Haig commanded the British Army in France for much of the First World War and remained a robustly popular figure at the time of his death in 1928. It was only much later, in the 1960s, that he was recast in the role of the unthinking butcher sending his cheerful Tommies to the slaughter on the Somme and at Passchaendaele. Even now, revisionist military historians still pick over the bleached bones of Haig's campaigns, but they evince little interest in Haig himself, who remains an elusive and contradictory figure. A competent if undistinguished career officer, he reached the very top of his profession by dint of ambition and a passionate sense of duty towards army and nation. A cavalryman to the core, he enthusiastically supported tanks and other new technology on the battlefield. He was also an intensely private man, who could appear aloof and at a loss for words. Still, he devoted the last decade of his life to promoting the welfare of his soldiers and was instrumental in establishing both the British Legion-and the rituals of Remembrance Sunday.
Gary Mead was a journalist for the Financial Times for ten years and has worked extensively with the BBC. He is the author of The Doughboys: America and the First World War (2000).