Charles Anthony Haig (sometimes ‘Haigh’) was born in Kent and arrived in Chelmsford 1901 where he was educated at the grammar school. He later worked as Secretary for his father’s wine and spirits business. He was a popular local amateur actor. As a pre-war Territorial soldier Charles was mobilised at the start of the war and landed in France in September 1914. He was killed in action near Ypres in November 1914. His home was in Park Road. His father was a prominent figure in an alteration to England’s marriage law which allowed a man to marry his deceased wife’s sister.
HAIG, CHARLES ANTHONY, Lance Corporal, 1st/14th (County of London) Battalion,
London Regiment (London Scottish)
Charles was born in Birchington on the north Kent coast on 20th June 1887, the eldest of four sons of Charles Robert Haig and Adela Haig (nee Masters).
Charles’ father had been born in Dublin, Ireland in 1844; his mother was born in Canterbury in 1859 and died in 1892 and was the sister of his father’s first wife. His parents had to marry abroad (in Switzerland) because until the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act of 1907 it was illegal for a man to marry his deceased wife’s sister. No doubt spurred
on by his own experiences Charles’ father was the treasurer of the Marriage Law Reform Association which was instrumental in securing that change in legislation. In 1881 Charles’ parents had been living in Kensington, London.
Charles’ siblings included the five Kensington-born children from his father’s previous (1876) marriage to Kate Masters Masters, (sister to Charles’ mother) who died in 1885: Miriam Haig (1878-1972), Stuart Masters Haig (1879-1909), Kathleen Mary Haig (1880-1978), Winifred Reeves Haig (1882-1909), and Mildred Adela Haig (1883-1975). Miriam was a missionary in India before the First World War.
Charles had a further five full siblings born in Birchington: Robert Fergus Haig (born on 1st August 1888, died in 1983), Ronald Frank Haig (born on 3rd November 1889, died in 1976), Andrew Haig (born and died in 1891), and a baby girl (born and died in 1892).
There were an additional two half-sister from his father’s third marriage in 1893 to Margaret Stuart Peats: Margaret Queenie Haig (born in 1896) and Violet Mary Haig (who was born and died in 1898).
The 1891 census found three year-old Charles living with his father, step mother, seven siblings and half siblings, three other relatives and three servants at 18 Minnis Road, Birchington. At the time Charles’ father was a wine and spirit merchant. His mother died late in 1892 aged 33, possibly as a result of an unsuccessful childbirth. The following year Charles’ father married Margaret Stuart Peat in Kent.
The 1901 census recorded 13 year-old Charles at a boarding school, Herne House, Second Avenue, in Margate, Kent. His younger brother Robert was also a boarder at the school. Their father, who had married Margaret Stuart Peat in 1893 in Kent, was at 18 Minnis Bay Road in Birchington.
Charles and his brothers Robert and Ronald were educated at King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Chelmsford from September 1901. At the time their father was recorded on the admission records as a wine merchant of 100 Cambridge Gardens, North Kensington, London. He subsequently moved to 28 Park Road, Chelmsford, the southernmost property on the west side of the road (pictured during its demolition in 2007). Charles and Ronald left the Grammar School in April 1905 and their brother Robert did likewise in July 1906.
In 1909 Charles father went to Canada where two of his surviving brothers settled. He wrote of experiences there in a letter that was published in the Essex County Chronicle in September 1910 entitled ‘Chelmsfordian in Canada”:
“Mr. Charles R. Haig, of Chelmsford, writes to us as follows from Canada, and hopes to send us his further observations as he goes west to the Pacific:
I would preface my remarks by saying that to the present i have been handled by that most remarkable corporation, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, over whose line to the Pacific I made a journey last year, spending, out the 16 days occupied by my hurried trip, 11 of them on the cars of the C.P.R. I do so, because, whatever may be sometimes alleged of faults, failings, shortcomings, in that gigantic undertaking, the fact remains that the projectors of that trans-continental line, and the able men who marshalled and still marshal its forces, have made Canada, and largely helped keep it a British country, and, indeed, to keep it under the British crown.
