He was seventeen, scared witless, shaking in his shabby shoes, but to the army and his commanding officer, he was a number and his legacy would be a number.
A lazy inaccurate number thrown around to try and describe the effects of the war, the loss, the desolation and mayhem experienced by those who lost their lives fighting; to allow those who have never felt the grasp of a rifle to ponder in solitude and show their fleeting appreciation with a few drizzling tears. He lay in a caesium of clay, his extended right hand loosely grasped his rifle. Due to the somewhat methodical disposition of his limbs and the mild movement of his cartridge box, you could have assumed he was dead, or an extra on the set of a big blockbuster war movie.The boy whose head remained lifeless on top of a clump of clay, still, amongst the chaos of a now desolate and barren wasteland, was a young Scot named Douglas Haig. The son of wealthy parents, he was an only child, and up to this point in his life had known such ease and high-living as wealth and taste were to command in the mountainous Highlands. He was now miles away from home, in a place, a country that he could only have pictured like something out of a Shakespearean play.
One morning rousing from a blissful sleep, he rose from his bed, marched to the breakfast table and stated quietly, but earnestly: ‘Father, some boys and I were talking after a recruitment officer came to our school. I signed up; I had to be a part of this, a part of history’.His father lifted his authoritative head, looked at his son in a moment of blinding silence, and replied: ‘This is what you want, what you desire to do’? He grasped the edge of the hard oak wood kitchen table.’I want to help restore justice to our country.
They will not know what hit them. The Germans, within a few months they will shudder to their playpens and we will have peace and victory and we will not be defeated.”If you conceive this to be your duty, then I will not stop you.’Nothing more had to be said. He knew somewhere in his heart of the surplus of suffering that was impending at the end of a barrel.So Douglas Haig sternly hugged his father, who returned his gesture, stately and measured, as to mask his breaking heat.