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The Archives: December 19

Liveblogging World War II: December 19, 1915: Douglas Haig Haig becomes commander-in-chief of the British army in France:

In the wake of the British defeat at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, Sir Douglas Haig replaces Sir John French as commander-in-chief of all British forces on the Western Front.

Haig, who commanded the 1st Army of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) at Loos, had asked French to authorize the release of two reserve divisions before the battle. French eventually consented, but due to disorganization and the long distance they had to travel, the reserves arrived too late to make a difference. The offensive at Loos ended in failure, and the incident contributed to French’s removal from his position in December in favor of Haig, who enjoyed some influence with King George V.

The controversial Haig served as commander of the BEF through the end of the war—from devastating battles at Verdun and the Somme to the Allied offensives in 1918 that would lead to victory—despite criticism from such formidable detractors as British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who wrote later that at times he wondered if he should have resigned rather than allow Haig to pursue his strategy.