A point has now been reached in the history of the Dominion when rivals, taught by the success of the trans-continental policy of the C.P.R., are stretching out their iron tentacles from ocean to ocean, and when the "old firm" will not stand alone in holding "East and West in fee." The Grand Trunk will soon have completed its Pacific line from the coast of New Brunswick to Prince Rupert on the Pacific, and the Canadian Northern, before many years are over, will also possess trans-continental road, debouching at Port Mann on the western end, between the Vancouver terminus of the C.P.R. and Prince Rupert, the Grand Trunk terminus.
All said and done, the projection and the working the of the Canadian Pacific Railway must remain as a monument of farsighted enterprise. It is still the most complex, as well the greatest, corporation of the age. The C.P.R. takes you in hand London or Liverpool, handles you by land and water, water and land, right across the great continent of North America, and across the Pacific to Japan. You step on board a C.P.R. Express at Liverpool; you board a C.P.R. train at Quebec, after sojourn the Chateau Frontenac, a magnificent C.P.R. hotel, which stands, fortress-like, at the end of the rocky steep up which Wolfe led his men to victory.
In Montreal the C.P.R. has a fine hotel on the Place Viger. At Winnipeg another palatial establishment. At various points in the Rockies, delightful hostelries invite the traveller to stop off and enjoy scenery, fishing, hunting, climbing. So on to the Pacific, where, in Victoria, the beautiful Parliamentary Capital of British Columbia, a most sumptuous hotel looks out upon the waters of the Western Ocean, across which Empress C.P.R. liner steams you to the far east. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company is, in fact, the biggest hotel proprietor, caterer, and traffic handler —passenger and goods— in the world. The success this gigantic corporation, which is, or was, the world's biggest landed proprietor, in addition to its other responsibilities, has, I have said, called rivals into the field, but one must accord the fullest meed of praise and appreciation to this vast pioneer creation of those great men MacDonald, Strathcona, Mountstephen, and others who have followed in their footsteps, like Sir Thos. Shaughnessy, the present President. In spite of opposition and ridicule they have persevered in their patriotic enterprise. Mackenzie, the leader of the Opposition in the Canadian House of Commons, for example, prophesied that the iron road over the Rockies would not pay for the wheel grease of the rolling stock. Yet now the capital of the financial world is embarked in tripling the band of steel which binds Franco-Anglo Quebec to British Columbia, while Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba are rapidly being "grid-ironed" into prosperity by lines between the three great rival roads.
Coming now to the cities of the great Dominion, it must be conceded that a fairer city than Quebec ne'er looked upon the waters of a nobler river. Standing on the terrace of the Chateau Frontenac the C.P.R.'s first handshake on American soil to the European traveller —one gazes with delight across the river Levis, the town upon the other steep bank of the St. Lawrence, and down toward the sea, which receives by these broad, outflowing Lawrentian waters, the flood which has run from Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron; Erie emptying itself into Ontario, over Niagara, and this last lake the St. Lawrence river to the Atlantic.
Quebec is still in greatest part a French-Canadian city. Of her 60 to 70 thousand inhabitants scarcely 10 per cent, are British. As one goes west, the French element rapidly decreases. Montreal having about half-and-half French and English-speaking people, the two languages being, however, still there used mark the streets, &c. Lately, indeed, the Quebec provincial legislature has decreed by Act of Parliament that not only all official documents the province shall be in both languages, but that all corporations carrying on their business under statutory powers, shall, on all their advices, waybills, invoices, &c., duplicate the purport both French and English, and Montreal, be it borne in mind, is in the province of Quebec. One cannot help regretting that the English tongue is not made absolutely the official language of the State in all Canada, but here, as in South Africa, the sentiment of those who love the traditions specially kept alive by the language of their forefathers, must respected, and, indeed, from some points view, applauded. Montreal, the financial capital of Canada, is said to be the richest city, per head of the population, in world. Her bank buildings seem to typify this fact. Nothing in London can match the magnificent edifices where the Canadian Bank of Commerce and the Bank of Montreal house their businesses in Montreal.
In the aesthetic direction the City Montreal is distinguished by being, I would presume to say, the most tree-planted city in the world. Bar a narrow southern strip running east and west, the beautiful inaple and other trees in every street are a feature most pleasing to the eye and grateful to all the senses in the almost tropical heat of the Canadian summer. Toronto is essentially a British city, the French element being almost nonexistent, certainly having no visible prominence in the life, commercial and municipal, of the town. Toronto is the manufacturing Metropolis of Canada, and stores, wholesale, vast piles of every kind of merchandise for distribution right across to Vancouver. There also the umbrageous suburbs begin close to the business City, and alleys of trees line every street, to the great comfort of the resident and the wayfarer the summer time.
