Shot at Dawn

Opinion on Haig


This collection of VERY anti-Haig extracts is taken from a website, 'Shot at Dawn', which appears to have ceased to exist:




EIGHTY years on, as the British people prepare to commemorate
Armistice Day, the statue of Field Marshal Douglas Haig still stands proudly in
Whitehall. It was placed there to salute a victory which cost the lives of
millions of brave soldiers who died in the trenches of the Somme, Passchendaele
and the innumerable other cockpits of death in World War One. No-one will ever
question the heroism and self-sacrifice of those magnificent doomed men. But
today The Express calls into question Earl Haig's right to symbolise their loss.

We say that the statue should come down. It is a statement that will shock many
people who regard the Field Marshal as a symbol of that famous victory so many
years ago.

But the modern generation of military historians believes that hundreds of
thousands of soldiers died needlessly as a result of Haig's orders.

Today, writing in The Express, the military historian Alan Clark records that
"if the dead could march, side by side in continuous procession down Whitehall,
it would take them four days and nights to get past the saluting base"..

We believe that Earl Haig, and his blinkered view of strategy and tactics, bears a
heavy and perhaps unforgivable responsibility for those deaths. We do not
question his patriotism. But we doubt his judgment and his humanity.

There is one further charge against the Field Marshal: He did not share the
sufferings and depravations of his troops.

British soldiers endured a miserable existence in the rat-infested trenches
while Field Marshal Haig and his staff lived a life of luxury in a chateau far
behind the lines.

Compare his insensitivity to the action of a truly great general, the Duke of
Wellington. On the night of Waterloo, he slept on the floor so that a dying
member of his staff could have his bed.

Next week will be a momentous time in the life of the British nation. November
11 will be the last major anniversary of that terrible and tragic time in our
history when a significant number of the combatants are still alive.

We will all be taking time off from our daily lives to reflect on those terrible
events, and to honour the dead.

It is surely right that the First World War should forever be celebrated by a
great statue in central London. But surely that memorial should be of one of the
ordinary soldiers whose lives were lost in that great conflict. And A royal
tribute as protests mount


By Patrick O’Flynn and Tom Rawstorne.

THE Queen Mother braved the chill autumn weather to plant a cross in the field
of remembrance outside Westminster Abbey yesterday.

A few hundred yards away in Whitehall the proud statue of Field Marshal Haig on
horseback looked on sternly as the first of many poppy wreaths was laid at the
nearby Cenotaph by veterans leaving the Abbey service.

It has been a fixture for decades. But 80 years after the end of the Great War
many voices are now speaking up to put right what they see as a continuing

They say the statue of the British Army's allegedly heroic commander should be
removed from Whitehall before the last of the veterans who survived his callous
prosecution of the war has died.

Military historian Julian Putkowski said: "I would like would like to see the
statue melted down and the metal used to mint medals for the families of those
executed as deserters and mutineers, even though they were shell-shocked and
burnt out."

Mr Putkowksi, who has a book, British Army Mutineers 1914-18, published today,
said it was "utterly inappropriate" that Haig's statue would be in view on
Saturday when relatives of executed men gather at the Cenotaph for their own
service of remembrance.

"It will take a supreme act of self-control for them not to spit at the statue.
One or two would willingly take a hacksaw to it if it wasn't for the dignity of
the occasion," he said.

Dr Niall Ferguson, tutor in Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford, said: "The
First World War was ultimately an avoidable tragedy for the British. To build a
statue in honour of the man who was responsible for Passchendaele, one of the
most calamitous battles in human history, was basically wrong.

"There is nothing heroic about what Haig did -the heroes were the badly trained
Tommies who carried out what were at times completely deranged orders."

Dr Ferguson, whose revisionist account of 1914-18, entitled The Pity of War, has
just been published, added: "I don't really think one could like Haig, who was
an unemotional man with a character as hard as granite and whose imperviousness
to the suffering of his soldiers is really very hard to admire."

Labour MP David Winnick said: "I certainly believe it would be a good idea to
remove Haig's statue from its current location."

Fellow Labour backbencher Dr Lynne Jones added: "My personal view is that Alan
Clark's concept that Haig was the chief donkey leading an army of lions is

"People like Haig are responsible for millions of deaths. I would of course
defer to the views of the veterans themselves, but personally I believe Haig's
statue is inappropriate."

