Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig

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Douglas Haig in 1919

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig KT GCB OM GCVO KCIE ADC (born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 19 June 1861, died in London on 29 January 1928) was the senior British Army commander in World War I.

He was in charge of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), from 1915, to the end of the First World War. Most notably, he was commander during the Battle of the Somme, the Third Battle of Ypres and the Hundred Days Offensive, which led to the German surrender, in 1918.

A popular commander during the immediate post-war years, his funeral became a day of national mourning.

Later, Haig became an object of criticism. After his death, he was increasingly criticised for issuing orders which led to a lot of casualties of British troops, earning him the nickname 'Butcher of the Somme'. Haig's critics included the wartime Prime Minister Lloyd George and many younger officers who served in the First World War.[1]

Alan Clark's book The Donkeys (1961) popularised the controversial phrase 'lions led by donkeys', used to describe the British Army leadership. Clark attributed this remark to a German general but, before his death, admitted he lied about the phrase.[2]

All the same, some veterans, and academic historians have continued to praise Haig's leadership.[3]

References[change | change source]

  1. Travers, Tim 1987. The killing ground: the British Army, the Western Front and the emergence of modern war 1900–1918. Allen & Unwin, London.
  2. Corrigan 2002, p213.
  3. Todman D. 2005. The Great War: myth and memory. London. pp73–120