Field Marshal Haig and WW1 casualties

Home Forum Chat Forum Field Marshal Haig and WW1 casualties

Viewing 23 posts - 41 through 63 (of 63 total)
  • Field Marshal Haig and WW1 casualties
  • Premier Icon muddydwarf
    Subscriber

    I’m currently reading Max Hastings’ book Catastrophe: Europe goes to war 1914.
    Its a pretty damning read, the various high commands of the combatant Nations were almost criminally deficient. Moltke was the architect of the war in the West (actually of the whole German enterprise) yet had a mental breakdown in the opening months of the war.
    The much vaunted Schleiffen Plan was never written down as a plan but remained merely a concept – a concept that did not take into account the limitations of both a primitive European transport system and exactly how far his troops (many unfit reservists) would have to march.
    Sir John French of the BEF hated the French and deliberately dragged his feet wherever he could, often refusing to accede to Joffre’s commands.
    Of all the high commands in 1914 only the French had a few officers who had some idea of what to do.

    hora
    Member

    Interesting story on his Grand Nephew Von Moltke executed by the Nazi’s for his ideas. Wirh his family history he could have gone to the top yet instead chose to die for his conscience.

    Premier Icon ononeorange
    Subscriber

    Not convinced me, winston. It doesn’t make haig competent that he was slower than his opponent to work it out. And I agree the bef was small in 1914, but was pretty sizeable by the time of the Somme. Haig still only had one tactic – keep throwing men at the other line in huge numbers/

    The Germans were indeed able to undertake their spring 1918 offensives due to the end of the Russian front.

    b r
    Member

    Not convinced me, winston. It doesn’t make haig competent that he was slower than his opponent to work it out. And I agree the bef was small in 1914, but was pretty sizeable by the time of the Somme. Haig still only had one tactic – keep throwing men at the other line in huge numbers/

    You may not be convinced, but he was as competent as others, both Allies and the Central Powers. Haig lived out his years a couple of miles where we live, some cracking singletrack between there and the Tweed 🙂

    This is a good book:

    The First World War: Germany and Austria-Hungary 1914-1918 by Holger H. Herwig

    If you aren’t convinced about Haig, then you won’t think much to the Dual Monarchy’s Generals…

    big_n_daft
    Member

    “on the psychology of military incompetence ” is a informative read

    The British Army was a small professional force in 1914 which had little regard for the “new army” which was raised and thrown at the Germans in 1916. Haig was a cavalry officer with little sympathy for the infantry, he constantly maintained a large cavalry reserve during offensives.

    Monty fought on the western front and that is what fed his obsession with large arty support for.any offensive. Rommel fought on the eastern front and his book “infantry attacks” also showed his ability to manoeuvre and the use of arty in close support (his famous quote is ” in the attack the spade.is as useful as the rifle”)

    Omar Little
    Member

    if you’ve not read a copy of ‘Mud, Blood and Poppycock’ – get it, its a fantastic insight into the way that the great war has been subject to a huge amount of revisionist propaganda thanks to war poetry and films like ‘oh what a lovely war’ and blackadder .

    It’s not a fantastic insight it is just a series of dismissals of straw men theories by a writer who comes across as an arrogant, irritating tit. One thing that really stood out for me is how critical he was of Alan Clark and how he dismissed his writings on the great war as not worth reading because he wasn’t even a historian (perhaps a fair enough criticism)…but the thing is Corrigan isn’t one either!

    Better off reading something like ‘First World War A New History’ by Hew Strachan – you’ll get the challenging of a few myths but in a reasoned war backed up by research not just polemic and apologia.

    ninfan
    Member

    how critical he was of Alan Clark and how he dismissed his writings on the great war

    And rightly so, Clarks ‘lions led by donkeys’ rubbish has scarred the teaching and in many cases the interpretation of the Great War for generations. The supposed donkeys quote attribution to Hoffman turned out to have probably been made up by Clark himself.

    Clark’s work has been rubbished by just about every military historian of note since it was first published in the 60s

    Top marks to the bloke as a shagger and general cad for his involvement in the matrix-churchill affair, but as a military historian, he was bobbins!

    Premier Icon epicyclo
    Subscriber

    The real villains were the politicians for entering into this war…

    Premier Icon somafunk
    Subscriber

    With the benefit of hindsight Haig was an utter failure as a tactician but there was countless failures before him that led up to the war, it could have been stopped, it could have been prevented or at the very least contained.

    My Grandpa died in 76 when i was 4 but i vividly remember him, he was an engineer at the Hydro power station on the Dee and i used to go to work with him in the vast turbine hall and i operated the bakelite switchgear but as far as i can remember he never talked about it, not to me nor my father who was born in 1949.