Norman Stone, former Professor of Modern History at Oxford, said: "I agree with
Alan Clark.

"I think you can make certain allowances for conditions on the Western Front but
Haig's performance was, at the best, pretty dismal.

"One of my teachers once jokingly said to me that Haig was the greatest Scots
general - he killed the most Englishmen." Prime Minister Lloyd George

The tale of these battles constitutes a trilogy, illustrating the unquestionable
heroism that will never accept defeat and the inexhaustible vanity that will
never admit a mistake. It is the story of the million who would rather die than
own themselves as cowards - even to themselves - and also of the two or three
individuals who would rather the million perish than that they as leaders should
own - even to themselves - that they were blunderers. Ought I have vetoed it?
Ought I not to have resigned rather than acquiesce in this slaughter of brave
men? I have always felt there are solid grounds for criticism in that respect.
My sole justification is that Haig promised not to press the attack if it became
clear that he could not attain his objectives by continuing the offensive.



Private William Brooks

The Yanks and the Aussies were disgusted at the way our officers treated us.
There were cases where British officers tried to put Yanks or Aussie soldiers in
front of a firing-squad but couldn't get away with it. If they had, I reckon
those countries would have pulled out of the war and left us to it.

There was a big riot about September 1917 by the Australians at a place called
Etaples. They called it "collective indiscipline", what it was was mutiny. It
went on for days. I think a couple of military police got killed. Field Marshall
Haig would have shot the leaders but dared not of course because they were

Haig's nickname was the butcher. He'd think nothing of sending thousands of men
to certain death. The utter waste and disregard for human life and human
suffering by the so-called educated classes who ran the country. What a wicked
waste of life. I'd hate to be in their shoes when they face their Maker.


Lieutenant James Lovegrove

The military commanders had no respect for human life. General Douglas Haig,
later he was made a Field Marshal, cared nothing about casualties. Of course, he
was carrying out government policy, because after the war he was knighted and
given a lump sum and a massive life-pension. I blame the public schools who bred
these ego maniacs. They should never have been in charge of men. Never


Henry Hamilton - Daily Mail Reporter

Haig was, in truth, at close quarters very disappointing. He looked the part.
His face on a postcard was not less impressive than Kitchener's. But - his face
was his fortune. He had little general intelligence, no imagination. When the
official war correspondents, much against his will, first went out to France, he
made them a speech of "welcome". He said he knew what they wanted. "Something
for Mary Jane in the kitchen to read."

Haig was as shy as a schoolgirl. He was afraid of newspaper men - afraid of any
men but those he gathered round him, and they were mostly like himself. If ever
the history of the war is written as frankly as that of Napoleon's campaign has
been, Haig will be held accountable for the appalling slaughter in the Somme
battles and in Flanders, caused by his flinging masses of men against positions
far too strong to be carried by assault.




Douglas Haig: The Greatest Betrayal

by Allen Clark Daily Express November 1998

IN 1913 Britain was the most powerful country in the world. She straddled global
trade routes with a Navy quite consciously designed to challenge, and defeat,
all the other navies of the world in combination and simultaneously.

We were a contented people. Confident, loyal and, by today's polluted standards,
innocent. Twice weekly the doorstep of every terraced house would be scrubbed
white; and if wages were low - why a pint of beer could be bought for 4d (2p).

All too soon these standards, or rather the manner in which they were perverted,
would exact a terrible price. Sir Edward Grey the Liberal Foreign Secretary and
an early personification of the word "Europhile", decided on August 4, 1914, to
commit the greatest maritime power in the world to a land war in defence
of Belgium.

Belgium went under in 10 days and Britain spent the next four-and-a-half years
in full-frontal, set-piece attacks on the Western Front, trying to get it back
by heedless expenditure of blood and treasure.

First into the furnace was the British Expeditionary Force, a tiny professional
group of sharpshooters. Photos show their magnificent physique. Every one in the
Guards regiments had to be over 6ft tall. Soon they were all killed.

By 1915 the volunteers were starting to arrive from the recruiting offices.
General Haig, the Army commander, had got into difficulties attacking the
Germans at Loos. On the second day he put into the battle two complete divisions
of volunteers That had just arrived. They had no rest, food, water or combat
training and the machine-gunners scythed them down in rows.

The following year came the Big Push on The Somme - 10 times the scale of Loos,
which Haig kept going for three months without advancing half a mile.

