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  • Christina Drummond

Lieutenant Charles Roderick Haigh, Adjutant, 2nd Battalion, the Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regim

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1914, Lieutenant Charles Roderick Haigh, Adjutant, 2nd Battalion, the Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), was killed in action near Ypres.

The eldest son of an Oxford fellow and tutor, he was educated at the Oxford Preparatory School, Winchester College (where he won an Exhibition) and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, from which he obtained a B.A. degree and rowed for his college. He was known for his classical and literary excellence, in the summer examination beating all the boys in two forms above him. He won school prizes for drawing, mathematics, history, and classics.

Lieutenant Haigh was given a commission as a university candidate in the Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) in 1911, promoted to Lieutenant a year later, and appointed as Adjutant of his battalion in January of 1914. His Battalion went to France at the outbreak of war, and he was in the last charge of the 22nd Brigade at Klein Zillebeke near Ypres, when they attacked the German trenches, capturing three machine guns. He was described as "gallantly leading a charge against overwhelming odds”.

Lieutenant Haigh’s sister received this letter from one of his men: “We had the order to attack at dawn. I saw our Adjutant cheering the men. We had only advanced a few yards when the enemy fired…we charged through a terrible hail of bullets, and got the first line of trenches. Then Mr Haigh gave the order to advance, which we did, quick; we took another trench, then the last trench…The Adjutant with myself and 14 others found that the Germans were 10 to 15 yards away, strongly entrenched. We were firing point-blank range at each other and all the time the Adjutant was standing up in the trench, head and shoulders showing. I actually stopped firing to look at him and admire him. He was using his revolver with great effect…Oh! he was a cool man. The Lance-Corporal went back for reinforcements, but couldn’t return. We kept on firing for half an hour afterwards; then the brave Adjutant was shot through the temple. He died a noble death. I found myself alone, the only one of the fifteen alive, and made a dash for it…I got back safe and reported that the Adjutant had been killed.” Lieutenant Haigh is named on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres.

In his will, Lieutenant Haigh left £500 to his school, part of which was to be spent educating the son of a brother officer who had been killed. He wrote to his sister a month before his death: “We are all inspired with the justice of our cause, and by the fact that we are fighting for the cause of honour and liberty throughout the world. The question at stake is whether liberty and justice or military despotism and tyranny are to prevail. I look forward to seeing you all again one day in England. But if I do not return, remember that it is the highest honour to which a man can attain (an honour which is open to officers and men alike), a higher honour than all the honour that can be showered on those who survive – to die for one’s country.”

Charles, from Godalming in Surrey, was 26 years old.

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