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Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig facts for kids

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The Earl Haig
Sir Douglas Haig.jpg
Haig in 1917
Nickname(s) "Master of the Field"
"The Butcher of the Somme"
'Butcher' Haig
Born (1861-06-19)19 June 1861
Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died 29 January 1928(1928-01-29) (aged 66)
21 Prince's Gate, London, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1884–1920
Rank Field Marshal
Commands held British Expeditionary Force (1915–19)
First Army (1914–15)
I Corps (1914)
Aldershot Command (1912–14)
Chief of the General Staff in India (1909–12)
17th Lancers (1901–03)
3rd Cavalry Brigade (1900)
Battles/wars Mahdist War
Second Boer War
First World War
Awards Knight of the Order of the Thistle
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Member of the Order of Merit
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire
Mentioned in Despatches
Complete list

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE (/hɡ/; 19 June 1861 – 29 January 1928) was a senior officer of the British Army. During the First World War, he commanded the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front from late 1915 until the end of the war. He was commander during the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, the Third Battle of Ypres, the German Spring Offensive, and the Hundred Days Offensive.

His military career included service in the War Office, where he was instrumental in the creation of the Territorial Force in 1908. In January 1917 he was raised up to the rank of Field Marshal, subsequently leading the BEF during the final Hundred Days Offensive, when it crossed the Canal du Nord and broke through the Hindenburg line, capturing 188,700 German prisoners. This campaign, in combination with the Kiel mutiny, the Wilhelmshaven mutiny, the proclamation of a republic on 9 November 1918, and civil unrest across Germany, led to the armistice of 11 November 1918. It is considered by some historians to be one of the greatest victories ever achieved by a British-led army.

He gained a favourable reputation during the immediate post-war years, with his funeral becoming a day of national mourning. However, he also had some prominent contemporary detractors and, beginning in the 1960s, has been widely criticised for his leadership during the First World War. He was nicknamed "Butcher Haig" for the two million British casualties endured under his command.

Major-General John Davidson, one of Haig's biographers, praised Haig's leadership, and since the 1980s many historians have argued that the public hatred with which Haig's name had come to be associated failed to recognise the adoption of new tactics and technologies by forces under his command, the important role played by British forces in the allied victory of 1918, and that high casualties were a consequence of the tactical and strategic realities of the time.

Early life

Haig in uniform on joining the Hussars (4688529984)
Age 23 in 1885, in his hussar's uniform

Haig was born in a house on Charlotte Square, Edinburgh (but with postal address 19 Hope Street, the side street to the south-west; a plaque exists). His father, John Richard Haig was head of the family's successful Haig & Haig whisky distillery; he had an income of £10,000 per year (£1,160,000 in 2018), an enormous amount at the time. His mother, Rachel (daughter of Hugh Veitch of Stewartfield), was from a gentry family fallen into straitened circumstances. Rachel's cousin, Violet Veitch, was mother of the playwright, composer and performer Noël Coward. The family home was Haig House in Windygates, Fife.

Haig's education began in 1869 as a boarder at Mr Bateson's School in Clifton Bank, St Andrews. Later in 1869, he switched to Edinburgh Collegiate School, and then in 1871 to Orwell House, a preparatory school in Warwickshire. He then attended Clifton College. Both of Haig's parents died by the time he was eighteen.

After a tour of the United States with his brother, Haig studied Political Economy, Ancient History, and French Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford, 1880–1883. He devoted much of his time to socialising – he was a member of the Bullingdon Club – and equestrian sports. He was one of the best young horsemen at Oxford and quickly found his way into the University polo team. Whilst an undergraduate he was initiated as a Freemason in Elgin’s Lodge at Leven No. 91 at Leven, Fife, taking the first and second degrees of Freemasonry. In 1920, the Earl of Eglinton encouraged Haig to complete his Masonic progression, and he returned to his lodge to take the third degree, subsequently serving as Worshipful Master of the lodge from 1925 to 1926. He became an officer of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

Although he passed his final exam at Oxford (a requirement for university applicants to Sandhurst), he was not eligible for a degree as he had missed a term's residence due to sickness, and if he had stayed for longer he would have been above the age limit (23) to begin officer training at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, which he entered in January 1884. Because he had been to university, Haig was considerably older than most of his class at Sandhurst. He was Senior Under-Officer, was awarded the Anson Sword, and passed out first in the order of merit. He was commissioned as a lieutenant into the 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars on 7 February 1885.