Unbelievably Haig was allowed to try again in 1917 (this time with conscripts,
as the volunteers were mostly dead). He chose Passchendaele, the vilest morass
of all The great battlegrounds, and poured in bodies from July until November,
gaining barely a yard.

Many years ago, when I was writing The Donkeys - whose climax is the second day
at Loos - I managed to buy the Victoria Cross won in that battle by 2nd
Lieutenant Freddy Johnson at the age of 23. With the medal came some yellowing
press cuttings put aside by his parents. One describes a visit to his old school
and the hero's speech when he joked to the boys: "This is far more alarming than
anything at the Front."

A classic example of the "stiff upper lip", no more than would have been
expected of him. But in the photos Johnson's eyes look haunted. He never took
leave again and was killed at Passchendaele in 1917.

The scale of this butchery can hit one in different ways. For me it came as I
watched for the first time the crowd of runners assembling for the London
Marathon. "Must be around 40,000," said the commentator. Suddenly I realised
that if they had been waiting to go over the top on July 1, 1916, every single
one would be dead by nightfall.

None complained, although many were turned in their minds and, half-mad, shot
for cowardice or desertion. Only the poets, quite privately (because editors
sitting comfortably in their London offices, would never print anything
"unpatriotic" ) on scraps of paper in ill-lit dug-outs did record what was

Greatest of them all was Wilfred Owen, who died from bullet wounds 80 years ago,
on November 8. His most passionate poem was Anthem For Doomed Youth, from its
opening line: What passing-bells for those who die as cattle? through to the
final ones:

The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall,
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing- down of blinds

This last was a reference to the fact that when the death telegram was delivered
in its orange envelope, all the blinds in rooms facing the street were drawn a
silent signal to friends and neighbours of private grief.

So if, when on holiday in the North-east, or Devon, or Scotland, you are
curious, then take a look at the war memorial on any village green and see how
many carry one family name - and note their ages.

Because the four-year-long haemorrhage of the Great War was as much a betrayal
of youth by age as of one class by another. The working classes, particularly in
the countryside, had been brought up to believe that the aristocracy would
always look after them in a jam (some hope!), while the middle classes,
particularly the younger sons, were cut to ribbons. A complete future generation
- designers, farmers, industrialists and inventors - just ceased to exist. We
still wear the poppy on the 11th day of the 11th month and at the 11th hour we
fail silent, very briefly in memoriam of those young.

Until recently the black button at the poppy's centre used to carry the
inscription "Haig Fund".. No longer Most people now realise, even while trying
to avert their minds from the subject, that it was Haig who threw it all away.
How did Haig survive? Politics came into it, naturally The then Prime Minister,
Lloyd George, became increasingly uneasy at the casualty lists but he was
leading an uncomfortable coalition. He feared that if he quarrelled with the
Commander-in-Chief his partners in the Cabinet would exploit the opportunity to
get rid of him.

Haig's own colleagues were imprisoned by their hierarchic loyalties and
nervousness about their own careers (one Army commander was sacked by Haig for
retreating under a gas attack, even though his men had not been issued with gas
masks). Besides, no one knew what the Western Front was really like, except
those who fought in it and their attrition rate was rapid.

So the Field-Marshal, in bronze effigy still sits astride his horse and surveys,
each year, the ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Does he ever perhaps in
the small hours when the street is empty and silent, reflect on the most
horrifying statistic of the whole conflict?

Two years after its end, when every corpse or human fragment that could be found
was laid to rest founder of the War Graves Commission Sir Fabian Ware calculated
that if the dead could march side by side in continuous procession down
Whitehall, it would take them four days and nights to get past the saluting




Douglas Haig (and Lloyd George)

by Andrew Grimes from Manchester Evening News November 1998

Blood on their hands.

Haig, the commander-in-chief of British forces on the Western Front during the
First World Wax; is still honoured in the Poppy Appeal though arguably he killed
as many of his own men as Stalin and Hitler put together.

Lloyd George who, as prime minister, cowardly kept him on in spite of railing
privately at the incompetent as a bloody waster of young British lives, is to
have a statue put up to him. There should be no statue to Lloyd George. No self
respecting sculptor should accept the commission. And it is time the British
Legion removed Haig's loathsome name from the poppy fund.

