Does Field Marshal Douglas Haig deserve his reputation? His performance as a wartime leader has been attacked in the 100 years since WW1; the 1960s book 'The Donkeys' and the film 'Oh! What a Lovely War' certainly did him no favours; before 'Blackadder' in the 1980s further scorned his abilities. More recently, Professor Gary Sheffield has labelled him 'controversial', but has defended Haig's performance. In this edition of the 'Versus History' Podcast, Elliott critiques Haig, while Patrick defends him; both draw on the very latest historiography and academic insight to formulate their arguments.
On 1 July 1916, Haig ordered the Somme offensive in an attempt relieve the pressure on the French at Verdun and break the stalemate of the Western Front. The British army suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day, including 20,000 killed. This was the highest loss in British Army history. It should be noted, however, that the French line held at Verdun and after five months of fighting, the British made advances at the Somme. In July 1917, a new offensive - the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele) resulted in further heavy casualties, but did succeed in weakening the German army and laid the platform for its defeat in 1918.
Listen to Elliott and Patrick go 'head-to-head' over this highly emotive and controversial topic, hoping to offer some clarity and perspective to the debate.