Battle of the Somme Shell Fuse Desk Weight, 1916
Battle of the Somme Shell Fuse Desk Weight, 1916
Battle of the Somme Shell Fuse Desk Weight, 1916
Battle of the Somme Shell Fuse Desk Weight, 1916
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Battle of the Somme Shell Fuse Desk Weight, 1916

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 Provenance: General Sir Douglas Baird, Indian Army

High Wood was the scene of intense fighting during the Somme offensive of 1 July - 18 November 1916.  At 1.30am on the night of 22-23 July, the 51st (Highland) Division, in which Baird was then serving, attacked High Wood with two battalions of the 154th Brigade. One battalion lost direction in the wood and had many casualties to machine-gun fire. The second battalion attacked up a dip to the south-west of the wood but was also caught by machine-gun fire; by 3am. both battalions were back on the start line having lost 450 casualties. High Wood was finally overcome by a mine, which shattered the redoubt, and by tanks.

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General Sir Harry Beauchamp Douglas Baird, KCB, CMG, CIE DSO (1877-1963) was commissioned into the Indian Army in 1897, and appointed to the 12th Cavalry.

He was promoted Captain in 1906, and after graduating from the Staff College, Quetta, was selected as an Aide-de-Camp to the Chief of Staff, India, Lieutenant-General Sir Douglas Haig. It has been said that like fellow ADC John ‘Principal Boy’ Charteris, ‘Dolly’ Baird was chosen for his ability to get on with Haig. When Haig returned to Britain to be C-in-C in Aldershot Command in 1911 he arranged for his ADCs to accompany him in a move described at the time by regular staff as the ‘Hindu invasion’. On the outbreak of the First World War Baird went to France with Haig whose Aldershot Command comprised I Corps of the British Expeditionary Force. As such Baird would have been witness to his Chief’s much debated conduct at Landrecies, where, in his reactions to his corps' skirmish with German forces, Haig ‘led his staff into the street, revolvers drawn, promising to ‘sell our lives dearly’, while sending an exaggerated report to the C-in-C  of the BEF causing panic.

Promoted Major in 1915, Baird served eight months on the staff of the Indian Cavalry Corps in France before becoming commanding officer of the 1/8th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in October of the same year. In June 1916 he was appointed General Staff Office 2 at 51st Highland Division, and established a divisional school of infantry for officers and NCOs to improve knowledge of tactics, discipline, communication, esprit de corps, sanitation, route marching, billeting, musketry, trench attacks, transport, map reading, and field engineering. The 14 day courses were considered effective and ran irrespective of whatever battle was raging at the time. In September 1916 Baird was briefly GSO2, Cavalry Corps, (France) before appointed commander of 75th Infantry Brigade from December 1916 to 1918 until February 1918.

After the War Baird returned to India to serve as GSO1 on the staff of 4th Indian Infantry Division.

He was Brigadier-General General Staff Baluchistan Force in 1919, and was briefly commander of the wartime raised 40th Cavalry Regiment and then commanding officer of the 28th Punjabis. 

Baird went on to become Colonel on the Staff at Army Headquarters, India in 1923 and Commandant of the Senior Officers' School, Belgaum in 1924. Baird went on to be Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster-General in India in July 1929 and General Officer Commanding the Kohat District in December 1930. Then he became General Officer Commanding the Deccan District in 1932 and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command in April 1936 before retiring in April 1940. He was Hon. Aide-de-Camp General to the King George VI, 1938-40 and Colonel, 4th Battalion 5th Mahratta Light Infantry from 1935-1948.