It was right to do reverence this week on the 80th anniversary of the 1918
armistice to the hundreds and thousands of soldiers whose bones lie in foreign
battlefields. However I could not help feeling, throughout the solemn
commemorations, that it really is time for a universal acknowledgement that
these brave men were the victims of idiots and of psychopaths.

No one summed up the lunacy better than Thomas Hardy, still going strong in his
80s during the massacres, in his marvellous poem, Channel Firing, in which he
imagined the dead in a Dorset graveyard shaken from their coffins by the
bombardments in distant France and Flanders.

"All nations striving to make/Red war redder Mad as hatters/They do no more for
Christ's sake than you who are helpless in such matters."

It is still erroneously described as the first modern war. It was, in fact, the
last war fought on feudal values and with an anachronistic medieval strategy.

The young men who volunteered to fight were not very different, in their
deferential attitudes, from their 14th century ancestors, summoned from the
harvesting to join in the brawls of their lords. They thought their lords knew
what they were doing. Four years of attrition in the trenches was to teach them
a dreadful and embittering truth.

Haig kept thousands of horses on stand-by throughout the war. The Navy supplied
more ships to fodder them than ships carrying men and munitions were sunk by
German submarines.

Haig, contemptuous (or possibly ignorant) of the scything effects of the
machine-gun, believed the Germans could be overwhelmed by infantry advancing
with flintlock rifles, followed up by glorious cavalry charges.

He first put the initial stage of this theory to the test at the Battle of the
Somme. On July 1, 1916, 13 British divisions marched towards the enemy like
ceremonial troops down Whitehall, led by subalterns blowing whistles and
clutching one-shot revolvers. At the end of the day 19,000 lay dead.

Brothers fell alongside brothers, fathers alongside sons. Towns, such as Colne
and Ashton-under-Lyne, were overnight denuded of men of procreative age. Hardly
a home in long, milltown streets was not in mourning.Haig, surveying the carnage
from a French chateau mlles behind the front, where once he boasted of never
getting his boots wet, remained wistfull for his horses.

He went on ordering suicide waves until November when so many men were drowning
in mud, that even he thought it wise (temporarily) to call it a day The resumed
slaughter was, of course, to continue for another two years.

Did any good at all come out of the First World War? Far from being the war to
end all wars, it turned out to be the prologue to the longest and bloodiest in
world history. Would Hitler have built his Third Reich in 1933 had Germany not
been humiliated by the Allies at Versailles in 1918? Would six million have
perished in gas chambers?

One indirect benefit was that the working-class began to grow up and to realise
that the jingo swell with the lardy-dah voice and a chestful of medals was very
likely ripe for a lunatic asylum.

By 1939, even the bishops and the generals conceded that war, even when
unavoidable, was a thoroughly bad thing. But one can never be satisfied that
Britain's rulers have thoroughly digested the lesson of the Somme while they
Haig in conversation with Lloyd George, watched by General Joffrehanker to put
Lloyd George on a plinth and still keep Earl Haig on a poppy-seller's collecting

While researching this column, I discovered that Lloyd George spent 10 days
after the Armistice in the Lord Mayor's bed at Manchester town hall. The goatish
prime minister lay for once, on his own. He had contracted flu during a speaking
tour and was in no state to frolic with anyone.

The flu he got was of the virulent strain which in 1918 swept the globe, killing
several million more people than the First World War. I cannot help thinking
that it would have been kinder to Lloyd George's reputation if, instead of
living on to 1945, he had died in the Lord Mayor's parlour. As it was, he became
a silly and interfering old man, one of the appeasers who sucked up to Hitler.

He was born in Manchester - of which no Mancunian should be proud, If there has
to he a statue to Lloyd George, it must not be in Albert Square




Douglas Haig & his troops

from Blighty (1996) by Gerard J.DeGroot

...what is striking, given the circumstances, are countless examples of
extraordinary reverence felt by soldiers toward senior officers during the war
and immediately afterwards. Many examples exist of soldiers feeling
extraordinarily fortunate to have caught a glimpse of Haig when his car passed
while they were marching. Corporal H.Milward, given some food by Haig when they
passed each other (Haig in a car, the soldier on foot) remarked:

"I thought how extraordinary it was that a man with so much responsibility could
find time to think of the wants of a humble soldier. To how many men in his
position would the thought of my well-being have occurred? What a contrast there
must have been between us. He, handsome, well-groomed, spick and span, smart as
a good soldier should be, I dirty, unwashed and wretched.

