Field Marshal Douglas Haig, Toronto, July 24, 1925

Photograph Information

Title: Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, Toronto, July 24, 1925
Source: Toronto Archives
Source red: Fonds 1266, Item 5859
Photographer: Unknown
Date: 1925

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Field Marshal Douglas Haig

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, KT, GCB, OM, GCVO, KCIE, ADC (19 June 1861–29 January 1928) was a senior officer of the British Army. During the First World War he commanded the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front from late 1915 until the end of the war. He was commander during the Battle of the Somme, the battle with one of the highest casualties in British military history, the Third Battle of Ypres, and the Hundred Days Offensive, which led to the armistice of 11 November 1918.

Although he had gained a reputation during the immediate post-war years, with his funeral becoming a day of national mourning, Haig has since the 1960s become an object of criticism for his leadership during the First World War. Biographer J. P. Harris writes that “it seems impossible to make a case for Haig as one of history’s great generals … (or for) most of the war even a good one … the British Army could have achieved equally good, or better, results … at a somewhat lower cost … (and) after years predicting the imminent collapse of German military morale, when … it was finally happening he failed to recognise it ….”. Military History magazine in 2007 called him, “World War I’s Worst General.” Called “Butcher Haig” for the two million British casualties under his command, he became the model of class-based incompetent commanders unable to grasp modern tactics and technology.The Canadian War Museum comments, “His epic but costly offensives at the Somme (1916) and Passchendaele (1917) have become nearly synonymous with the carnage and futility of First World War battles.”

Since the 1980s some historians have argued that the public hatred in which Haig’s name had come to be held, failed to recognise the adoption of new tactics and technologies by forces under his command, the important role played by British forces in the Allied victory of 1918 and that high casualties were a consequence of the tactical and strategic realities of the time.

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