"Wonderful" is the only adjective which adequately characterises Winnipeg, the capital of the Province Manitoba, and destined to be the Metropolis of central Canada. The planners of the City gave magnificent breadth to the two chief arteries. Main-street and Portage - avenue, which streets will one day rival any town thoroughfare of the globe's surface.
Winnipeg is computed now to have 150,000 inhabitants. Though the British race predominates, it is said that 26 languages can be heard within the city. Values of real property have had an incredible advance within the space of quite few years. Plots some way up Portage-avenue which changed hands nine years ago at $20 a foot frontage, are being sold to-day at $1,000, and people say it will go not long hence to $1,500 per foot.
It is predicted that in 20 years hence Winnipeg will number 500,000 souls within its limits, and that what seems now suburban property will be right in the shopping and business centre.
I will reserve observations on the industrial and farming aspects the country for a future letter.
The 1911 census listed Charles’ sisters Kathleen and Mildred, half-sister Margaret, step-mother, two servants and two visitors at Felix House (number 28), Park Road. Meanwhile 23 year-old Charles, was recorded by the same census living with his father (now back from Canada), his father’s cousin Rosa Lawes and a servant at Greta in Birchington Bay, Kent. Charles’ father still ran his wine and spirit business (Haig’s Cooperage Ltd.), while Charles worked for his father and was Secretary of his firm.
In December 1912 Charles performed in a Chelmsford Amateur Dramatic Club presentation of Arthur Pinero’s play ‘Sweet Lavender’ at The Institute in New London Road. The Essex County Chronicle reported that he had ‘developed quite a Yankee accent for his part, which he did very well.’ In April 1913 he performed in another production ‘A Single Man’ at the Chelmsford Empire. The paper reported: ‘As the Captain, Mr. C. A. Haig did well.’ In December 1913 Charles reprised his role in a repeat of ‘Sweet Lavender’, this time ‘Mr. Haig was very successful.’ A fellow member of the club was James Herbert Seabrook, who was to also lose his life during the war.
Charles’ father died on 21st April 1914, aged 70, from Typhoid, leaving an estate valued at £1055 7s 6d to his third wife Margaret Stuart Haig. Charles’ half-brother Stuart Masters Haig and half-sister Winifred Reeves Haig had both also been killed by Typhoid, in Canada in 1909. Charles’ father was buried at Birchington, Kent.
At the time of his enlistment in London Charles lived in Chelmsford. He served with a Territorial unit, the 1st/14th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (London Scottish) which was in Westminster, London at the outbreak of the war. Charles arrived in France on 15th September 1914. His battalion was engaged near Messines and Ypres on 31st October 1914 and early November and it was during this period that Charles went missing
On 4th December 1914 the Essex Weekly News reported:
“Lance-Corporal Charles Haig, D Company, London Scottish, reported missing, is son of the late Mr. C. R. Haig of Felix House, Chelmsford. He is believed to be a prisoner of war in Germany, but this has not been officially confirmed.”
The same day the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“Lance Corporal C. A. Haig 1212 D Co., London Scottish, is reported missing from date Nov. 1 and is believed to be a prisoner. Mr. Haig, who is about 27 years of age, is the son of the late Mr. C. R.
Haig and of Mrs. Haig, of Chelmsford, and is a popular member of the Chelmsford Amateur Dramatic Club.”
Later Charles was presumed to have been killed in action on 1st November 1914 while serving as Lance Corporal 1212 Haig in D Company of 1st/14th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (London Scottish). He was aged 27.
Charles has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ypres in Belgium, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford (which records his rank as ‘Private’), and at the London Road Congregational Church, Chelmsford. He was entitled to the Victory, British War and 1914 Star medals.
Charles’ brother Ronald served in the Canadian Cavalry Training Brigade. His brother Robert also served in the Canadian army during the First World War. Charles left an estate valued at £568 0s 3d.
The 1918 register of electors recorded Charles’ step-mother Margaret Haig at 28 Park Road.