General Douglas Haig - Should he be reappraised?

Similar to the interesting thread elsewhere on Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery, I wonder if we could reappraise General Haig from the Great War?

Specifically - although not limited to - his willingness to learn from mistakes and bring in fresh talent to his circle. I have heard a criticism from a friend that Haig was shy and isolated, rarely visited the front, and so was slow to accept new ideas.

In a broader sense this touches on the question of how important and to what degree does being ‘present’ on the front line during and between battles matters for the qualities of a leader…I’m sure it can be a huge boon to troop morale, but in WW1 where communications were struggling to keep up with the mass armies newly deployed, how much of Haig’s distance was necessity rather than a flaw?

And was Haig content to surround himself with familiar old faces, or did he encourage voices that had experience of the front no better or worse than contemporary commanders?

Others with more detailed knowledge will no doubt contribute more than I can. Haig is constantly being reappraised. The last decade or so has seen his reputation partially improving. My opinion of him is that he was no better or no worse than others in similar roles in rival armies at the time. British casualty rates were less than the two other massive armies on the fields of France & Belgium during WWI. Judging Haig as a commander by casualty rates alone does not give a complete picture. Many other variables can be looked at such as comparing intensity of fighting on the British and French sectors etc, but I suspect comparing casualty rates is a fairly decent indicator of Haig’s ability. This indicator implies he was decent enough for the period.

The level of Haig’s reputation will depend on who is responding. Those who hate him have enough ammunition to hate him. Those who defend him(as I am prone to do) have enough ammunition to defend him. For a British army to go en masse onto the continent and not get our asses kicked is probably the best we could have hoped for.

Haig’s failing was that he never learned from his mistakes. Other generals could at least see things weren’t working and tried to do something different - many of those attempts failed but at least they recognized the problem existed. Haig was content to keep trying the same basic plan over and over again regardless of how many times it failed.

To be fair to him, there were innovations all the time at lower scales (platoon level unit tactics, Air Force technology and strategy, artillery timing) but little a commander at his level of responsibility could do to change the dynamic of the struggle. The Germans had Hoffman and the H&L duo at Haig’s level of command but their innovations in logistics against inferior opponents weren’t possible for an English General on the Western Front.

Haig was politically tied to objectives he couldn’t achieve, using inferior means he had no ability to change. If it looks like he banged his men relentlessly against a brick wall, I bet that’s how he felt at the time as well.

In the end I think he was an average man when the times called for a great one. I don’t know how much I can fault him for that.

I guess it’s too late to take away his enormous postwar government bonus.

I won’t fault Haig personally for not being a greater general. But that doesn’t exonerate him either. When he showed he was unfit for the job he should have been replaced. The French, the Germans, and the Russians all replaced their top generals during the war.

You can argue that the British command structure was ossified and Haig couldn’t do anything to change it. But Haig was at the heart of that structure. The British army was ossified because of people like Haig not despite them.

Yes, he should be re-appraised - he was a mass murderer of thew worst sort. “Over The Top” was stupid and never worked.