WarPeople - Douglas Haig

Douglas Haig, the most controversial general of the Great War, was born in Edinburgh in 1861. He studied at Oxford University, went on to graduate from Sandhurst Royal Military Academy, and then fought in the Omdurman campaign and the 2nd Boer War, at the turn of the century, where he distinguished himself. By 1909 he he was made Chief of Staff of the Indian Army. By 1914, Haig commanded the 1st Army Corps within the British Expeditionary Force formed for deployment in a war with Germany.

By the end of 1915 it was clear that the British commander Sir John French was ill suited to the nature of the campaign, and Haig was appointed Commander in Chief of the BEF, a position he held throughout the war.

Haig, a cavalry man, found the nature of the fighting on the Western Front alien, and did not rate highly the wars new weaponry. He was on record saying that the machine gun was an overrated weapon, he made similar comments about the tank.

Haig's name is most frequently associated with the disastrous Somme offensive in 1916 and the later, almost as disastrous Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. Haig was criticised by many over the years for his tactics, but his defenders suggest that Haigs hand was largely forced by the demands of the French for constant relief on the Western Front, and he was a victim of circumstances.

Ultimately, Haig's BEF in 1918 advanced the greatest distance of all Allied armies, captured almost 50% of all Central Powers POWs, and crossed the vaunted Hindenburg Line in a day - the lessons had been finally learned.

But at a great human cost, indeed.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.