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Douglas Haig
A Brief Biography

FIELD Marshal Sir Douglas Haig was born in Edinburgh on June 19, 1861, and educated at Clifton and Brasenose College, Oxford. Ambitious and hardworking, he then entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst before gaining a commission in the 7th Hussars.

As a cavalryman he served in the Sudan and South Africa and after the Boer War rapidly rose through the ranks, his many promotions aided by the influence of powerful patrons such as Sir John French, Sir Evelyn Wood and Lord Esher.

He became Inspector General of Cavalry in India in 1903, Director of Military Training at the War Office in 1906 and in 1912 was made Commander-in-Chief, Aldershot Command.

When the First World War broke out two years later Haig commanded the British 1st Corps as part of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France, replacing Sir John as Commander-in-Chief of the BEF in 1915. As the war became bogged down in the trenches he oversaw the terrible battles of the Somme - 57,470 British soldiers killed or seriously injured on the first day - and Passchendaele.

"At the Somme you either got wounded or you got killed," one veteran commented afterwards. "At Passchendaele you got killed, wounded or you drowned in the sludge."

Haig is often criticised for being a distant leader who was stern and unapproachable even to his own officers. In 1918 he extended the British section of the Western Front southwards, his troops again suffering terrible losses at the hands of a German offensive. The British counter-attacked and, aided by the American Expeditionary Force, the Allies eventually forced the Germans to seek armistice terms in 1918.

Unveiling of Haig's statueRenowned for his loyalty to King George V, Haig dedicated his energies throughout the war to ensuring victory, never once considering resignation as commander After the war he was awarded the Order of Merit, given 100,000, made the 1st Earl of Bemersyde and devoted himself to the welfare of his men.

He spent the years leading up to his death on January 29, 1928 criss-crossing the British Empire initiating charities to aid those who had served beneath him. A statue by A F Hardiman was erected in Haig's memory in 1937 in Whitehall (pictured right).

Even that was not without controversy attracting criticism from cavalrymen who pointed out that while Haig was in uniform he had no hat and that the legs of the horse accompanying him were inaccurately depicted.

Poppy In 1998 there was a brief surge of enthusiasm for the idea of pulling down Haig's statue
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