In this centenary year of the Battle of the Somme the reputation of Field Marshal Earl Haig has undergone renewed scrutiny. Haig’s strategic decisions surrounding the Somme have been widely criticised for many years although in the decade following the First World War he was perceived as the hero who had not only saved the nation and Empire but delivered the greatest military victory in British history. The casualties sustained on the 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, are staggering and although history points to this being the darkest day in history for the British Army the advance did achieve success in certain sectors. His legacy was that he had taken a small standing regular army reliant on infantry supported by light artillery and cavalry (the British Expeditionary Force of 1914 had consisted of six divisions) and transformed it into a modern army of some sixty divisions with infantry fully integrated with modern artillery, tanks and aircraft.
Alfred Hardiman (1891-1949) was commissioned by Parliament to create the Earl Haig Memorial on Whitehall in London after winning the commission through competition in 1929. His equestrian monument was dogged by controversy and was remodelled twice following criticism of the depiction of the horse as well as Haig’s uniform and posture. One of the more vocal critics of the statue was Lady Haig and she is believed to have sent items of her late husband’s uniform to Hardiman’s studio to encourage a degree of accuracy. The present pair of boots along with other personal effects were acquired from Hardiman’s studio after the sculptor’s death.