Teachers' notes: Sir Douglas Haig

Related Stories

These classroom suggestions provide ways for pupils to explore the life story of Douglas Haig and to find out more about the World War One period.

Army of Empire

Subjects: history, geography, art, ICT

The British Army was composed of regiments from many places. Using online sources, can pupils find out the name of a local regiment that fought in the World War One? The children might paint a soldier in uniform from this regiment, or locate its headquarters on a map of Great Britain. Is the regiment still in existence? Is its HQ still standing? If so, how is the building used today?

Soldiers from all parts of the British Empire came to fight in the World War One. The class could explore family links with countries that formerly made up Britain's empire. World War OnePupils could search for regiments that have their origins in India, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, for instance.

Children could find the distances of these countries' capitals from London. Ask the pupils why they think soldiers from these countries were so ready to fight in the cause of far-off Britain.

Douglas Haig's journey

Subjects: geography, history

Ask the children to put pins into a wall map of Britain and a map of the world to show significant places in Douglas Haig's life: there are many places mentioned on the BBC Schools webpage about him. The children could stick labels next to each pin with the place name and the date Douglas Haig was there.

Using a single thread, members of the class could trace Douglas Haig's journey through life from one place to another, winding the thread around each pin in the map, until the final complicated route is revealed.

Strange meetings

Subjects: drama, history, ICT

You could challenge pupils to improvise a short scene featuring Douglas Haig and another figure from the war years. Perhaps they're at a station somewhere in Blighty, waiting for a train to take them back to the front after a period of leave.

Pupils might imagine a fictional meeting between, say, Lieutenant Walter Tull and General Haig. What would they have to say to one another? What would they agree about? Would they disagree about anything?

Children could go on to improvise further scenes where figures they know from their research into the war years meet up. General Haig might meet Edith Cavell, for instance, or Wilfred Owen. How do the opinions and experiences of these figures compare and contrast?

Pupils could video their improvisations, or make recordings, adding digital sound effects.


Subjects: MFL

In the years before the World War One, Douglas Haig learned French and German. Encourage pupils to sample these two languages by learning simple phrases to describe themselves, for example, 'I have blue eyes; J'ai les yeux bleus; Ich habe blaue Augen.'

Pupils could use online translation sites to help them with their descriptions.

Mind map

Subjects: history

A general, like any leader, has to consider the views and wishes of others. You could work together with the class to make a mind-map showing all the interest groups General Haig had to deal with. Begin by putting his name in the middle of the diagram.

Ask pupils to suggest people or groups the General had to deal with. It's a long list that includes King George V, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, parliament, mothers on the home front, junior officers, ordinary soldiers, newspapers, other generals, allies, enemy officers, bosses of weapons factories, local people in France and the General's own family.

Pupils could use a colour code to mark the people or groups on the diagram they think wielded the greatest influence over the General.


Subjects: geography, mathematics, history

Pupils could explore basic battle strategies by using counters on a sketch map. You could demonstrate how to make a sketch map of an imaginary area of territory, adding features such as buildings, hills, woods, trees, rocks and rivers. Give your map a key and a scale. Divide it into squares and demonstrate how to read off co-ordinates. Pupils could make similar maps, placing a square labelled 'Blue Army HQ' at the north end and a 'Green Army HQ' at the south.

Pairs of pupils compete in a game of strategy. Each pupil begins with ten counters, representing platoons of a regiment. They take turns to move a counter out of their HQ. The aim of the game is to get a platoon as far as the opponent's HQ. Each turn lasts 30 seconds. Pupils can move as many counters as they like in this time, but only by a distance of two miles (measured against the map's scale with a piece of string).

A platoon of one army can 'shoot' at an enemy counter, if it has a clear line of sight. If there is something in the way, such as a wood or a building, the attacker must move a counter to a better position. When guns are used, the attacker names the co-ordinates of the square under fire. The outcome is decided by dice: a six is a direct hit wiping out the opposing platoon, a five inflicts damage so the opposing platoon can no longer advance, a four forces the opposing platoon to retreat two miles. Anything below four is counted as a miss. Armies can also use their guns to destroy buildings, woods or bridges. To do so, they must score a direct hit: a six with the dice.

Platoons can only cross rivers by a bridge. If there is no bridge, players must use a 30-second turn to build one, by drawing it onto the map. Armies can also use their 30-second turns to draw defensive trenches, hiding their forces from the direct sightline of the enemy.

Haig the soldier

Subjects: history, talking and listening

Lead a discussion about Haig the soldier, encouraging pupils to find out more about his life from books and websites. You could prompt their research with questions such as: 'When Douglas Haig joined the Army it still had many horses and very few machines. Why was this?' and 'What does Douglas Haig's love of the cavalry and playing polo tell us about him? How might this have affected his views on battle? How did machines change warfare?'

After the war, General Haig set up a fund to raise money to help army veterans, including the many wounded. For many years, the poppies sold by the Royal British Legion carried the words 'Haig's Fund' on them. They no longer do so. Why do pupils think this change has happened? Does it reflect changing opinions about Douglas Haig?

Claim to fame

Subjects: citizenship, speaking and listening, history

Useful links

You could brief pairs of children to find out more about the lives of Douglas Haig and other significant figures of the war years, using information from the 'My Life' site, as well as BBC Primary History's Famous People content.

Hold a class debate, to decide the question: 'Who was the most historically significant figure of the World War One?' Encourage pupils to put forward a case for the historical figure they have researched. The speakers will also need to explain what they consider 'historic significance' to be. Encourage the listeners to ask questions of the speakers and to compare the competing claims of the different historical figures.


Subjects: MFL, English

Children could explore the theme of uniform. You could teach some of the clothes and colours by looking at different military uniforms. What colour were the uniforms of the different armies?

You could then discuss the theme of camouflage (a French word) and how humans have copied animals to disguise themselves. You might like to link this to pictures of animals and insects that the children might already know, for example, a chameleon or stick insect. They may be interested to know that French uniforms were blue at the beginning of the war and this made them easy for the Germans to spot.

As an extension activity children could describe what soldiers wear today both in the UK and in the country whose language they are studying.

More on This Story

Related Stories

School Radio: WW1

Around the BBC

Around the web

  • IWM logoImperial War Museums

    Find out more about the IWM's plans for the centenary

  • First World War Centenary logoFirst World War Centenary

    The latest news, events and projects surrounding the commemoration

  • TES logoTES

    Discover a range of World War One teaching resources

  • WW1C LogoWW1C

    An Open Educational Resource supporting new directions in teaching World War One

  • Football Remembers logoBritish Council

    WW1 resources produced in partnership with the FA, Premier League and Football League.

  • Never Such Innocence logoNever Such Innocence

    Commemorate and learn more about WW1 through poetry, art and music

Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.