    He left me his war diaries and a well thumbed and bloodstained book of poetry by Siegfred Sasson, i didn’t receive them till my 13th birthday when i guess i could really appreciate the horror he wrote about and survived, one of the poems struck me as horrific from a very young age :

    Suicide in the Trenches

    I knew a simple soldier boy
    Who grinned at life in empty joy,
    Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
    And whistled early with the lark.

    In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
    With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
    He put a bullet through his brain.
    No one spoke of him again.

    You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
    Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
    Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
    The hell where youth and laughter go.

    The last verse has stuck in my head from a young age and i find myself repeating it whenever i hear our politicians talking of war.

    Omar Little
    Member

    And rightly so, Clarks ‘lions led by donkeys’ rubbish has scarred the teaching and in many cases the interpretation of the Great War for generations. The supposed donkeys quote attribution to Hoffman turned out to have probably been made up by Clark himself.

    Clark’s work has been rubbished by just about every military historian of note since it was first published in the 60s

    I dont disagree, i was just pointing out that I found the arrogance that came across in Corrigans writing to be really annoying. The dismissal of Clark and the resultant inference that his work therefore had more validity was just a case in point. The reality is that both authors are looked down upon by “serious” historians.

    Premier Icon jamj1974
    Subscriber

    Somafunk. I like that one but prefer this one:

    To Germany
    You are blind like us. Your hurt no man designed,
    And no man claimed the conquest of your land.
    But gropers both through fields of thought confined
    We stumble and we do not understand.
    You only saw your future bigly planned,
    And we, the tapering paths of our own mind,
    And in each other’s dearest ways we stand,
    And hiss and hate. And the blind fight the blind.

    When it is peace, then we may view again
    With new-won eyes each other’s truer form
    And wonder. Grown more loving-kind and warm
    We’ll grasp firm hands and laugh at the old pain,
    When it is peace. But until peace, the storm
    The darkness and the thunder and the rain.

    Charles Hamilton Sorley

    atlaz
    Member

    epicyclo wrote:

    The real villains were the politicians for entering into this war…

    It depends on your viewpoint of whether you should honour defence pacts. Russia had one with Serbia and Bosnia, France had a pact with Russia, the UK had one with France. Germany had one with the Austro-Hungarian empire too. Although the Germans were all too happy to go to war, once the Austro-Hungarians decided they were definitely attacking Serbia to (supposedly) retaliate for Ferdinands murder, it was a pretty unavoidable chain of events unless someone broke their agreement with an ally.

    In hindsight you can ask whether it was worth Russia going to war to keep Bosnia/Serbia free (especially as after that point, they weren’t free for a VERY long time), but at the time they felt that that sort of attack couldn’t be ignored. Once Russia mobilised so did Germany and France had to follow (as the Germans knew). Germany expected that the British would be happy to sit at home, protected by the strongest navy on the planet, and watch the outcome of the scrap.

    Hindsight aside, if today, Russia invaded mainland Europe in a conventional sense, we’d end up at war again even if we weren’t directly at risk. It’s the way of things.

    Premier Icon ransos
    Subscriber

    Which is not to say that the losses were sensible, or acceptable, or anything less than horrifying. But when you look at it in context, they were not proportionally greater than other British battles in the 20th century.

    It’s not just about numbers though, is it? What did all the losses in WW1 actually achieve?

    pondo
    Member
    Mr Woppit
    Member

    A popular English Music Hall refrain from 1914:

    “There’s not going to be a war,
    ’cause Georgie is the King.
    There’s not going to be a war –
    he doesn’t like that sort of thing.”

    Oh, the bathos!

    Premier Icon davetrave
    Subscriber

    ononeorange (and a few others commenting on Haig’s ineptitude…)

    I have not really read much on Haig, but do subscribe to the orthodox view of him – a small-minded man incapable of adapting his thinking to the occasion. I don’t think he ever grasped at all that the stalemate was caused by a lack of movement from Winter 1914 onwards, until the Germans did get it in March / April 1918 and very nearly won by their three fluid attacks by well-trained storm troops.

    Prior to WW1 Haig lead the development of British doctrine for wr fighting, encapsulated in Field Service Regulations (FSR) 1909, later re-issued in 1912. He had already developed ideas of mobile warfare long before the war, as captured in FSR, he believed combat fell in 4 phases: the advance to contact; establishment of the firing line, to gain fire superiority; the assault; and the pursuit. Not too disimilar to what we still teach today, but using more modern buzz words: find; fix; stirke; exploit.

