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Nothing had prepared him for it. The war was unprecedented.


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Never before had the defensive weapon attained so great a superiority over the offensive. If the German commanders seem to have grasped this truth earlier than the Allied ones, it was because German strategy in the west required them, after their initial thrust had been contained in , to do no more than hold the ground they had gained while they destroyed the Russian empire in the east.

Strategically, Haig got it right. For Britain and France the Western Front was where the war would have to be won. Any diversion from it was a distraction. He must be held accountable for the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele, but he must by the same token be given credit for the final victory.

Architect Victory Douglas Haig, Hardcover - AbeBooks

The truth is that he, and his subordinate generals, learned from experience - painful experience - how to fight the war in a new style, with the effective co-operation of artillery, tanks, aircraft and infantry - the principle of "bite and hold". From August 8, , the British Army won a series of victories unmatched in our military history. Today they are forgotten by almost all but military historians, while the earlier bloodbaths are remembered.


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These loom large in popular memory, so large, indeed, that one might suppose that they were exceptional. But they were the norm for that terrible war. French, Russian, Serb and indeed German losses in the Great War were all, in proportion to population, greater than those of Britain and the British Empire. Haig was not an easy man.

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He was often as unjust to his allies - notably the French - as posterity has been to him, though he had the sense to restrict his criticisms to his diaries and private letters. If his strictures on the French were excessive, they were nevertheless milder than what Alanbrooke had to say in his diaries about the Americans in World War II.

Relations between Allies are rarely those of complete trust. Lloyd George and Haig, unfortunately, were chalk and cheese. Haig knew that Lloyd George wanted to be rid of him; he also knew the Prime Minister wasn't strong enough to do so. Armed neutrality was the best they achieved. Others who knew Haig better - the Australian General Monash and the South African General Smuts - had a higher opinion of him, Monash praising him for being "calm, resolute, hopeful and buoyant".

A great merit of this well-written, admirable biography is that it gives as much attention to Haig's early life and to the post-war years as to the four years of the War itself.

This enables the reader to understand what manner of man he was; to appreciate also the work he did for the care of ex-soldiers. If they didn't return to the promised "land fit for heroes", that was the fault of the politicians, not of their commander-in-chief. Love puzzles? Get the best at Telegraph Puzzles. Books on Amazon. A collection of the best contributions and reports from the Telegraph focussing on the key events, decisions and moments in Churchill's life.

This book tells the story of the men and women of Fighter Command who worked tirelessly in air bases scattered throughout Britain to thwart the Nazis. The essential gift book for any pet lover - real-life tales of devoted dogs, rebellious cats and other unforgettable four-legged friends. But, as they say in the movies, it gets better.

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig: World War I’s Worst General

Sheffield's "technological hiatus" argument will not stand up. Cavalry did not win the American Civil War, as it would have to have done on his argument. In any case, Mosier explicitly refutes the technology thesis by demonstrating the poor quality of the British Army: "gunners were firing the wrong shells and infantry were trained in the wrong tactics". Even if we were to accept Sheffield's thesis, we would still have to accept that British generals were incompetent for, if they knew technology would result in the impasse of trench warfare, they should not have advised the government to fight a major land war in France.

If they did not know, they are guilty as conventionally charged. There were many contingent reasons — dithering political in-fighting, bureaucratic bungling, Anglo-French disharmony — that worked against a breakthrough on the Western Front, but these were not necessary consequences of technology. That Sheffield habitually confuses contingency and necessity is clear, for the logical conclusion of his technology argument is that the Allies could never have won.

Since Sheffield want to rescue Haig from the justifiable charge that he was an incompetent butcher, and to argue for Haig as the architect of victory in , he ties himself in knots trying to demonstrate that the alleged technological determinism somehow ceased to operate in But Sheffield is not strong on logic: among his eccentricities are refusal to accept that the word "disillusionment" has any meaning.

He cannot explain why there is not a single literary production in Britain or the US extolling the Great War as a "good thing". He does not seem to realise that you cannot call the War Poets "unrepresentative" unless another group is representative — but no such group can be discerned.

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At other times he reveals himself as a simple-minded, right-wing ideologist. He seems to see ideologies engaged in battles which one side wins by sheer intellectual superiority. So Western liberalism "defeats" Marxist-Leninism in the Cold War, much as if the superpowers had been engaged in an extended Socratic dialogue. Sheffield's blindness about Haig leads him to this howling non sequitur : "If he and other generals deserve the blame for the disasters of the earlier years of the war, they also deserve the credit for the victory of It is absurd to say that the Americans did not affect the outcome because they did not fight such bloody slugging actions as the Somme or Passchendaele.

The classic aim of the military leader is to destroy the enemy while sustaining minimal casualties. This the Americans achieved. Whether they did it "objectively", by fighting battles, or "subjectively", by destroying the enemy's morale, is irrelevant. Sheffield falls into the Haig-like fallacy of thinking that victory must imply large-scale bloodshed. Maybe Mosier overrates Pershing and the American battlefield contribution — it is pushing it to claim that the AEF victory at Bellcau Wood in June was the turning-point of the war — but this is no more implausible than Sheffield's opposite conviction that the decisive battle was the BEF victory at Amiens in the same month.

Mosier scores heavily over Sheffield in his more sophisticated and convincing use of statistics for battle casualties. Sheffield claims that the war of attrition at the Somme was "worth it", on the basis that both sides suffered loses of about ,