What Did Douglas Haig Do?


Who is Douglas Haig? What did Douglas Haig do? Information on Douglas Haig biography, life story and career.

Douglas Haig; (1861-1928), British field marshal, who was commander in chief of all British forces on the western front during the final three years of World War I. With calm dignity but lack of self-criticism, and a sense of God-given mission, Haig led the British Army through its greatest ordeals; and though he was not always able to cope with events, no one else was seen to be his equal or better. After the war he was created Earl Haig and received £100,000 from Parliament.

Haig was born in Edinburgh on June 19, 1861, the son of a prosperous whisky distiller. Educated at Clifton and Brasenose College, Oxford, he won first honors at Boyal Military Academy Sandhurst and in 1855 was commissioned an officer of the 7th Hussars, then in India.

Early Career. Besides being a fine horseman and polo player, he took his profession seriously and displayed thoroughness, energy, and a strong sense of duty. The good impression he made at the staff college at Camberley in 1896 led to his selection to join Lord Kitchener’s force engaged in reconquering the Sudan, and he served with Egyptian cavalry in the Battle of Omdurman (1898). He accompanied Maj. Gen. John D. P. French to the South African War as chief of staff in 1899, and later in the war led several columns rounding up Boer commandos.

In 1906, Haig, now a major general, was ordered to London by Bichard B. Haldane, whom Haig later described as “the greatest secretary of state for war England has ever had,” to help in Haldane’s reform program as director of military training. His work contributed much to the organization of a Continental expeditionary force and to the formation of the Territorial Army. In 1909 he was knighted and in 1910 became a lieutenant general. In 1911, after serving as chief of staff in India, he took command at the large training installation at Aldershot.

World War I. When World War I broke out in 1914, Haig was put in command of the 1st Corps in the British Expeditionary Force. The corps became the 1st Army and Haig commanded it until he replaced French as commander in chief of the British forces in France at the end of 1915. He was made a field marshal in 1917.

Controversy surrounds Haig’s tenure of command. He was accused of wasting lives in unimaginative frontal attacks. This charge was largely prompted by the appalling British casualties on the Somme in 1916 and the long mud-and bloodbath of Passchendaele (also called the Third Battle of Ypres) in 1917. The latter, on which Haig had set high hopes, did not take the Belgian coast, let alone cause a German collapse. It became a synonym for futile slaughter.

Believing that France would not be able to shoulder the main burden indefinitely, he pursued a dual policy of attacking the Germans and engaging in slogging attrition. Haig advocated Foch’s appointment as Allied commander in chief, and once the German breakthrough in March 1918 had been halted, Haig handled the final battles with resolution and drive, justifying his conviction that victory was possible that year.

After the war, Haig devoted himself to the welfare of ex-servicemen, notably through the British Legion and the annual Poppy Day. He died in London on Jan. 30, 1928.


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