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Field Marshal Douglas Haig


(Earl Haig of Bemersyde)

1861 - 1928

Military commander. Born in Edinburgh's Charlotte Square into the famous whisky-distilling family, Haig was educated at Clifton College (Bristol) and then Brasenose College, Oxford (1880-83) although he left prematurely to join the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.

Haig served in India in 1887, fought in the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, under General Kitchener, and the Boer War the following year. He was appointed to command the 17th Lancers (1901-03) and then served as Aide-de-Camp to King Edward VII (1902-04). Having only reached the rank of Major by 1901, he was now quickly promoted, becoming the youngest Major-General in the British Army in 1904. Haig had gained a reputation as an effective administrator and, after a period as Inspector-General of Cavalry in India, he returned to Britain in 1906 to become Director of Military Training in the War Office. He supported Secretary of State for War Richard Haldane (1856 - 1928) in his reforms of the army.

He was posted to India for third time in 1909 as Chief of the Indian General Staff. He then served as General Officer Commanding at Aldershot (1912-14) and was appointed Aide-de-Camp to King George V in 1914.

However, Haig was best known as the commander of the allied troops on the Western Front during the First World War. He was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal in 1917. Haig was later criticised for his conduct of this campaign because of the enormous losses in battles such as the Somme (1916) and Passchendaele (1917).

Haig was knighted in 1909, elevated to the peerage as Earl Haig of Bemersyde in 1919 and awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh the same year. He went on to found the Earl Haig Fund for the assistance of disabled ex-servicemen, which raises funds by selling poppies for Remembrance Day each November. He remained a director of the Distillers Company Ltd. until his death.

Haig was given the honour of a state funeral in Westminster Abbey in London. His body was then conveyed to Edinburgh by train, where he lay in state for three days in St. Giles Kirk, before being buried at Dryburgh Abbey near his home at Bemersyde.


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