Plaque marking Earl Haig's birthplace, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

Interesting facts about Sir Douglas Haig

  • Early in his military career, Haig played polo for England on a tour of the United States (August 1886). He would remain a polo enthusiast all his life, serving as Chairman of the Hurlingham Polo Committee from its reorganization in May 1914 until 1922.
  • He was President of the Army Polo Committee and founder of the Indian Polo Association.
  • Haig served in India (sent out November 1886), where he was appointed the regiment's adjutant in 1888. He was promoted to captain on 23 January 1891.

Marriage and children

On leave from India, Haig married Hon Dorothy Maud Vivian (1879–1939) on 11 July 1905 after a whirlwind courtship (she had spotted him for the first time when he was playing polo at Hurlingham two years earlier). She was a daughter of Hussey Vivian, 3rd Baron Vivian and Louisa Duff.

The couple had four children:


Haig's grave (right) next to his wife, with the standard military headstone used in the First World War

Haig died at 21 Prince's Gate, London, from a heart attack, aged 66, on 29 January 1928, and was given an elaborate funeral on 3 February. "Great crowds lined the streets ... come to do honour to the chief who had sent thousands to the last sacrifice when duty called for it, but whom his war-worn soldiers loved as their truest advocate and friend." The gun-carriage that carried the Unknown Warrior to his grave and, in active service, had borne the gun that fired the first British shot in the First World War took the field marshal's body from St Columba's Church, Pont Street, London, where it had been lying in state, to Westminster Abbey. Three royal princes followed the gun-carriage and the pall-bearers included two Marshals of France (Foch and Pétain). The cortege was accompanied by five guards of honour at the slow march, with reversed arms and muffled drums: two officers and fifty other ranks from each branch of the British armed forces (Royal Navy, the Irish Guards, and the Royal Air Force); fifty men of the 1st French Army Corps; and 16 men from the Belgian Regiment of Grenadiers. After the service at the Abbey, the procession re-formed to escort the body to Waterloo station for the journey to Edinburgh, where it lay in state for three days at St Giles's Cathedral.

Haig's body was buried at Dryburgh Abbey in the Scottish borders, the grave being marked with a plain stone tablet in the style of the standard headstones of the Imperial War Graves Commission issued to British military casualties in the First World War.

The Earl Haig Memorial, an equestrian statue in Whitehall commissioned by Parliament and sculpted by Alfred Frank Hardiman, aroused some controversy and was not unveiled until just before Armistice Day in 1937.


Historians have often argued over whether Haig was a good general. In the years after the war, he was popular. After his death, some historians and politicians wrote books criticising Haig. They argued he made mistakes that led to a lot of casualties among British troops, especially at the Somme and Passchendaele; he has been nicknamed 'Butcher Haig' or 'the Butcher of the Somme'. David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister during the later years of the war, also did not agree with Haig. One of the best known books criticising Haig was Alan Clark's book The Donkeys (1961). This is known as the 'lions led by donkeys' view: the idea that Britain had great soldiers but bad generals.

All the same, some veterans, and academic historians have argued that Haig was a great general. For example, John Bourne notes that Haig helped the army use new weapons and technology. John Terraine argues that while the British Army lost a lot of men, this is not surprising given the size of the fighting, and other countries lost far more. Likewise, Gordon Corrigan argues that as a percentage of the population, Britain lost half as many people in the war as France and Germany.


