Born the son of a Glasgow whiskey distiller
on June 19, 1861, Douglas Haig would grow up to become a career officer
and one of the most influential characters in World War I. Soon after
attending Clifton College, Brasenose
College Oxford and Sandhurst, Haig was commissioned into the 7th Hussars
(1885) and first served in India. Through his service in India, Egypt,
South Africa and the Sudan, Haig rose through the ranks, becoming a
major general in 1906. He returned to the UK where he served as both
Director of Military Training and Director of Staff Duties (and was
promoted to General) before returning to India for several years, then
on to France.
Haig was given command of the First Army Corp in France upon outbreak
of the first World War, with the British forces under the overall
command of the then-Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary
Force, John French. However, French made several critical blunders early
on in the war, and Haig succeeded him as Commander-in-Chief soon after.
Later promoted to Field Marshal, Haig held this position throughout the
rest of the war. Under heavy pressure from the French Commander Joseph
Joffre, Haig proceeded with the Battle of Somme, for which he received
much criticism because of the massive British casualties.
In addition to the pressure from Joffre, Haig was also heavily
antagonized by the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, who
consistently withheld support, probably contributing to the number of
casualties suffered. In 1917, the PM transferred command of the British
troops to the French, and it was under their command that Haig carried
out the Passchendaele campaign. Haig was once again under-supported and
heavily pressured, and this campaign resulted in many more casualties
and little captured territory to show for it.
Haig was somewhat redeemed for his earlier relative failures when he
organized the final offensive in 1918 that led to the eventual Allied
victory. Returning home after the War, Haig was rewarded for his
services with 100,000 pounds, an Earldom, and the gift of Bemersyde,
ancestral home of the Haigs. He spent the rest of his life raising funds
for disabled veterans and organizing the British Legion. Upon his death
on January 28th, 1928, Haig was buried at Dryburgh Abbey where he lies
beside fellow Scotsman Sir Walter Scott.