After 85 years, Haig's statue finally retreats inside Edinburgh Castle

HE WAS the military leader who refused to budge from his tactics as he presided over some of the biggest bloodbaths in military history.

Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig remained unmoved in the face of a barrage of criticism over the loss of hundreds of thousands of troops in the First World War – and for more than 85 years his statue has stood proudly atop Edinburgh Castle's esplanade.

However, plans to relocate the striking landmark of Earl Haig on horseback to accommodate new spectator stands being built for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo have been criticised after it emerged it was being moved inside the castle.

Royal British Legion chiefs said they are "surprised and disappointed" at the relocation of the statue to accommodate new grandstands for the Tattoo.

But council officials insisted the statue has become a "safety hazard" for crowds leaving the world-famous event and claim it will be impossible to keep it in place when the new stands are built.

However, the son of the Edinburgh-born military figure, the second Earl Haig, has backed the statue's move to a new home outside a military museum inside the castle walls, insisting it will help protect and promote the statue, which was erected in 1923.

New spectator stands are due to be in place for the 2011 Tattoo under plans to replace the ageing structures which have been used since the mid-1970s.

The city council, which has committed some 3 million towards the project, insists it cannot go ahead without the relocation of the statue in order for the new arena to meet disability rights legislation.

Council officials have struck an agreement with Historic Scotland, the government agency responsible for the castle and the esplanade, and National Museums Scotland, which runs the military museum next to Hospital Square, where the statue will be relocated.

A report for the local authority, which owns the statue, states: "For years, the statue has been covered by the Tattoo stands for the main part of every summer.

"Not only has it been generally unseen, it has been increasingly recognised as a public safety hazard, constricting the exit from the Tattoo stands."

Under plans for the statue's relocation, it is due for a major programme of repairs and restoration. It will also be given a new base to make it more difficult to climb on, which has been responsible for damage incurred over the years.

Deidre Brock, the city council's culture leader, said: "Moving the Earl Haig statue to the National War Museum in Hospital Square makes sense.

"It will retain a prominent position in a fitting location at Edinburgh Castle, and the relocation will enable the construction of the new Tattoo stands."

However, Neil Griffiths, spokesman for the Royal British Legion in Scotland, said: "We're a bit disappointed and surprised by this. The Tattoo has been running successfully for more than 50 years and there hasn't been a problem with the statue until now. It's not so much the new location that we have a problem with, it's the principle of moving a statue like this after so long in the one location."

A spokeswoman for Poppy Scotland, the charity for Scottish war veterans and their families, added: "We hope the relocation of the statue, if deemed necessary, is handled with the utmost care and has the full backing of the earl's family."

But the current Earl Haig said: "The monument has been covered up for much of the year so this means people will be able to see it all year. I am happy to endorse its relocation."

GENERAL HISTORY

BORN in Edinburgh's Charlotte Square in 1861, Douglas Haig attended school in the city before moving on to Oxford University and then Sandhurst College.

From 1906-09 he was assigned to the War Office, where he helped form the Territorial Army and organise an expeditionary force for any future war in Europe.

In August 1914, Haig led the 1st Corps in France. In December 1915 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the British Armies in France, perhaps the biggest assembled army in history.

Many military historians say Earl Haig – who led the army in France between 1915 and 1918 – bears much of the responsibility for the huge losses at the likes of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the campaign in Passchendaele the following year.

Instead of accepting an Army posting after the war, Field Marshal Haig committed his energy to the problem of ex-servicemen and set up the Royal British Legion.

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