19/12/1915 Western Front: Haig takes over from French

Sir John French has been obliged to tender his resignation as commander of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium. Now he hands over command to his successor and former subordinate, General Douglas Haig.

French has been in ill health for some time. He has also been blamed by many for British failures at Loos and Neuve Chapelle. He has lost the confidence of Joffre, the French commander. Haig himself had been using his political connections at home to recommend French’s replacement.

French’s greatest weakness may not be his poor health or alleged failures of command. He has been shaken by the great losses taken by the British army since the start of the war. He thinks these losses are unsustainable and has been saying that the war must be ended before Britain suffers ruinous casualties. Haig, however, is determined that the war must be pursued to victory and so he is chosen to lead the British Expeditionary Force.

After handing over to Haig, French returns to England. He is being given the new job of commander-in-chief of British home forces. He is to prepare defences against a possible but highly unlikely German invasion. In his old headquarters Haig begins to think about the big Anglo-French offensive that is to take place next year.

image sources:

John French (The Battle of Gheluvelt)

Douglas Haig (ANZAC Centenary Victorian Government)

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