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Earl Haig

(1861—1928) army officer

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British army general who commanded British forces on the western front in the latter half of World War I. He also founded the British Legion. He was admitted to the OM and created Earl Haig of Bemersyde in 1919.

The son of a landed family from the Scottish Borders, Haig attended Brasenose College, Oxford, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and was commissioned into the 7th Hussars in 1885. He served under Kitchener in the Sudan (1898) and commanded a cavalry column in the later stages of the Boer War, being promoted to colonel. Thereafter, Haig was posted to India as inspector-general of cavalry and was chief of staff of the Indian army, with an intervening spell at the War Office (1906–09). In 1912 he was appointed GOC at Aldershot. At the outbreak of World War I, Haig's 1st Corps spearheaded the British Expeditionary Force in France and in 1915 he took command of the British 1st Army. He replaced General French as commander-in-chief of British forces in December. Between July and November 1916, Haig carried out a war of attrition against German positions along the Somme. His largely civilian volunteer force sustained terrible losses (400 000 casualties, including 90 000 dead), which provoked criticism at home, particularly from Lloyd George. Haig used similar tactics the following year at Arras and at Ypres, where he captured the town of Passchendaele on 6 November. But in March 1918, the British front collapsed following a German offensive and Allied command was restructured under General Foch. Haig remained British C-in-C largely through his personal connections with the Royal Family.

After the war, Haig was appointed C-in-C of Home Forces. Two years later, in 1921, he helped found the British Legion, to improve the welfare of ex-servicemen and their families. He served as its first president and was also chairman of the United Services Fund.

Subjects: History

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