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 JoffreJoffre, Joseph Jacques Césaire
, 1852–1931, marshal of France. He began his career as a military engineer in the French colonies and was appointed French commander in chief in 1911.
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, who needed to relieve the pressure on Verdun (see Verdun, battle ofVerdun, battle of,
the longest and one of the bloodiest engagements of World War I. Two million men were engaged. It began on Feb. 21, 1916, when the Germans, commanded by Crown Prince Frederick William, launched a massive offensive against Verdun, an awkward salient in the
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), he undertook the battle of the SommeSomme, Battles of the,
two engagements fought during World War I near the Somme River, N France. The first battle (July–Nov., 1916) was an Allied offensive. The British, commanded by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, had the largest Allied role; a smaller French contingent
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 (July–Nov., 1916), which resulted in very heavy casualties and little territorial gain. The British prime minister, David Lloyd GeorgeLloyd George, David, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor
, 1863–1945, British statesman, of Welsh extraction.
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, 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 ofYpres, battles of,
three major engagements of World War I fought in and around the town of Ypres in SW Belgium. The first battle of Ypres (Oct.–Nov., 1914) was the last of the series of engagements referred to as "the race for the sea.
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) 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 FochFoch, Ferdinand
, 1851–1929, marshal of France. A professor at the École de Guerre, he later served (1908–11) as director of that institute. In World War I, he was responsible, with General Joffre and General Gallieni, for halting the German advance at the
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 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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