Mission Accomplished

Gary Sheffield is an old hand at writing the history of World War I.  In addition to being a professor of war studies at the University of Wolverhampton, he was co-editor of Douglas Haig: War Diaries and Letters, 1914-18.  It is obvious that he wishes to set not just the United Kingdom but the whole world straight on the lifetime and achievements of Field Marshal Haig.

Haig was born June 19, 1861, in Edinburgh.  His father, John, owned a distillery, and young Douglas grew up in rather comfortable circumstances.  (Whisky was, and continues to be, in demand in Scotland as well as the U.S., and the Haig brand of Scotch can be purchased in virtually any liquor store to this day.)  He later attended Oxford but left before taking a degree, which in the British Army of Haig’s time conferred no special advantage to the holder.  Sheffield tells us that

Haig enjoyed Oxford and remembered it fondly in later years, but it is not clear from his undergraduate diaries whether he had any sort of emotional or sex life. . . . Did he have homosexual inclinations?  The evidence for this is non-existent . . .

Then why bring up the subject?

The focus of Sheffield’s book is Haig’s fitness for command.  As the title suggests, this book covers the period from the first battle of the Somme, through Passchendaele, and up to the culmination of...

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