I believe that there is not sufficient evidence in the sources to support this interpretation; but there are suggestions of Haig’s almost outstanding skills. The other arguments, however, are also strong and so the contrast in the sources could support Keegan’s argument or one of deep contrast. It is known that the public opinion of Haig was not of great respect, however, there are sources that support Haig’s judgements, mainly consisting of those from his family.
The public opinion was very bad because their greatest hope of winning the war was put on the soldiers of somebody who they regarded as a butcher. His tactics were old fashioned and he didn’t know how to defeat the German trenches, so he took drastic measures in his tactics and the public were scared for the safety of their comrades. Even Haig’s intelligence felt that he was incompetent and gave him false statistics about key battles. Encouraging the propaganda that was being spread in Britain, such as source D.
Many of the posters and articles made the public feel hatred towards him because of campaigns like “a hole in the head – which is what you are going to get. ” Despite the unreliability of this article due to the nature it was written in, it is known that a large amount of British soldiers died and that Haig did resort to a war of attrition. So, despite the nature of the victory by the allies in the war, Haig certainly did do much to lead Britain to victory; but he may not have used the most affective tactics.
It is also known that he was not in the frontline and so promoted an image of a family man, which is proved by the support of his son who opposed the view of the public by saying “he was the most humane man,” when the public held him responsible for all those who died while he was the Field Marshal. The humanity of this man is in question as he lead his men to almost certain death at the battle of the Somme and wasn’t willing to fight himself. Leading to the doubt that he was a great soldier as everybody saw his cowardly behaviour when he could have been supporting his men and country.
The public stance was backed up by that of the media and the Prime Minister, as they regarded a large contributor to the disaster of this war was the part of Haig. Haig was appointed by the Prime Minister and was trusted with taking Britain to victory. However, David Lloyd George did not think that this war would kill so many of Britain’s men. He later regretted allowing the offences to go ahead and source G suggests that he would have vetoed the decision of appointing Haig if he had known what was to come.
There was a sense of mocking towards the inability of Haig in the press, which was only emphasised by the propaganda that was in circulation. The newspapers knew of his lack of knowledge of what was happening on the battlefield, which is supported by the ironic “Tribute to Sir D. Haig,” which supposedly was in a German newspaper. Despite the humour of this piece, there are also serious issues bought to light that are supported by modern day evidence. Such as his eagerness to attack not meeting the force of the German defence that disproves the theory of Haig contributing much to Britain’s victory.
Therefore, neither of these offer any support to the argument put forward by Keegan. Some of the sources are written many years after the event, which makes the evidence less reliable because it couldn’t have been gained through first hand experience. After Haig died, he was heralded a hero despite the burdens that the public had previously placed on him. The view in source K supports this and also suggests that there was a problem with the lack of adaptability that was presented in his childhood.
This is also correct as he was committed in his training to be a soldier and he was a very religious person showing his lack of willingness to change. The author obviously researched a lot of material in order to make his article as unbiased as possible and wanted to inform people, not get a lot of sales of his book. So although this source could be used to either support or criticise Haig, it does give a fair interpretation. Source F also supports this, but also brings across his personality and how this could have been a the reason why he was such a good soldier as he was reserved, which offers good support to his ambitious nature.
This portrays the great soldier image that Keegan’s argument suggests and that his personality aided Britain in this victory. However, content in the sources that were written long after the war is deeply contrasting. The two historic accounts suggest that Haig’s only flaw was his up bringing. One suggests that he had too much faith that God had put him there and therefore would win him the battle (this is false as if he had put all his faith in God’s hands then he wouldn’t have had intelligence and would therefore not have all the wrong evidence causing the nearly pathetic tactics such as the creeping barrage).
The other blames the lack of knowledge that is needed of the new technology, this is because of his education, and he was taught the old war winning tactics. Both sources are right about different things, but neither offer a clear and reliable answer for his mistakes. It does, however, give the evidence that Haig wasn’t as good as Keegan suggests.
The battle of the Somme was one of the most disastrous battles for the British army and Haig alike, the army had fifty seven thousand casualties in just one day and Haig was said to be “quite unfit for high command in time of crises,” which was only emphasised as the German machine gunners were the clear victors. This is where the third part of source E is quite interesting, as Haig describes a “Very successful attack. ” We know that the British army gained barely any land and lost many men during the attack that he writes about. However, this is supported as he previously said that no battle could be won without a loss of life.
Also, the French were under enormous pressure before this attack, showing that Haig had no alternative but to help them, unless he wanted the whole of France under German control. This is supported in source H, as a lack of British support “would have meant the abandonment of Verdun. Proving that the errors that Haig made could have been due to the pressure he was under and the eventual victory at the Somme was an outstanding achievement in itself. In conclusion, there is not enough information in these sources to support the interpretation. In fact, many of the sources do not agree with Keegan’s interpretation at all.