In the army's social order, Haig was almost the equivalent of royalty. Like
present-day royals, he was not expected to show humanity or familiarity,
therefore the effect was all the greater when he did, Reverence was encouraged
by the mystery, pageantry and pomp which senior commanders cultivated. Visual
symbols of power reinforced authority: the commander's dress and deportment
under-lined his superiority and inspired common soldiers to trust in his
leadership. Ordinary soldiers who saw Haig at all saw him on a tall, handsome
horse or in an impressive car. His uniform was perfectly appointed and his hat
shielded his gaze - thus preventing eye contact and accentuating the distance
between him and them. 'I remember being asked on leave what the men thought of
Haig', one soldier recalled. 'You might as well have asked the private soldier
what he thinks of God. He knows about the same amount on each.' C. E.
Carrington, who knew the ordinary soldier well, argued: 'The problem of Haig's
personality is not whether his grand tactics . . . were right or wrong; it is
how he was able to retain the loyalty of his troops, as he did in 1917, and in
1918, and until his life's end.' Most ex-soldiers heartily welcomed Haig's
Honorary Presidency of the British Legion. When Haig died in 1928, the crowds
lining the streets of Edinburgh and London as the cortege passed were nearly as
large as those for a deceased monarch. Prominent in the crowd were many old

Senior officers were under no illusion that this was a democratic war which
required them to share the suffering of their men. Along with power went
privilege. The fact that his men slept in muddy holes was no reason for Haig to
decline a soft bed in a luxurious château. Grouse, salmon, fine wines and the
best brandy were sent to him by rich friends at home. Nor did he perceive
anything wrong with sending whole lambs and butter from the army stores to his
wife so that she would not have to endure food shortages. Luxuries were the
confirmation of high authority. In the same sense, extravagant rewards were
perfectly justifiable after the war. Already in 1916, Haig assured his wife that
'a grateful nation will not allow me to have a smaller income than I am
receiving now! So we will be well enough off to make ourselves comfortable.' Few
objections were raised about the luxuries Haig enjoyed during the war, or the
rewards he received after it. These were the accepted standards of his class and
rank. Greater restraint would have seemed peculiar.


Tim Field

General Haig, when questioned, declared that all men accused of cowardice and
desertion were examined by a Medical Officer (MO) and that no soldier was
sentenced to death if there was any suspicion of him suffering shell shock. The
Under-Secretary of State for War also and repeatedly misled the House of Commons
on this matter. In fact, most soldiers accused of cowardice and desertion were
not examined by an MO, and in the few cases where a medical diagnosis of shell
shock had been made, the medical evidence was rubbished or ignored and the man
convicted and shot anyway. General Haig not only signed all the death warrants
but when questioned later on this issue lied repeatedly.

The generals' sterile belief was that anyone suffering shell shock was
malingering. In fact in the generals' minds, shell-shock and malingering were
one and the same thing. Amongst the Western nations involved in World War 1, the
British Military were the furthest behind in understanding trauma, and such
steps as were taken by the British Forces towards dealing with trauma were for
the sole purpose of returning men to the Front as quickly as possible. So
obsessed were British Generals with making accusations of cowardice and
malingering that it is more likely to be projection; weak, inadequate, cowardly,
but aggressive individuals project their weakness onto others for the sole
purpose of distracting and diverting attention away from their weakness. This
mentality still thrives in employers who blame employees suffering stress for
not being able to cope with their job and for being weak and inadequate. Anyone
indulging in a blame-the-victim strategy is revealing their own inadequacy.

Documentation on these atrocities was kept secret for 75 years and only recently
have the circumstances become clear. In the intervening period, the families of
these men have suffered shame, humiliation and embarrassment, compounded by the
government's refusal to allow the families to mourn these men alongside their
comrades. For these families, an awful guilty secret has blighted their lives,
and financial hardship has been heaped upon them through the actions of
neighbours, landlords, employers and gossips exhibiting the prejudice of a
misinformed public.

The UK government has persistently refused to grant posthumous pardons to these
men. The passage of time, declared Defence Secretary John Reid in September
1998, means that grounds for a pardon on the basis of unsafe conviction "just
did not exist". Clearly he's not read the documents and has no intention of
reading them. His specious and insubstantive argument betrays an unwillingness
which suggests ulterior motives.