The Dismissal of Sir John French

In 1914 the British Expeditionary Force entered the field under the command of Sir John French; Alan Clark describes how, after a year of frustration and defeat, French's leadership was strongly criticized, none of his critics being more effective than his onetime friend Sir Douglas Haig.

In the possession of the Haig family at Bemersyde there is a flask that carries the following inscription: “A very small memento, my dear, dear Douglas, of our long and tried friendship proved ‘in sunshine and in shadow’ J.F.” Sir John French, who presented the flask to Haig, did not mark it with a date.

Doubtless he felt that their friendship would endure for both their lives. It is possible that the gift marked French’s gratitude for a loan of money—estimated by some authorities to have been £2,000—that tided Sir John over difficulties that arose while he and Haig were serving in India.

One may doubt, however, whether Haig entirely reciprocated these feelings. Certainly by the outbreak of war their relations had deteriorated—although how far they had done so, French himself may not have grasped. Haig records in his diary that on August 11th, 1914, he had cornered the King after the farewell review at Aldershot and told him that:

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