Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig

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With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end.

Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig (19 June 1861 – 29 January 1928) was a Scottish 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 of Arras, the Third Battle of Ypres, the German Spring Offensive, and the Hundred Days Offensive.


  • There is no other course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end. The safety of our homes and the freedom of mankind depend alike upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.
    • Special Order of the Day (12 April 1918) during the Spring Offensive, quoted in The Times (13 April 1918), p. 7
  • My officers and I were aware that such weapons would cause harm to women and children living in nearby towns, as strong winds were common in the battlefront. However, because the weapon was to be directed against the enemy, none of us were overly concerned at all.
    • From Douglas Haig's diary. See these sources:
      • Haber, L.F. (20 February 1986). The Poisonous Cloud: Chemical Warfare in the First World War. Clarendon Press. pp. 106–108. ISBN 978-0-19-858142-0.
      • Vilensky, Joel A. (20 February 1986). Dew of Death: The Story of Lewisite, America's World War I Weapon of Mass destruction. Indiana University Press. pp. 78–80. ISBN 978-0-253-34612-4.
      • Ellison, D. Hank (24 August 2007). Handbook of Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents (2nd ed.). CRC Press. pp. 567–570. ISBN 978-0-8493-1434-6.
      • Boot, Max (2007). War Made New: Weapons, Warriors, and the Making of the Modern World. Gotham. pp. 245–250. ISBN 978-1-59240-315-8.

Quotes about Haig[edit]

  • On April 11th, after a dizzying rush of wounded from the new German offensive...I stumbled up to the Sisters' quarters for lunch with the certainty that I could not go on—and saw, pinned up on the notice-board in the Mess, Sir Douglas Haig's “Special Order of the Day.” Standing there spell-bound, with fatigue and despair forgotten, I read the words which put courage into so many men and women whose need of endurance was far greater than my own. ... Although, since that date, the publication of official “revelations” has stripped from the Haig myth much of its glory, I have never been able to visualise Lord Haig as the colossal blunderer, the self-deceived optimist, of the Somme massacre in 1916. I can think of him only as the author of that Special Order, for after I had read it I knew that I should go on, whether I could or not. There was a braver spirit in the hospital that afternoon, and though we only referred briefly and brusquely to Haig's message, each one of us had made up her mind that, though enemy airmen blew up our huts and the Germans advanced upon us from Abbeville, so long as wounded men remained in Staples, there would be “no retirement.”

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