Haig was the commander of British forces fighting in France during most of the First World War. His leadership came under harsh criticism due to his strategy of attrition and the resulting heavy casualties incurred by his forces; the Battle of Somme River in 1916 cost 420,000 British casualties. British dead and wounded during the Third Battle of Ypres were also very high. He later redeemed himself when he led the victorious final allied offensive to defeat Germany.
The son of a whiskey distiller, Haig was educated at Sandhurst and Oxford, and became a career military officer. He served in the Sudan, the Boer War, and India before returning to London to serve as director of military training from 1906-1909. After the War he organized the British Legion and devoted himself to the welfare of ex-servicemen. He was made an Earl in 1919 and a Baron in 1921.