The Worst World War I Generals 

Aaron Edwards
Updated December 26, 2019 4.9k votes 1.2k voters 35.4k views 17 items

List Rules Vote up the worst World War I generals; those guilty of the most heinous errors in judgement.

World War I was a messy war, brought on by a convoluted system of European alliances that became a geopolitical powder keg set off by a single assassination. In many ways, WWI was the first modern war, one that redefined battlefield tactics. New ways of fighting were introduced, including the use of poison gasses and trench warfare. Throw in new forms of artillery, machine guns, flamethrowers, and the major use of combat planes, and something terrible begins to take shape. The worst WWI generals failed to take into account these new innovations, and it cost millions of lives.

While the Allied forces were the victors of the conflict, both sides had their share of bad, incompetent commanders during the First World War. The conflict culminated in a battle for Europe that was as destructive as it was pointless, with triumph only setting the stage for a larger, more devastating war just a few decades away. 

Read on for a list of the worst World War I generals to see how many lives were lost on account of incompetence and a failure to adapt to warfare in the 20th century. 

Luigi Cadorna is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Worst World War I Generals
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Luigi Cadorna

Luigi Cadorna, Italy's Chief of Staff at the start of the war, was a skilled tactician, but his lack of knowledge of modern artillery led to many casualties and strategic battlefield losses.

His defeat at the Battle of Caporetto, in 1917, led to his immediate dismissal, and rightly so, as the battle resulted in a loss of 700,000 troops to the Italian military - 40,000 killed or wounded, 280,000 captured, and 350,000 deserted. 

Age: Dec. at 78 (1850-1928)

Birthplace: Verbania, Italy

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Douglas Haig, 1st Earl H... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Worst World War I Generals
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

A British general from a cavalry background, Douglas Haig was ill-equipped for modern warfare.

Haig's obscene ignorance toward the weapons used in WWI was disastrous; he thought machine guns and tanks were "overrated" and often pushed for large advances that led to massive casualties

Age: Dec. at 67 (1861-1928)

Birthplace: Charlotte Square, Eurasia, United Kingdom

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Conrad von Hotzendorf is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Worst World War I Generals
Photo: Hermann Torggler/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Conrad von Hotzendorf

The Austrian Commander in Chief, Conrad von Hotzendorf, underestimated the logistical needs of his army and the speed of Russian mobilization. Concentrating his forces in Italy and Serbia, Hotzendorf led a failed offensive into Serbian territory at the same time the Russians invaded his territory with the successful Brusilov Offensive.

If Germans take anything away from 20th century history, it should be to leave Russia alone.  

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Djemal Pasha is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Worst World War I Generals
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Turkish commander Ahmed Djemal Pasha screwed up all over the place during the First World War. He failed at taking the Suez Canal from the British, brutally suppressed an Arab revolt in Syria, lost Jerusalem to the British, and ruthlessly persecuted Armenians. He eventually fled to Constantinople.

When the Turkish government collapsed a year later, he fled aboard a German ship. He tried serving as a liaison between the Soviet Union and Turkey after World War I, but was assassinated by an Armenian. 

Age: Dec. at 50 (1872-1922)

Birthplace: Mytilene, Greece

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