When you think of the generals in World War One, more often than not Stephen Fry’s portrayal of General Melchett comes to mind. Pompous, warmongering and and unintelligent, they sent the troops into the trenches en-mass. Or is this stereotypical view wrong? Were they actually astute tacticians? HIW takes a look at the famous generals of the war
Field Marshall Douglas Haig
Having served in the Boer War, Sudan and India, Haig had a lot of experience going into the war. The commander of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force), Haig commanded the troops at the Somme, Verdun, Passchendaele and Amiens.
Paul Von Hindenburg
Commander of the eighth army entrusted with defending Prussia from the advancing Russians, Hindenburg was the major player of the German military hierarchy. An immensely popular figure, Hindenburg is also attributed with antagonistic the Americans and bringing them into the war. He was elected president in the interwar period and in his now ageing senile state, he aided the Nazi rise to power.
‘Papa Joffre’ as he was known, was the French commander in chief for the first half of the war. He concentrated his forces in the Alsace-Loraine region rather than the Belgian border which was proved to be flawed as the Germans advanced through the low countries. He was replaced in 196 by Robert Nivelle who was believed to be better equipped to lead a renewed Anglo-French offensive.
A well liked and respected general, Nikolaevich was a poor strategist and was more of a figurehead for the troops. He had moderate success during the war but fled Russia after the revolution began to gather pace.
General John J. Pershing
Arriving on the Western Front in 1917, Pershing led the US army at the battle of Hamel, battle of Marne and the Argonne offensive. He was hailed as a military hero on his return to his native country but historians are more sceptical of his performance.