Standing in front of the municipal theatre, the equestrian statue of Field Marshal Douglas Haig is one of the few reminders of the pivotal role played by the peaceful town of Montreuil during the Great War.
In March 1916 the Commander-in-chief of the British Army relocated his General Headquarters (GHQ) from Saint-Omer to Montreuil. It was Haig's view that the town was ideally situated for the purpose: it was close to the Western Front but also to the ports of Boulogne, Calais and Dunkirk which were vital for the transport of troops and supplies to the areas of the Front under British command (Flanders, Artois, Somme). In addition, the town was endowed with a well-developed infrastructure in the form of a military academy where Haig housed the British GHQ until it moved on in early 1919.
For his residence Haig commandeered Beaurepaire House which was a few kilometres from Montreuil. This sudden influx of officers and troops transformed the sleepy walled town, which had previously taken in refugees fleeing the German invasion, into a busy centre of operations. And with this honour came a number of restrictions such as a curfew, checkpoints, blackouts, and so on; however the greatest problem for inhabitants was the huge increase in the cost of living, so much so that the town councillors were obliged to set up a provisioning committee to deal with the problem.
Despite the disruption, the locals and the British Forces enjoyed friendly relations to such an extent that, upon the death of Douglas Haig in 1928, a subscription was set up by the townsfolk for the purpose of erecting an equestrian statue in memory of the Field Marshal and his penchant for riding through the Montreuil countryside on horseback. And after the removal of the statue during the German occupation in 1940 the people of Montreuil recovered the mould from the sculptor, Paul Landowski, and recast a new one.