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The Biography of Douglas Haig

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Douglas Haig

Haig was born in a house on Charlotte Square, but it was known as 19 Hope Street, the side street to the south-west. He was not an aristocrat by birth, or landed gentry. His father John Haig was middle class, and as head of the family’s successful Haig and Haig whisky distillery had an income of £10,000 per year, a lot of money at the time. His mother Rachel was from a gentry family fallen on straitened circumstances. Rachel’s cousin, Violet Veitch, was mother of the playwright, composer and performer Noël Coward.

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 Edinburg Collegiate school and then in 1871 to a preparatory school. 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 attended another school, studying Political Economy, Ancient History and French Literature at another college , 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 though he passed his exams (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 then age limit to begin officer training, which he entered in January 1884. Because he had been to university Haig was considerably older than most of his class at Sandhurst, and was Senior Under-Officer, was awarded the Anson Sword, and passed out first in the order of merit.He was commissioned as a lieutenant on 7 February 1885.

Haig’s previous battle experience in the mobile, colonial wars of the Sudan and South Africa did not prepare him well for the static nature of war on the Western Front. Neither did his Staff College training in the late nineteenth century. All of these combined to produce a fixed image of war in Haig’s mind. He conceived of battle as a structured, three-stage affair. Essentially, Haig did not change his mind about this structure throughout World War I. He continued, therefore, to think of war as relatively simple, human-centered, dependent on morale, and requiring the determination of a commander to persist until victory.

In addition, Haig was a cavalryman, and he always optimistically anticipated breakthroughs , followed by cavalry exploiting. Hence at the Battle of the Somme, on July 1, 1916, Haig forced his army commanders to deepen their objectives, and he also wanted a short hurricane bombardment, followed by a rush through. The result was a mixed plan of lengthy bombardment and deep objectives that did not succeed.

The same process occurred at Passchendaele on July 31, 1917, when Haig appointed an offensive-minded general to command, and pressed him to plan a good breakthrough, rather than a step-by-step advance. Haig’s offensive attacks led to the wearing down of the German army. This was very key in this war. He exploited the enemy by using heavy artillery attacks. He also led strong Calvary runs and struck down the enemies with force. These attacks would lead to many victories in which would go to his name. Haig’s battle in 1916 led to many controversies over his style because of the many casualties against the Germans. Casualties came out to around 60,000 which did not look good for Haig

Haig retired in 1921 and helped to establish the royal British legion. After this work he died in 1928. Douglas Haig was a great leader and person, his contributions did not go unnoticed as he is still talked about today.

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