Eric Stuart Dougall VC MC

b. 13/04/1886 Tunbridge Wells, Kent. d. 14/04/1918 Kemmel, Belgium.

Eric Stuart Dougall (1886-1918) was the only son of the late Andrew Dougall, formerly of 13 Mount Ephraim Road, Tunbridge Wells, who died suddenly in March 1919, and of Mrs. Emily Elizabeth Dougall, of 18A Richmond Road, Bayswater. He was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent on 13th April 1886. Having entered Tonbridge School in September 1899, from Grove House School, Tunbridge Wells, he was appointed a House Praepostor in September 1904, and a School Praepostor in May 1905. He was in the Engineering Sixth from September 1902, and in July 1904, won the Engineering Sixth Mathematical Prize and was awarded the fourth Judde Leaving Exhibition of £70 for four years. In the following Term he won an open Natural Science Exhibition at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and in his last Term G.G. Nelson and he were both such good candidates for Mr. Buckmaster’s Mechanical Drawing Prize that each received a Prize. In 1904 he was Captain of the 2nd XV. and in the Cadet Corps was promoted Sergeant in January 1905.

Eric Stuart Dougall

At Cambridge he took his degree in 1908 with a 3rd Class in the Mechanical Science Tripos. In 1906 he won his half-blue for running, representing Cambridge in the Cross Country and making the pace for A.R. Welsh, the winner of the mile in the Inter-Varsity Sports. In 1907 he received his “full Blue,” being selected as “first string” for the half-mile, and finished within a yard of the Oxonian winner, P.S. Darling. In 1908 he was secretary of the C.U.A.C., and was second in the mile at Queen’s Club. From 1908 to 1912 he was training under the Chief Engineer of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board at Liverpool, where he was well known as a Rugby footballer.

In March 1912, he sailed to take up an appointment as an Assistant Engineer to the Bombay Port Trust, and was subsequently placed on the permanent staff. Soon after the outbreak of war, being unable to come home, he joined the Bombay Light Horse, and it was not till the end of 1915 that he obtained leave to return to England and apply for a commission. After training as a cadet at St. John’s Wood he was gazetted to the Special Reserve, R.F.A., July 7th 1916, and proceeding to France in the same month, came safely through the latter part of “The Battles of the Somme, 1916,” including the Battle of the Ancre, November 13th to 18th, and the capture of Beaumont Hamel on the 13th. The Brigade then moved to the Ypres Sector, and on May 11th 1917, he was promoted to Acting Captain as second in command of his Battery, A/88th Brigade, R.F.A.

On June 7th 1917, the first day of “The Battle of Messines, 1917,” and the day on which the mines were exploded, he was awarded the Military Cross, the following paragraph appearing with the announcement in the Gazette of August 27th 1917: – “2nd Lieut. E. S. Dougall, R.F.A. (S.K.). For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Group Intelligence Officer and F.O.O. He took up a succession of observation posts in advanced and exposed positions, from which he successfully maintained communication with Headquarters. He was slightly wounded, but remained at duty and has frequently performed work requiring initiative under heavy fire with great coolness and gallantry.” The wound that he received on that occasion he described as a mere scratch.

He remained in the Ypres Sector until January 1918, and on January 7th was promoted Lieutenant (S.R.), retaining his acting rank. The Brigade had moved south again, and when the German offensive on the Somme opened on March 21st 1918, his Battery was right at the point of the salient on the Cambrai front and, being the last to withdraw from that area, retired fighting over the approximate line Ribecourt – Trescault – Bus – Le Transloy – Courcelette. On April 4th 1918, he took over command of his Battery, and they moved up north once more to meet the German offensive in Flanders.

On 10th April 1918, on the Messines Ridge, Capt. Dougall maintained his guns in action from early morning throughout a heavy concentration of gas and high-explosive shell. Finding that he could not clear the crest owing to the withdrawal of our line, Captain Dougall ran his guns on to the top of the ridge to fire over open sights. By this time our infantry had been pressed back in line with the guns. Captain Dougall at once assumed command of the situation, rallied and organised the infantry, supplied them with Lewis guns, and armed as many gunners as he could spare with rifles. With these he formed a line in front of his battery which during this period was harassing the advancing enemy with a rapid rate of fire. Although exposed to both rifle and machine gun fire this officer fearlessly walked about as though on parade, calmly giving orders and encouraging everybody. He inspired the infantry with his assurance that “So long as you stick to your trenches I will keep my guns here”. This line was maintained throughout the day, thereby delaying the enemy’s advance for over twelve hours. In the evening, having expended all ammunition, the battery received orders to withdraw. This was done by man-handling the guns over a distance of about 800 yards of shell-cratered country, an almost impossible feat considering the ground and the intense machine gun fire.

Four days later, on April 14th, in the Battle of Bailleul, he was struck by a shell on the left side of the neck and instantaneously killed whilst directing the fire of his Battery on Mount Kemmel. He was buried the following day in a little British cemetery outside Westoutre, just behind Kemmel Hill and some seven miles south-west of Ypres. His promotion to Acting Major as from April 4th appeared in the Gazette of June 2nd, but was not recorded in the announcement of the award of the Victoria Cross, which appeared in the Gazette of June 4th. His medal was presented to his sister by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 10th July 1918. The medal was later donated to Pembroke College, Cambridge.






Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map

Mark Sanders – Dougall VC MC Medal Card

Brian Drummond – Images of his VC Stone, the VC Stone Programme, the Tunbridge Wells War Memorial, and the Tunbridge Wells VC Board.