Haldane, 1915–1938

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HALDANE'S epitaph describes him, proudly but not unjustly, as “A great servant of State who devoted his life to the advancement and application of knowledge. Through his work in fashioning her army he rendered invaluable aid to his country in her time of direst need”. The word “fashioning” is peculiar but possibly appropriate. Controversy turns on the use of the Army “fashioned” by Haldane. In 1905, when Haldane first took office, as Secretary for War, there was lack of co-operation between the navy and army on strategical questions. In January 1906, the question of co-operation with the French Army was raised, and Huguet brought back from the French War Office two proposals for the British Army: (1) itre lide & celle de I'armde frangaise, and (2) se faire sentir d s le Ubut des hostilitds. Colonel Lawrence, the uncrowned King of Arabia, says of the French that the only way to deal with them is to say “hoots” to them. Sir Henry Wilson, who became Haldane's principal adviser on strategical questions, was a francophile, more disposed to say this word to the politicians than to the French. Sir Edward Grey, on January 15, 1906, in a letter to Sir F. Bertie, British Ambassador in Paris, had said the word in diplomatic language our military contribution “won't save France unless she can save herself”. Haldane gave unflinching support to Wilson's strategy, notwithstanding strong opposition from Fisher and the ‘blue water’ school and from Lord Roberts and the cOnscriptionists. “Pussy”, to give Haldane his nickname, turned tiger on occasion. Lord Riddell states in his diary that Mr. McKenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, declined to provide transport for the 150,000 which Haldane proposed to land on the Continent, and records McKenna as saying: “Haldane put me out, but the scheme was a mad one and I did what was right. We had nothing to ga,in by making France the strongest power in Europe”. To-day, as the author admits, many people are of the opinion that it would be. a fatal mistake for us to use our little Regular Army again to extend the line of a Continental ally at the “outset of a War”; but refrains from expressing his own opinion on the question.

Haldane, 1915–1938

The Life of Viscount Haldane of Cloan, K.T., O.M. By Major-General Sir Frederick Maurice. Pp. xv + 290 + 8 plates. (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1939.) 18s. net.

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H., T. Haldane, 1915–1938. Nature 143, 1043–1045 (1939) doi:10.1038/1431043a0

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