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John Keegan, a modern military historian, suggests that Haig was a "highly skilled, effective and successful commander" how fair is this verdict.

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Introduction

JOHN KEEGAN, A MODERN MILITARY HISTORIAN, SUGGESTS THAT HAIG WAS A "HIGHLY SKILLED, EFFECTIVE AND SUCCESSFUL COMMANDER." HOW FAIR IS THIS VERDICT? There are many mixed views on Haig, ranging from strongly for him, to fervently against him. This is really the theme for the sources here. But there are two key different types of sources here, those that focus purely on Haig at Third Ypres (G and L), and those that focus on Haig in general. Of these, there are in my opinion, three sources that are pro Haig, one that neither justifies nor condemns, and three that are anti Haig. Firstly, the sources that merely focus on Third Ypres suffer from a major limitation. They may portray Haig's success or failures in detail, but a general should never be judged on one battle alone. That said however, there are several key points within these sources. Source G does not openly condemn Haig, however, the references to the impossibility of fighting in the mud could well be an implied criticism of Haig. However, I believe this not to be so, as Gough was a strong supporter of Haig throughout the battle, and he was placed in charge for the Battle of Passchendale, when the conditions the worst they had been during the entire 3rd Ypres campaign. The fact that he does inform Haig that the battle cannot carry on shows that he has tried to take this ridge, and finally admits defeat. ...read more.

Middle

Warner obviously feels that had the Ypres campaign not been delayed by the attack in Arras, then Ypres could have easily become the much sought after breakthrough. If the campaign had started earlier, the weather would have been fine for the attack on Passchendale, and given the previous British successes, there is little doubt that this would have happened. In fact, there weather curtailed the campaign, and before Haig was able to continue his assault in the spring, the Germans launched their own offensive which drove the British right back to the outskirts of Ypres. Source I is a pro Haig source, even though it is from a German newspaper. However, there is the chance that it is being used for propaganda. Basically the source is saying that Haig is a great General, but we (the Germans) are better. Parts of it can be backed up however. There was no mutiny in the British Army, and at this point, there had been none of the British success that was to come at 3rd Ypres. The fact that the German defences were then broken during 3rd Ypres must therefore point to Haig's ability. Source F is interesting on one major point. It is Haig's diary, and he would have no reason to lie in his own diary, therefore we can accept this as reliable evidence. ...read more.

Conclusion

This was one of the most famous and successful recruitment posters of the First World War. The parody of this poster really does show the depth of resentment towards Haig, and asks the question, why is there such a range of opinions over him? To me it seems that those who resent Haig all too often do not have access to the full range of evidence and events, and once the true horror of the First World War's casualties had been known, people wanted a scapegoat. Haig filled this role admirably, for at first glance, he appears to have been an uncaring remorseless butcher. However, looking deeper into his motives, his beliefs and the actual facts of the battles and campaigns that he conducted, I believe that Haig was a good military commander. He had some mistakes, but no military commander in history was infallible. He made the best use of what was available, and was willing to try anything to achieve a breakthrough. This was shown in his willingness to employ the tank as soon as was feasibly possible. The criticisms of Haig often do not take into account Haig's objectives, or the limitations that he faced. Therefore, I feel that Haig was a skilled, effective and successful commander, in a difficult situation, but one which nevertheless, he overcame. E. Fry 5V ...read more.

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