    What lead to the issues Haig (and others) had, as mentioned elsewhere, is the question of numbers – from effectively a colonial gendarmerie of 6 divisions in 1914, the Army had to very rapidly expand to a continental sized army of 60 divisions by 1916; the sheer mass (but critically for us, lack of real training and experience that the conscript army had, plus, given the rapid expansion, very early and rapid promotion to fill the senior posts, meant that learning was very much often on the job with a vengeance) suceeded in styming both our and the Germans’ concepts of mobile warfare as developed at the time, hence the war developed very rapidly in to one of attrition.

    Prior to WW1 British military thinking for future conventional warfare had very much been along the lines of manoeuvre, albeit in a late 19th/early 20th century non-mechanised way…

    By the way, I am neither a fan nor a detractor of Haig, but I am a student of military doctrine, and most here seem to have focussed purely on Haig during the war, rather than any broader context.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Subscriber

    Germany expected that the British would be happy to sit at home, protected by the strongest navy on the planet, and watch the outcome of the scrap.

    This.

    You have to always with WW1 be very wary of historic context. Although fought in the 20th century the war in many ways was a 19th conflict. You have to bear in mind the Franco Prussian war of 1870 had been won by a German army that everyone else had expected to lose, that war was regarded as the last napoleonic war, but in many respects was a foretaste of the coming war 40 years later.

    Way so many deaths? Lack of understanding if the advance of technology vs static armies ( this was the last war where armies “went to a battlefield to stand and face each other to fight” ) or Belgium as we know it now. Lack of penicillin lack of radio, aeroplanes, tanks, still fighting the last war….take your pick Was Haigh to blame? I doubt any one else would have made a noticeable difference

    Still recovering from the consequences of that war now

    winston_dog
    Member

    davetrave – well said.

    End of thread.

    konabunny
    Member

    “British casualties…

    1914 892 Officers 25,013 other ranks
    1915 5,558 Officers 121,006 other ranks
    1916 12,818 Officers 219,539 other ranks
    1917 15,311 Officers 321,628 other ranks
    1918 15,311 Officers 265,730 other ranks”

    That’s a pretty remarkable coincidence with the same number of officers dying in two consecutive years.

    I always find it quite interesting that, until the point you were actually asked to get out of your trench and walk slowly towards the enemy, the British army was supposed to be quite a healthy place to be.

    3 square meals a day
    proper (and free) medical care
    And for the 3 days out of 5 you weren’t in the trenches the work was easier and less dangerous than the work you would have been used to on your farm, mine or factory.

    The army kept statistics on the weight and general health of recruits entering the army and leaving it. PROVIDED you could avoid death, mutilation or horrible injury your were likely to leavre the army in better physical shape tan when you joined.

    Of course the mental side was another matter. Apparently the psychiactric wards in the 60s were full of old soldiers who just couldn’t cope any more.

    Premier Icon davetrave
    Subscriber

    nickc

    this was the last war where armies “went to a battlefield to stand and face each other to fight”

    No it wasn’t – see my earlier post, both German and British armies had expected to employ manoeuvre. Unfortunately, what led to the entrenchment was the sheer numbers that soon became involved, rendering the limited capabilities of mobility available in 1914 useless. Perhaps not a truly valid comparator, but look at how the vast forces of Nato and the Eastern Bloc, not too dis-similar to Allies v Germans in WW1, would have been able to employ mobility to cover the entire continent of Europe in 1 fell swoop and stage huge armoured battles, all because advancements in technology allowed that kind of mass manoeuvre that none of the sides had envisaged or were prepared for in 1914.

    natrix
    Member

    No Glory: The real history of the first world war is worth a read, see

    http://stopwar.org.uk/shop/no-glory

    Premier Icon muddydwarf
    Subscriber

    ..and that’s where the Schleiffen Plan fell down. During the ‘race to the sea’ of Autumn 1914 when the allies and Germans tried to repeatedly outflank each other to the North and East, the Germans found that Belgiums railways ran mainly East to West and hardly any ran South to North, meaning that they simply could not move the newly formed Army Group fast enough. Most troops and the heavy equipment had to move by road.
    Its easy for us to forget now, but 100yrs ago outside of the major towns most roads in Western Europe were simply dirt tracks. Throw several million men down them, add in the autumn rains and you have a recipe for chaos before you even think about enemy shelling etc.
    The situation on the Eastern Front was even worse, Poland had very few roads and fewer railway lines to use.

Viewing 23 posts - 41 through 63 (of 63 total)

The topic ‘Field Marshal Haig and WW1 casualties’ is closed to new replies.