HAIG'S COMMAND by Denis Winter

HAIG'S COMMAND

Earl Haig and the Background to the First World War
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A bold, revisionist history of Earl Haig, British commander- in-chief during WW I. Using British records that became available only in the 1960's, and comparing them to uncensored versions available in Canada, Australia, and the US, Winter subjects the authorized British version of the war to devastating analysis. For a variety of reasons, including Haig's close involvement with Britain's Official Historian of the war, it was Haig's view of the war that won acceptance, apparently sometimes by purging British records of any evidence to the contrary. Haig himself, far from being the most able soldier of his generation, is shown to have used his social connections to get unusually rapid promotion and to have excluded able subordinates. The picture of the British Army that emerges from the new documentation illuminates the reasons for the dreadful losses of the war. For all its courage and discipline, it was a badly organized, poorly trained, and ill-equipped force, supported by staff work of low quality and commanded by generals inadequate to the task. For example, by the end of the war the dominance of the machine-gun was clear; but where the French had one for every 12 men, the Canadians one for 13, and the Americans one for 27, the British limited their troops to one for 61. Winter analyzes Haig's command in each of the major battles of the war, from the Somme and Passchendaele to the final campaign of 1918, and this same inadequacy becomes apparent in each of them: attacks against the enemy's strongest point; the use of discredited tactics; persistence in attack long after all surprise had been lost. It was a performance notably inferior to that of the Germans, the French, the Canadians, and the Australians. Excellent, hard-hitting history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-670-80225-5
Page count: 408pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991