The 90th Anniversary of the end of the First World War has now come and gone and I feel that for many it was an extremely poignant event especially with the last 3 British veterans at the Cenotaph. Even my ‘A’ Level students understood its importance. They actually demanded that we stop for a 2 minutes silence at 11. I could be sceptical and suggest that they just wanted to stop work for 2 minutes but I have to admit that is not true. One of my students was disgusted that college was not selling poppies so she went the British Legion shop in town and brought them to the college. I hope we are starting to seeing a youth who are more aware of the past and willing to pay their respects for those who have come before us.
Despite this though we are seeing another round of Haig baiting. J P Harris published his new book this week on Haig, Douglas Haig and the First World War, and I fear that many have it seems not bothered reading the work fully and are just picking on very specific sections to berate Haig, specifically Haig’s contention of seeking a negotiated peace in 1918. Ironically this is contrary to what appears to be the aim of the book i.e. an attempt to place Haig within the general context of the era, not only militarily but also socially and culturally. A couple of comments can be found on the Times website and on the H-War network. Martin Gilbert’scounterfactual is an interesting one ans shows the positive that may have been achieved through a negotiated peace. I fear this is not the end to the Haig debate as there are at least another 2 ‘biographies’ in the offing. I think the last comment on the H-War post rather misses the point when the commentator notes that:
How would the British ever have continued the war without American resources?
I fear this shows a degree of naivety on the nature of the effect of the American war effort and is dosed with a large helping of hindsight and what if. I fear this person has forgotten that ‘industrially’ much of the American army arriving in France from 1917 onwards are equipped with British and French armaments and that they are trained by them. Yes by 1919 this would have reversed but that did nit happen and is outside the context of what was being written. No if he had saif ‘financially’ it would not be issue as US finance, or the ability to raise credit in America is extremely important to the war effort.
Ah well here is to the next round of Haig baiting. It is just a shame that it has happened this week when rather than raising the debates, and most of them are valid ones, we should be remembering the experience and those who gave their lives for our tomorrow.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them. We will remember them