When Sir Douglas Haig succeeded to the command of the British Expeditionary Force, a much more professional outlook was apparent. He was an intellectual soldier, and versed in his profession. Unfortunately, he too was indoctrinated with the belief that the West was first and last. On the German side, Falkenhayn's insistance on the Verdun offensive, which Von Hoffmann so acidly derided, matched the Allied mistakes.
Sir Douglas Haig is an underrated commander, partly because to regain the initiative was virtually impossible when he succeeded to the command, partly because the subordinate generals, his instruments, were not, with few exceptions, of high rofessional calibre, partly because the citizen army had little battle experience until 1916.
My own criticism of the High Command would not be sweeping, but would be confined to three faults.
The first was that an obsession for ground, as such, grew up, and permeated the minds of all the junior formations. Capture a pig-sty at the bottom of a hill, overlooked from three sides by the enemy, the sump for the local drainage, and hold it we must and did. Any local commander who wished to withdraw 500 yards to the ridge behind him would have been in danger of being relieved of his command. Even to suggest it provoked questions about his competence and his courage. The large-scale example was, of course, the holding of the Ypres salient: a military folly of the first order. "Ah, public opinion in France, Belgium and Great Britain would not have stood the shock of a withdrawal," would have been the argument. Yet that same public opinion remained steadfast and unshaken when we had to evacuate the Dardanelles.
Secondly, it must be confessed that many of the subordinate generals, at least as high as corps commanders, had little or no experience of handling large bodies of troops and had not, by their past or training, been able to replace experience by professional or theoretical knowledge of their art.
Lastly, arrangements and dispositions were made which tended to increase the disabilities under which many corps and divisional commanders suffered. For example, the system which often made the H.Q. of an Army Corps a static H.Q., through which passed different divisions as they relieved others, was a fundamental mistake. Administratively it had many advantages: tactically, psychologically and from the military standpoint it had none. Corps commanders settled into their chateaux like freeholders, not temporary tenants: their staff with them: the paper work grew comfortably under the military version of Parkinson's Law. No esprit de corps could be built up: none of the troops knew to which corps they belonged. Furthermore, this static bureaucracy got out of touch with the troops and the conditions under which they lived, fought and died. In all my time I only saw one corps commander further up than Brigade H.Q.: he was Sir Julian Byng.