Situated on the South Side of Charlotte Square
is a plaque to General Douglas Haig. He was born here in
Field Marshall Douglas Haig was the son of John
Haig of the successful Scotch Whisky distillers.
He was commisioned in the Cavalry in 1885, serving both in
the campaigns of Sudan and the Boer War in South Africa between
1899 and 1902.
In 1914, at the start of the Ist World War, he
was the General commanding the First Army Corps. After leading
his men at the Battle of Mons and the first Battle of Ypres,
he succeeded Sir John French as commander-in-chief of the British
Army at the Western Front.
It was here, at the Battle of the Somme, that
Haig gained his reputation or some might say notoriety, as
a reckless tactician on the battlefield. The objective here
had been to draw German troops away from the front at Verdun
to relieve pressure on the French troops fighting there.
Unfortunately Haig’s conventional tactics
which amounted to advancing infantry units into formidable
enemy fire, led to astounding losses of British and allied
troops. In the first day of the offensive 20,000 men died and
40,000 were injured. Despite this obvious massacre, the General
proceeded to order the advancement of his men with disastrous
results. By the end of the campaign, 600,000 men had been lost
on the Allies side.
This was partly owing to the failure of artillery
to lay waste to trenches that were deeper than calculated,
but more largely the result of Haig’s gung-ho attitude
to human losses.
Haig served until
the end of the War in 1919, and was made an Earl for his
leadership during this period of wartime. He died in 1928
following several years in public service, primarily for
disabled ex-servicemen via The Royal British Legion.