The following table shows the honours awarded to Haig:

Order of the Thistle UK ribbon.svg Knight of the Order of the Thistle (KT) 31 July 1917
Order of the Bath UK ribbon.svg Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) 3 June 1915
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) 3 June 1913
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) 27 September 1901
Order of Merit (Commonwealth realms) ribbon.svg Member of the Order of Merit (OM) 3 June 1919
Royal Victorian Order UK ribbon.png Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO) 15 August 1916
Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) 25 June 1909
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) 1904
Order of the Indian Empire Ribbon.svg Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE) 12 December 1911
King George V Coronation Medal ribbon.svg Delhi Durbar Medal 1911
Queens Sudan Medal BAR.svg Queen's Sudan Medal
Queens South Africa Medal 1899-1902 ribbon.png Queen's South Africa Medal, clasps: Paardeberg, Driefontein,
Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Belfast, Relief of Kimberley, Elandslaagte
Kings South Africa Medal BAR.svg King's South Africa Medal, clasps: South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902
1914 1915 Star ribbon bar.svg 1914 Star and clasp
British War Medal BAR.svg British War Medal
Ribbon - Victory Medal.png World War I Victory Medal
Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (France) 24 February 1916 (Grand Officer – 15 May 1915)
Grand Crest Ordre de Leopold.png Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold (Belgium) 24 February 1916
Cavaliere di gran Croce Regno SSML BAR.svg Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Italy) 14 September 1916
ME Order of Danilo I Member BAR.svg 1st Class of the Order of Prince Danilo I (Montenegro) 31 October 1916
Order of the Karađorđe's Star with Swords rib.png Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Karađorđe's Star with Swords (Serbia), Military division 10 September 1918
JPN Toka-sho BAR.svg Grand Cordon with Paulownia Flowers of the Order of the Rising Sun (Japan) 9 November 1918
Order of Michael the Brave ribbon.svg 1st Class of the Order of Michael the Brave (Romania) 20 September 1919
RUS Order of Saint George 4th class ribbon 2000.svg 4th Class of the Order of St George (Russia) 1 June 1917
U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg Distinguished Service Medal (United States) 1918
Obilitch Medal in Gold (Montenegro) 31 October 1916
Ruban de la Croix de guerre 1914-1918.png Croix de Guerre (France) 21 April 1917
BEL Croix de Guerre WW1 ribbon.svg Croix de guerre (Belgium) 11 March 1918
Khedives Sudan Medal 1897.png Khedive's Sudan Medal with clasps: The Atbara, Khartoum (Khedivate of Egypt) 1898

Honorary degrees

Haig received many honorary degrees from universities, including:

Country Date School Degree
 Scotland 1919 University of Edinburgh Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
 Scotland 11 July 1919 University of Aberdeen
 Scotland 8 May 1919 University of Glasgow Doctor of Laws (LL.D)
 England 25 June 1919 University of Oxford Doctor of Civil Law (DCL)
 England 1920 University of Leeds Doctor of Laws (LL.D)

Freedom of the City

British Empire


The Argentine football club Club Atlético Douglas Haig, founded in 1918, is named after Haig.

In the early 1920s, several years before his death, a new road of council houses in Kates Hill, Dudley, Worcestershire (now West Midlands) was named Haig Road in honour of Haig.

In August 1920, the Great Central Railway gave the name Earl Haig to one of their newly built 4-6-0 express passenger locomotives, no. 1166 of class 9P (LNER class B3). It carried the name until October 1943.

In 1921, Ash Lane in Southport, Merseyside and the football ground of Southport F.C. that was situated there, were both renamed as Haig Avenue in his honour. Earl Haig Secondary School in Toronto was also named after Haig. A species of cottage tulip, "Marshal Haig" with purple flowers, is also named after him. The Hundred of Haig, a cadastral unit in the Australian state of South Australia was named after Haig in 1918. In the late 1920s, Haig Avenue in Mount Roskill, Auckland, was named in his honour.

In Singapore, there is a road named Haig Road in Katong which is named after him.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Douglas Haig para niños

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