THE military chiefs in France were given an exceedingly free hand for the campaign of 1916. Haig had the confidence of the Cabinet in much fuller measure than his predecessor, and worked hand in hand with Robertson the protagonist of the supreme importance of the Western Front; while the relations of both with Kitchener were harmonious. The instructions which the new Commander-in-Chief received on his appointment made it clear that 'the closest co-operation between the French and British as a united army must be the governing policy'. The independence of his command was vaguely but materially qualified by a statement that he would 'in no case come under the orders of any Allied General further than the necessary co-operation with our Allies above referred to'.
This in effect meant a further extension of the powers of Joffre, who, with the support of the French Premier Briand, had just weathered a formidable internal crisis. An order for close co-operation does not necessarily involve cordial relationships. Haig, indeed, in the course of his command, had many serious and well-founded causes of complaint which are believed to be the principal theme of his hitherto unpublished memoirs. But the many differences of opinion which arose in the first half of 1916 were solved without arousing any such bitterness of feeling as was to be created later.
Even before Verdun it had been settled that a great Franco-British finale of attack should be staged about July 1st; the Russians and Italians, it was hoped, would burst into activity about a fortnight earlier. Mounted on a front of more than thirty miles, this finale was to be predominantly French (forty divisions against twenty-five British). But the gay belief in the easy and complete breakthrough had fled from the minds of the French leaders.