal relations were (assuming neither was gay!) and how they interacted. Haig was supposed to be virtually inarticulate, while Lloyd-George was one of the most brilliant orators of his generation. Curiously enough, the famous picture we are being asked to provide a caption for in another thread shows Haig being extremely voluble, while Llod-George looks as if he is trying to get a word in edgeways. What sort of respect did they have for each other?

cheers Martin B

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Martin Fowkes
Martin

I cannot argue with most of your post; however I can think of more than 2 competent generals.

I would be intersted in who you think the two are

Stephen

The only two in WW11 were Slim and perhaps Monty purely for his professionalism. As for Alexander, well you only have to read what Monty thought of him. Allenby perhaps, WW1, but Allanbrooke???far too cautuious. I remembering reading a book once and I am sure that contributors will have read it " A Psychology of British Military Incompetence" which looks at our whole class ridden Military system based on Bull****, and bullying with the Israeli army which concentrates on ability and excellence in Training with no Parade ground bull****

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AndyHollinger

I don't know, but I've never really liked DLG. Maybe it is because HHA was so ... British ... so even and well mannered. Being a Haldane fan, I have serious problems with the Kitchener crowd ... and being on Jellicoe's side, one can hardly stand Beatty.

I think you've trapped people into sides and sophomoric debate - much like the 2 competent generals statement above. Besides, as you know, an incompetent general in this generation will be a genious for the next - historians tend to do that.

DLG, much like WSC, brings as much negative baggage as positive. The man had confidence as any study of his personal life will show. Much like WSC he was a leader and a focused one at that. Without either he or WSC would have the UK had the intestinal fortitude to continue?

I personally believe that DLG needed DH because anyone of lesser self-confidence and purpose would have wilted. Much like George C Marshal's relationship with WSC - (maybe in reverse) their personalities made each's brilliance shine even farther.

BTW - While I am not a big fan of Generals per se (remember I never made it past company grade and therefore the sworn enemy of all brass) ... they are, in the last, mostly technicians and subject to the Politicians for both the dynamics and character of the struggle in which they find themselves. I think if we were to put the Scales of Justice up and put the incompetent Generals in one dish and incompetent polticians on the other ... there would be not a Monty Python's chance in hell the witch would float.

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