Interpretation of General Haig

My interpretation of General Haig is that he was a foolish leader and should not have been allowed to become so high up in the army because of his relations with famous people. In the battle of the Neuve Chappele Haig was chosen to lead the attack as general. In the battle his basic plan was good but he failed to think it out fully. The Allies bombed the German trenches using 3,000 shells and captured a village in less than an hour. This makes him seem like a good leader but, because of the bombing, they destroyed the telephone wires which meant that he could not contact back to base and the Allies soon ran out of rations and ammunitions.

The Germans were ready for the Allies because they could not get reinforcements quick enough and so they lost the village that they had wasted so much ammunition on. I think that Haig’s battle plan was good but he did not think it through so if he had waited for a while to go through all of the possible options, the Allies could have lost a lot less lives, ammunitions and rations. In the battle of Loos Haig was also general for which he had virtually the same battle plan, he would bomb the trenches but, to save some ammunition he also sent some poisonous gas to the trenches.

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This time the bombing was successful and the poisonous gas seemed to be working but, the wind direction changed and caught the Allies of guard and at the end of 3 weeks 61,000 soldiers were dead and the Allies had captured 10km of land. Haig was becoming under – fire so he blamed it on Commander – in – Chief Sir John French. Haig had many friends in high places and his wife was lady – in waiting to the Queen so he managed to get away with it and Sir French was sacked and Haig became commander in 1915.

In this battle I think his leadership was quite good as was his plan, he could not however account for the wind direction because he could not set up a weather box outside the battlefield. Capturing the 10km of land was not enough for Haig and he wanted to launch a massive explosion of shells deep into the German lines and then send in foot soldiers and cavalry to gain the land. Haig decided to let the French control the British army because they had a bigger army than they did.

He had spent quite a lot of money on propaganda and posters and flyers and, in response, 700,000 people were recruited but, in truth, they were untrained and inexperienced in battle. They also had not been prepared or given a real understanding to what they would face. The French took advantage of the fact that the British were under control and went to fight at Verdun which left the British alone. I think that if Haig did not make that decision then the French still would have gone but they would have left some troops behind to help.

I think that his decision was quite cowardly and he took the easy way out. He could have thought long and hard about a proper battle plan but, instead left to someone else and this backfired on him. This is similar to when they lost the battle of Loos Haig blamed it on Sir John French. Apart from this time he paid for his lack of work and they lost 60,000 men on the first day alone which was the worst fighting day in history for the British. In conclusion, I think that Haig did have some good qualities, but the number of bad one’s outweighed the good.

He was quite lazy, because he never did the work and when he did he would not think it through; he was foolish because even though the same battle plan failed each time (bombing the trenches) he would keep on trying it; and he was a bit of a coward because when the going got tough, he would blame it on someone else or leave it to someone else to do it. Why are there so many interpretations of Haig? There are so many different interpretations of Haig because there is so much good and bad evidence on him and all of it can be analysed in different ways.

There is also so much debate about Haig because, naturally, historians always argue and all have different opinions about people. During the war Haig had a lot of criticism but he was still portrayed as a great leader, a hero in order to keep up morale for the soldiers because if they thought that their leader, the person who controlled their life was a bad leader then not many people would have signed up for the war and the Allies would have probably lost.

There were many good ‘advertisements’ for Haig, for instance because he had friends in high places, so in the upper – class he was portrayed in a good light. He also was a self – publicist and he wrote in the London Gazette during the war. In these articles he would say how brilliant he was. After the war had finished people did not want to talk about the war so if they ever did, they said it was a victory and, so because Haig was the leader, he must have been a good one.

The records from the time also say that Haig was very good and some people even think that this was a cover – up for how bad Haig really was. However, in the 1930’s, things started to go wrong for Haig because there were more and more horrors of the war being published. Many of these pieces of literature had the saying ‘lions led by donkeys’. People also began to think that although they had won the war, society had had not changed for the better which was blamed on Haig.

The former Prime Minister wrote a book insulting Haig calling him a useless bungler and a leader who used the same ineffective strategy over and over again and needlessly sending hundreds of thousands of men to their death. The book made people think about Haig and his popularity as well as other people’s respect decreased. The final assault on Haig came on television in the 1960’s when programmes about the horror of the First World War and the poor leadership of Haig and others.

He was, in that time period remembered as someone with no sense of compassion or care for the lives of his men. There was however in this decade some defence for Haig by a man called John Terraine who published a book which said that Haig was not a bloody, senseless and ruthless butcher who did not care for the lives of his men rather, a man who acted responsibly and sensibly. In conclusion, the debate for whether or not Haig was a good leader or not, will continue for a long time and historians will always change their mind about him and the evidence that they have.

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