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Field Marshall Douglas Haig

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Hero or Villain?

A controversial figure who played a huge part in the Battle of Passchendaele

 
 

the actions of the accused

Field Marshall Haig was in command of the British Army during the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Passchendaele, and the following Hundred Days offensive. Over 2 million British soldiers died under his instruction in these battles, yet without an Entente victory it is unlikely that the British would have "Won" the First World War.

The actions of Field Marshall Haig are considered by some evil, and others heroic. Many today refer to Field Marshall Haig as "Butcher Haig," for his costly tactics, yet others believe he was a great leader of the British Army.

As Haig appears in front of the Court today, it is up for you, the Judge, to decide his fate. Should he be sent to the firing squad and remembered as a villain, or celebrated and be thought of as a hero? 

 
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Butcher Haig

Your Honor, today I will comprehensively prove that the actions of Field Marshall Haig were morally bankrupt, lacking any intelligent strategy, and were certainly not the best course of action to take at any of the battles he participated in. Haig should not be hailed as a hero, rather he deserves what he sent so many of our men out into; bullets.

 
 
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The somme

The strategy that Haig employed at the Somme was a terrible one. After a week of constant artillery fire onto the German trenches, Haig was so confident in his victory that he ordered his men to walk into no mans land in divisions, ready to mop up any wounded German soldiers. The Germans, seeing the artillery shells entering British lines, had set up fortifications that stopped the artillery from being effective. When the British marched in neat lines toward them after the barrage, the Germans wound up their machine guns and massacred thousands of Entente soldiers, including many Kiwi's.

Is this an acceptable military strategy? Should this man be celebrated for sending thousands over the top to be slaughtered due to his mistakes? War crimes have been committed which have seen less victims killed. Can we accept the death of 420,000 British and Kiwi troops as a "Victory?" 

 
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passchendaele

The heavy rain, terrible wind, and all covering mud made the site of the Battle of Passchendaele one of the least forgiving of the First World War. Haig's failed tactic of artillery bombardment was attempted again here, yet the mud provided no support for any of these machines. Regardless, Haig was all to eager to send his men back over the top, this time with no artillery support, into German fire. 

Clearly, the weather was appalling, no tank or artillery support was available, and the battlefield was little more than a bog. Why then did Haig not postpone the Battle of Passchendaele? The lion cubs, young New Zealanders with little experience, were made to walk into no mans land like lambs to the slaughter. How can we justify this strategy? Is it morally acceptable to carry out a battle plan despite everything going awry, see it fail horrifically, then praise the man who planned it? 

 
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Legacy

Your Honor, it is as clear as day to me that the actions of Field Marshall Haig throughout the First World War were truly terrible. He sat behind the lines, ordering young New Zealand husbands and fathers out to their deaths. The machine guns lay waiting at the Somme and Passchendaele, yet despite Haig's "Brilliance" he continued to provide them with targets, well past the point it where it could be justified.

Books have been written praising the actions of this man. His funeral was a day of national mourning in Britain. Yet how many of those widows and children mourning his death would realise that Field Marshall Haig was the sole reason for the death of their husbands and fathers? In the name of those who suffered at Haig's hands, this man presented before you deserves the same fate that he delivered to millions of British and New Zealand troops. Bring in the firing squad, and end the life of the man who has ended the life of 2 million grandfathers, brothers, husbands, and fathers.

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Master of the Field

Your Honor, Sir Douglas Haig was truly a "Master of the Field," and was directly responsible for capturing Entente objectives at Passchendaele and the Somme. Without his leadership, support and strategy, the German forces would have completely demolished any Entente push, attack, or chance of winning the First World War. His contribution to the war effort was so great, and so crucial, that this man should forever be remembered as an inspirational wartime leader.

 Haig inspecting his forces

Haig inspecting his forces

In the field

Field Marshall Haig was a truly inspirational leader, and his impact on the morale of the troops cannot be understated. Always surveying, Haig would never be caught off guard, and did his utmost to ensure the safety of his men on and off the battlefield.

 On the Battlefield

On the Battlefield

strategy

Haig's strategies are regarded by many as the reason why Britain was victorious in the war. Never straying from his plans, Haig doggedly pursued his objectives, be they distracting the German troops, capturing key locations, or attacking German supply lines. Everything that Haig did, he did to ensure Britain would win the war, with no cost too great to secure the safety and happiness of the British people.

 A coloured image of Haig

A coloured image of Haig

LEgacy

After the end of the War, Sir Douglas Haig was treated as a war hero. Yet even this newfound admiration did not stop Haig doing his best for the British people. Haig spent the rest of his days fighting for the rights of returned soldiers, reinforcing the respect he had gained during the war. He will forever be remembered for his devotion to duty, his intelligent strategy, and most importantly for achieving key objectives in a number of battles, such as Passchendaele and the Somme, which led to Britain being victorious at the war's conculsion.

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Is Field Marshall Haig Guilty or Innocent?

What will you decide?
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The Verdict

Field Marshall Haig has been shown by the prosecution to be a monster, yet a true British hero has been presented by the defense. Does the British victory at the war's conclusion justify the millions dead? Or should Haig be forever remembered as the "Butcher" that the enormous, tragic death toll paints him to be.

Should Haig be sent to the firing squad? You decide. Consider the stories of Edith, Hugh, Thomas, Otto and Hemi before you vote, and do not be too quick to sentence another innocent man to death.

Write to us with your verdict. Vote in our interactive poll. See what others think on the graph below.