Sir Douglas Haig's shotguns auction at Bonhams estimated at '$32,052'

A fine pair of 12-bore shotguns by J. Purdey & Sons, formerly the property of Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig KT GCB OM GCVO KCIE ADC (1861-1928) will be sold for an estimated £15,000 to £20,000 (just over $32,052) at Bonhams sale of Sporting Guns on December 13.

The makers have kindly confirmed that the guns were completed in 1887 and were formerly the property of Earl Haig. Patrick Hawes, Head of Sporting Guns at Bonhams, comments: "It is a very great privilege to be able to offer for sale such an historic pair of Purdeys. It feels as if you are holding history in your hands when hefting these shotguns."

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig's military legacy from WW1 is still the subject of debate. By the summer of the 1916, there had been stalemate on the western front for more than a year. Both sides were struggling to break the deadlock. At the end of 1915, Field Marshal Haig was appointed as Commander-in chief of the British forces on the Western Front.

In February 1916, Germany began a campaign against the French at Verdun. Five months passed, 700,000 men had become casualties, and the French were only just hanging on. The British decided they had to relieve the pressure on the French.

The British high command, led by Field Marshal Haig began a major attack along the line of the River Somme; he hoped to lure the Germans away from Verdun. He wanted to help the French who were under heavy attack from Germans there.

On the first day of July 1916, the battle of the Somme started and British troops went over the top. The battle lasted for five months and the allies lost 620,000 men, most of them British. The German line had not been broken. What this battle achieved was a few miles and the pressure on Verdun had been lifted.

Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig

'It is a very great privilege to be able to offer for sale such an
historic pair of Purdeys,' says Bonhams

Born into a whisky-making family, Douglas Haig was educated at Clifton College, Bristol before studying Political Economy, Ancient History and French Literature at Brasenose College, Oxford.

He entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1884 and was commissioned into the 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars in 1885 with the rank of lieutenant.

A keen polo player, he represented England during a tour of America in 1886 before being posted to India later that year. He served with distinction in India and the Boer War in South Africa. At the end of the war he continued in command of the regiment, but as they returned to England sooner than planned he was appointed Inspector-General of Cavalry in India.

He served as Aide-de-Camp to King Edward VII between 1902 and 1904, when he reached the rank of Major-General. For his subsequent work at the War Office he was knighted, and in 1910 was promoted to Lieutenant-General and appointed Chief of the Indian General Staff.

In 1912 he took up the post of General Officer Commanding, Aldershot Command, a position he would retain until the outbreak of World War 1 when his command was formed into I Corps of the BEF, expanding to become the 1st Army that December.

After a disastrous year, Haig replaced John French as Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders in December 1915, a position he would hold until the end of the war.

After his death he was given a State Funeral, lying in state at St. Columba's Church, before being borne on the carriage which had previously carried the Unknown Soldier, and the gun which had fired the first British shell of the First World War, to Westminster Abbey followed by three royal princes and with Marshals Foch & Pétain as pall bearers.

After the service the procession took the coffin to Waterloo for the journey to Edinburgh, where he lay in state for a further three days before being buried at Dryburgh Abbey, his grave marked by a Commonwealth War Graves headstone. His statue in Whitehall aroused considerable controversy, and was not unveiled until nine years later.


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