“Notre Joffre”


A recent visit to The National Archives unearthed the following interesting sketches from Haig’s diary. The drawings are by Commandant E. Requin, a liaison officer between General Joffre and General d’Urbals’s HQ.

The first sketch shows Joffre himself and then a soldier of the 97th Regiment.iPhone 119

The next is two views of Private J Dalzell of “The New Army”iPhone 120

The final sketch shows a pipe-smoking French solder in his dress uniform.iPhone 121

Haig thought the sketch of Joffre was “excellent” and noted that Requin had been at Aldershot.

All you need to know about Robert Fisk & Remembrance

appalled … those bloody poppies again … this obscene fashion appendage … demands yet further human sacrifice … sacrifice … Passchendaele … this wretched flower … butcher Haig … these sickly and fake petals … hypocrisy… “sepulchre of crime” … “Sacrifice to the fallacy that war can end” … this monstrous crime against humanity … The pity of war… the flower of youth cut short … Dead soldiers … generals, admirals or emperors worthy of entombment … soldiery were simply dumped into mass graves … remains of the dead were shipped off…to be used as manure … this preposterous poppy … fake flowers … blood-red soil of the Flanders dead … war was ultimately devoid of meaning … “just one great waste” … cast poppies aside….that terrible, almost orgiastic poem … “In Flanders fields” … our duty to kill more human beings … A bloody poppy! … Passchendaele…

The above is a distillation of an article Robert Fisk posted on the Independent’s website on 7th November 2013 – “Poppycock – or why remembrance rituals make me see red” – as part of that paper’s run up to Armistice Day.

There is really little to be said about it. The author is a respected journalist, the Middle East correspondent of The Independent for more than twenty years, but this is not the first time he has used the paper to repeat his tired and increasingly challenged views. Sadly he is not alone, there was an article the following day in the Guardian that follows a similar line – “This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time”.

As the Centenary looms, there will be an increasing need to get the message out that these hackneyed views do not portray a true picture of the Great War. But it is not going to be easy…

PS – note to Robert, you forgot to include the word futile.

PPS – the measure of how difficult it is going to be to correct this attitude is shown by the 2,400+ who either “strongly agree” or “agree” with Fisk which compares to the 991 who “strongly disagree” or “disagree” with him. But then this is the Independent.
(Results as at 12:30 Saturday 9th November.)

Anti-British bias at “In Flanders Fields”?

This post has been provocatively titled to see if anyone else shares my confusion as to exactly what impression the people behind the “In Flanders Fields” museum in Ypres are trying to put across. While the new format is a distinct step up from the previous message-heavy style – albeit that I still think that exhibit labels might be an idea worth considering – I really do not understand why having “finished” the museum tour you find the following exhibits sidelined in the restaurant area.

In some display cases at the bottom of the stairs are some very impressive and personal memento’s of the senior British commanders of the BEF.

A label, signed by Haig which was attached to the wreath he laid at the inauguration of the Menin Gate on 24 July 1927.

A signed portrait of Haig.

Haig’s spirit burner that Dorothy had insisted he take to the front.

A signed portrait of Sir John French.

Plumer’s Field Marshal’s cap.

A signed portrait of Plumer.

HRH Prince Maurice of Battenberg’s sword, left with the owner of the estaminet where the 1st Battalion, 60th Rifles had billeted on 22nd August 1914.

Why are these important exhibits not included in the main exhibition area and consigned to what is effectively a corridor used by people leaving the museum? If anyone can dispel my view that this is more than poor decision making – I would be pleased to hear it.

Douglas Haig Fellowship

A quick pointer to an organisation that will be of interest to anyone who studies the Great War and in particular, the British Expeditionary Force.

The Douglas Haig Fellowship was set up in 1995 to commemorate and study the life of Douglas Haig (1861-1928), Field Marshal Earl Haig of Bemersyde, his achievements, those of the forces he commanded, and the continuing military historical lessons to be derived from all of these.

The Fellowship seeks to encourage further objective study of the contribution of the Field Marshal to military reform; his generalship and that of his subordinate commanders; the command and control of the British Army during the First World War; the form and working of the relationship between the political Supreme Command and Military Commanders; the conduct of coalition operations; the principles and application of military doctrine generally; the efficiency of military medicine and medical services; and the public duty of care for veterans.

Each year a Member of the Fellowship is appointed Haig Fellow and is asked to give a paper at the Annual Lunch held close to the anniversary of the birth of Earl Haig, on 19th June. Former Haig Fellows have included John Terraine, Professor Peter Simkins, Professor Gary Sheffield, Major Gordon Corrigan, Major-General Julian Thompson and Professor William Philpott. The Fellowship has also established an award for a Haig Scholar, an undergraduate or Master of Arts student, who had distinguished him/herself by the excellence of their dissertation or thesis.

Membership of the Fellowship is open to all who are sympathy with the above aims and entitles the member to receive a copy of the Fellowship’s journal “Records” as well as attendance at the Annual Lecture, held as part of the AGM, and the annual luncheon.

More information can be found at the Fellowship’s website – Douglas Haig Fellowship

Xmas 1917 – the Engineer-in-Chief’s Christmas card

I came across this in Douglas Haig’s diary files at the National Archives on Saturday – it is described in the file index as the “Xmas card 1917” and is one of the more bizarre illustrations I have seen used as a Christmas card.

The “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” appears to have collected up twenty-two children who are busy in a range of activities – including the cherub releasing gas from the back of his miniature railway wagon; the road builder with his pickaxe; the forestry worker chopping down a tree and the inland water imp pulling his SRD jars across in a barrel.

The explanation behind the activities is that this was the Christmas card sent out by the Engineer-in-Chief – who can be seen on the left intently studying his dinner menu while his men labour on.

Now if anyone can explain what is going on in the background where a man in a striped jacket is following a zebra with an apple on its back…

Douglas & the seating plans…

While going through Haig’s typescript diaries for the period November 1917 to March 1918, I noticed that DH appeared to have a habit of setting out not only who attended his meetings but also how they sat as he took the trouble of sketching out the seating plans. Four examples are shown here. I have no idea why this meant so much to him, but he clearly felt it worth recording.

The 9th January 1918 meeting in Downing Street was where Lord Derby bet Lloyd George 100 cigars to 100 cigarettes that war would be over by next New Year. LG disagreed but Haig “thought the war would be over, because of the internal state of Germany.”

Source : WO 256/27, The National Archives

Club Atlético Ferrocarril Central Argentino General Douglas Haig

The wonderfully named Club Atlético Douglas Haig is a football club from Pergamino in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. Founded on the 18 November 1918 by workers of the Ferrocarril Central Argentino, they had to request the approval of head of the railroad, Ronald Leslie. Leslie agreed on the condition that the club took the name of General Douglas Haig. The full name of the club is Club Atlético Ferrocarril Central Argentino General Douglas Haig and is the most successful team – 26 championships – in the Liga de fútbol Pergamino.

Sources – Club Atlético Douglas Haig & Douglas Mania – accessed 23 July 2011 – my thanks to George Webster for spotting this.