Assessment: Exercise 4

Below is Churchill's own judgement on Haig's handling of the 1918 crisis, from a draft article written after Haig's death in 1928.

Document J: Reference: Churchill Papers, CHAR 8/221/12

"He presents to me in these red years the same mental picture as a great surgeon before the days of anaesthetics, versed in every detail of such science as was known to him: sure of himself, steady of poise, knife in hand, intent upon the operation; entirely removed in his professional capacity from the agony of the patient, the anguish of relations, or the doctrines of rival schools or the devices of quacks. He would operate without excitement, or he would depart without being affronted; and if the patient died, he would not reproach himself. It must be understood that I speak only of his professional actions. Once out of the theatre his heart was as warm as any man's."

Reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Ltd, London on behalf of Winston S Churchill. Copyright © Winston S. Churchill.

Taking into account all the evidence you have seen, what judgement do you reach on Haig's generalship?

You should bear in mind:

  1. The wider political and military situation in which Haig was working.
  2. The losses in terms of human life and other heavy costs associated with the war on the Western Front.
  3. The way in which the British Army changed from an inexperienced volunteer army to an experienced and well-equipped fighting force.
  4. The ultimate success of the Allies on the Western Front by November 1918.

Haig: Introduction