Haig, Douglas Haig, 1st Earl

Haig, Douglas Haig, 1st Earl, 1861–1928, British field marshal. He saw active service in Sudan (1898) and in the South African War (1899–1902) and upon the outbreak of World War I (1914) was given command of the 1st Army Corps in France. In Dec., 1915, he became commander in chief of the British expeditionary force. Under pressure from the French commander, Joseph Joffre, who needed to relieve the pressure on Verdun (see Verdun, battle of), he undertook the battle of the Somme (July–Nov., 1916), which resulted in very heavy casualties and little territorial gain. The British prime minister, David Lloyd George, constantly antagonistic to Haig and unreceptive to his requests from the field, exacerbated the situation by putting the British troops under the orders of the French commander in 1917. Haig thus conducted the Passchendaele campaign (July–Nov., 1917; see Ypres, battles of) under orders from Gen. Robert Nivelle, while the French army was being reorganized after a mutiny. Haig was under continual French pressure to take over more of the front, and until the joint command of himself and Gen. Ferdinand Foch was instituted (1918), the strategy and conduct of the war were tragically mismanaged. Haig was much criticized for the staggering casualties the British sustained as a result. He was made an earl (1919) and devoted the remainder of his life to organizing the British Legion and raising funds for disabled ex-servicemen.

See his private papers, ed. by R. Blake (1952); biography by D. Cooper (2 vol., 1935–36); G. S. Duncan, Douglas Haig as I Knew Him (1967); D. Winter Haig's Command (1991); J. P. Harris, Douglas Haig and the First World War (2008).

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