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Remembered Today:

In Memoriam

George Armstrong Custer

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As placed in today's Daily Telegraph on behalf of the members of the Douglas Haig Fellowship:

HAIG, Douglas, Field Marshal, Earl Haig of Bemersyde, the Educated Soldier, steadfast Commander-in- Chief of the great British and Empire Armies in France 1915 -1919, founder of the British Legion, on the 81st anniversary of his death, 29th January 1928.
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Afternoon David. Yes, it was a fine thing for the DHF to have revived the practice last year of placing an In Memoriam notice on the anniversary of the Field Marshal's death. The only point I'd make is on the wording in relation to the British Legion. I can understand why it reads the way it does, and have no doubt that it is intended to reflect the spirit in which British Legion chairman Colonel George Crossfield referred to Haig as "the Founder" of the British Legion shortly after the latter's death. Ironically though, it was also Crossfield's speech which was misinterpreted regarding the reference to Haig "founding" the BL, and thus the Legion itself inadvertantly gave rise to the oft-repeated myth that Haig literally "founded" it. The relevant passage from Crossfield's speech needs to be quoted in full in order to understand the true context within which he referred to Haig as the BL's "founder" (and in which it is undoubtedly used in the DHF's In Memoriam notice):

"Lord Haig has rightly been called the Founder of the British Legion, for, although he did not initiate the steps which the Association, Comrades and Federation took to come together, it was his far sighted action which made those steps necessary."

In other words Haig facilitated the coming together of the disparate factions of ex-servicemen's organisations under the unity of the BL umbrella. He did this through advocating the merits of such unity of organisation and purpose at innumerable gatherings of former soldiers, and by declining to accept the proffered first Presidency of the Legion (from Crossfield) until such time as a truly unified ex-servicemen's organisation for all ranks was established. Haig himself never claimed to have founded the BL. On the contrary, in a speech given in 1927, he gives rightful credit to the several men whose efforts culminated in the forming of a unified BL:

"When the inner history of those days comes to be written from the impartial standpoint, and with the fuller knowledge of future years, full credit will be given to the leaders of those earlier organizations who had the wisdom, foresight and true patriotism to sink all personal aims and differences in order that the Legion might be established."

It seems to me that in the interests of clarity, and to avoid any potential for - albeit misinformed - criticism, it might be worth the DHF committee considering slightly altering the wording of the Memoriam notice next year from "founder of the British Legion" to "instrumental in founding the British Legion".



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I think that would be a sensible alteration to make. I would also go for Royal British Legion, using the modern name to emphasise its continued existence and influence.


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