Field Marshal Douglas Haig

Field Marshal Douglas Haig

Played by Malcolm Taylor.

Douglas Haig, the would-be commander for all British and Empire Forces in the First World War, was born into great wealth in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1861. In 1884, he was accepted for officer training at the Royal Military College where he excelled, graduating first in his class and shortly after, was commissioned a lieutenant in the 7th Hussars. He fought in both the Sudan and the South African wars and by the outbreak of the World War One in August 1914, he was commanding the I Corps in England. After successful results (despite tremendous casualties) at the 1st Battle of Ypres, Haig was promoted to general and commander of the first British Army in November and eventually replaced his commanding officer, French, as the Commander-in-Chief of the BEF in December 1915.

Haig was tenacious and ever optimistic, sometimes at great expense – this was most notable at the Battle of Somme. What had been expected to be a great, British-led assault to secure victory actually saw tremendous loss of life, including 60,000 troops held up by barbed wire and cut down by German machine gun fire. The Somme is now synonymous with the futility of the Great War, and Haig, to many, is a “butcher.” By the final 100 Days Offensive, Haig appeared to have softened – agreeing, in the face of adversity, to rest troops during the Amiens attack. After the end of the war, Haig devoted himself to lobbying for veterans rights, setting up several organisations that remain in place today. Haig passed away in 1928.