Who's Who - Sir Launcelot Kiggell

Sir Launcelot Edward Kiggell (1862-1954) served as Sir Douglas Haig's Chief of Staff between 1915-17.

When war broke out in August 1914 Kiggell was working at the War Ministry.  He was however handed successive promotions with his appointment first as Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff in London, and then as Chief of Staff to newly-appointed British Expeditionary Force (BEF) Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig in December 1915.

Owing his appointment to the latter role at least in part to his friendship with Haig, Kiggell was nonetheless a competent, efficient staff officer, although a consistent advocate of outdated breakthrough tactics.

Kiggell's rapid rise and obvious influence with the Commander-in-Chief inevitably led to jealous sniping from other commanders.  He was charged by some with misleading Haig by suppressing intelligence information that was at odds with his own (and Haig's) positive view of the conduct of the war.

Often argued that Kiggell was out of touch with true battlefield conditions it is said (without proof, Brigadier-General John Davidson having later claimed it was actually himself) that Kiggell broke down in tears when he finally visited Passchendaele during the Third Battle of Ypres in the autumn of 1917 and saw the morass in which the army fought, saying "Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?"

The current view of Kiggell remains damning.  There is evidence however that he was an able and conscientious officer.  Aside from providing advice to Haig and the army he also oversaw the production of a series of useful pamphlets and training manuals.

Suffering from periodic ill-health Kiggell collapsed with nervous exhaustion in late 1917 and left his post.  Following a period of convalescence he was appointed in early 1918 as the head of forces on the Channel Islands.

He died in 1954.

'Push' was slang signifying a large-scale attack upon enemy positions.

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