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"Overall, Haig must be judged a successful commander" - Discuss.

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Introduction

"Overall, Haig must be judged a successful commander". Field Marshal Douglas Haig was one of the most controversial people of the Great War. While he brought eventual victory, he is accused of being responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of young men during 1916 and beyond. I will begin by looking at source C and the opinions of the fighting man on Haig. Fred Pearson was an infantryman that fought under Haig, and so might not have ever met him. His thoughts on Haig are in an angry, annoyed tone, saying that he's "very bitter, always have been and always will be" and talks about Haig being "50 kilometres behind the line and that's about as near as he ever got." This source is reliable as far as facts go - Haig was that far away. The rest of the source is personal opinion, but one that seems to be shared by other men of the time. ...read more.

Middle

A similar situation occurred two years later at Passchendaele, in which he continued to throw troops forward long after his target was no longer tactically viable. Source D tries to see reasons behind Haig's tactics, and is made up of opinions on the man. From looking at Haig's own journal and other sources, this source seems reliable. It talks about that perhaps "his greatest failing was his constant, misplaced optimism." From Haig's journal, he commented that "the men are in splendid spirits...full of confidence" the day before, saying also that "the wire has never been so well cut", which is simply untrue. The wire had not been cut, and hundreds of men were slaughtered on it. On the first day of the battle, in which almost 20,000 people died (the biggest casualties on one day that the British army has ever seen), he said that it all "went like clockwork" and that the troops are in "wonderful spirits and full of confidence" In fact, that day has been said by modern historians to have "left a scar on the British people forever". ...read more.

Conclusion

However, Source E's final point says that "although some people criticise the cost of his methods, they do not offer other methods." This is very debatable. There are several things Haig could have done to reduce the mass loss of life. Firstly, and most obviously, he could have removed the bombardment. It made the wire worse, churned up no-man's land making it impossible to walk through, and warned the Germans of the attack. This point was proven in 1918 at Amiens: this attack was not began by bombardment, and so was astoundingly successful (to begin with). Some have also suggested that he should have simply stopped the attack; the Germans advance had already been halted. He could have also used similar tactics that the Germans used at Verdun - instead of masses of men going over the top, small amounts of well armed, well trained men would pick open weak points in the line. So, in conclusion, it is possible to support the opening statement from the sources - although it is also quite possible to judge the opposite. ...read more.

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