Charles Roderick Haigh was the elder son of the late A. E. Haigh, M.A., Fellow and Tutor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Born in 1888, Charles came to the Dragon as a day boy in 1897 and left in 1902. He showed early promise of classical and literary excellence in the summer of 1898, winning his Form prize and in the summer examination, beating all the boys in two forms above him. In 1899 he got his Form prize and a prize for drawing. In 1901 to 1902 he got the school prize for Mathematics, also Mrs Pickard’s prize for History and an extra prize for Classics, and the first ‘Harrow History’ prize. In 1902 he was fifteenth on the roll at Winchester and won an exhibition, his father distributing the Prizes at the Dragon School. At Winchester he was in the Cadet Pair 1905, in the Shooting VIII 1906-7, in the School IV 1907 and was a School Prefect 1905-7. He was at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, from 1907 to 1911 and rowed in his College VIII. He took Third Class Honour Moderations in 1909, his B.A. degree in 1910, and was one of the University nominated candidates for the Army. In 1911 he got his commission in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. In 1914 he was gazetted Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion of his Regiment. He was in the last charge of the 22nd Brigade at Klein Zillebeke (afterwards called Hill 60) near Ypres on the night of the 5th-6th of November 1914, when the Brigade, only 700 strong, attacked and carried the German trenches, capturing three machine guns and it was in this attack that Roderick was killed.
C.P. writes in ‘The Pelican: “I can truly say that, during forty-five years of College life, I have met with very few who have given me such an impression of absolute truth and straightness, of unswerving loyalty to duty, of unfailing rightness not only of action, but of thought and feeling. His devotion to the memory of his Father and Mother, his solicitude for his sisters and brother, his affection and admiration for his friends, were unbounded. What he had in himself he found in others. His brother officers, his College chums, were always “simply splendid”. And some of us, who are sadly conscious of being only quite ordinary people, might have been surprised if we could have seen how his enthusiasm transformed us, and would have been moved, I hope, to try and become a little less unlike what he fancied us. Nor would it be right to omit, though it is a thing to be mentioned with reverent reserve, the deep and genuine religion which was the basis of his whole character. When the war broke out, he was recalled with his battalion from South Africa, and ordered to the front. I know that he went, fully realizing the possibility that lay before him, but counting it the highest honour which can befall a soldier, to be allowed to give his life for his country and his King. For him, therefore, we must not grieve. Almost ever since I heard of his death, Shakespeare’s glorious words have been beating in my brain:
“Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt.
Had he his hurts before?
Ay, on the front.
Why then, God’s soldier be he!
Had I as many sons as I have hairs,
I would not wish them to a fairer death!”
May his memory and example long continue to inspire those who knew him.”
He was at every Old Boys’ dinner, and constantly visited us when at home. Roderick, in his will, left £500 to the Head Master of the Dragon School to supplement the exhibition fund or for any other purpose he (the Head Master) may determine; £200 was expended on making the Rifle Range in the School field by the Cherwell and in funding a cup to be shot for, every year, at 25 and 50 yards range, and a portion of the remainder has been spent in educating the son of a brother officer who was also killed. The following is an extract from one of Roderick’s letters to his sister written in the trenches on the 1st October 1914: “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.”
Roderick would be glad to know that his younger brother, Duncan is now on the staff of their old School.
Extracts from a letter written to Miss Haigh by a private of the 2nd Queen’s:
“We had the order to attack some trenches at dawn. I saw our Adjutant cheering the men. We had only advanced a few yards when the enemy saw us and fired rapid fire at us, and then 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; and we took another trench, and then were told to get ready again and we took the last trench; but when we got into it we found it was a running stream. The Adjutant with myself and 14 others got into this ditch only to find that the Germans were only 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, and kept saying to encourage us, “That’s another one I hit.” 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 I made a dash for it, and never got hit, though I had three bullets in my pack close to my neck. I got back safe and reported that the Adjutant had been killed.”
Charles is remembered on the Ypres Menin Gate Memorial.