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Campbell Mellis Douglas VC





Campbell Mellis Douglas(August 5, 1840, Quebec City - December 31, 1909), Assistant Surgeon, 2nd Bn., 24th Regiment (later The South Wales Borderers), British Army
On 7 May 1867 at the island of Little Andaman, , eastern India, in the Bay of Bengal, Assistant Surgeon Douglas and four Privates (BELL, D., COOPER, J., GRIFFITH, W. and MURPHY, T.) of the 2/24th Regiment risked their lives in manning a boat and proceeding through dangerous surf to rescue some of their comrades who had been sent to the island to find out the fate of the commander and seven of the crew, who had landed from the ship Assam Valley and were feared murdered by the cannibalistic islanders.


(Assistant-Surgeons, now Brigade-Surgeon, Retired M.D., L.R.C.P.) 
2nd Battalion 24th (2nd Warwickshire) South Wales Borderers.

One of our ships, the Assam Valley, had put in at the island of Little Andaman, in the Bay of Bengal and some of the crew went ashore. Apparently they must have been set upon and murdered by the natives, for none of them ever returned. To ascertain their fate, a part of the 24th regiment was sent by steamer from Rangoon, and on some of them landing on May 7th 1867, they were attacked by the natives. Meantime a storm arose and turned the surf into a raging sea, and the soldiers on shore being in great peril, Dr. Douglas and four men most gallantry manned a gig and attempted to reach them. They very nearly succeeded in their endeavours, but, the boat beginning to fill rapidly, they were forced to retire. They then made a second attempt and were successful in reaching the shore, taking off five men. On these being placed safely on board, the doctor and his four brave men turned once more to the rescue of the rest of the soldiers, and by their strenuous efforts the entire party was eventually taken off the island.


Douglas VCThe London Gazette states that Dr. Douglas accomplished his trips through the surf by no ordinary exertion. He stood in the bows of the boat and worked her in an intrepid and seamanlike manner, cool to a degree. The four privates behaved in an equally cool and collected manner, rowing through the roughest surf when the slightest hesitation or want of pluck would have been attended with the bravest results. Their bravery and devotion were the means of saving seventeen men from an awful fate. The four privates with Dr. Douglas were Thomas Murphy, James Cooper, David bell and William Griffith and the Victoria Cross was awarded to them all. They were the first recipients of the decoration in the “Old Green Howard’s,” which famous regiment had now sixteen to its credit, of which seven were gained at Rorke’s Drift in the Zulu War 1879. Fortunately it has been possible to reproduce photographs of Bell and Murphy, but those of Cooper and Griffiths, in spite of many inquiries, have not been able to be found.

Dr. Douglas retired in 1882. He is the son of Dr. George Mellis Douglas and his wife Charlotte Saxton Campbell, (1820-1852), and was born in Quebec, being educated at St. John’s Canada, and Laval’s University, Edinburgh. Joined the 24th Regiment in 1863; was Medical Officer in charge of Field Hospital during the 2nd Riel Expedition 1885. 


Early in 1883, Brigade Surgeon Douglas gave the very first First Aid training course of St. John Ambulance in Canada. The course was given in Quebec City. His class raised £3 3s 0d for the charity.


He died at Horrington (near Wells), Somerset, at the age of 69, and is buried in the Wells Cemetery. His medals, including the Silver Medal of the Royal Humane Society, are in the collection of the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.


He married the young widow of Surgeon Valentine Munbee McMaster, 78th Highlanders, also a V.C., won at Lucknow in the Sepoy Mutiny who died leaving a year old son Bryce McMaster. (1934 Bryce was living at 15 Park Crescent, Oxford.)


Campbell M Douglas' sons were:-

  • George Mellis Douglas, born circa 1870, an explorer by canoe of the remote Canadian Northwest and a well-known author. (His adventures are told in "Lands Forlorn" published by the Knickerbocker Press, Putnams N.Y. 1914.) In 1937 he was living at Lakeside, Ontario and a snapshot taken 5 years earlier shows him, lean and bronzed, with white hair, standing beside his canoe "Alcyone" and strongly resembling my(Dorothy May Campbell) father and his brother Kenneth.
  • Lionel Douglas, who in 1934 was the Captain of the "Empress of Japan", the ship in which Chester and I(DMC) and our 3 boys came from Japan to British Columbia in 1925.







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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024