General Robert Douglas, C.B.

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General Douglas died at Claygate, Surrey on February 10, 1871, aged ninety-three. He was the eldest son of General Douglas, RA, commandant of Woolwich.

The deceased entered the Royal Regiment of Artillery, as second lieutenant, November 1, 1796, and became lieutenant September 1, 1798. He served at the capture of the Danish and Swedish West India Islands in 1801, and in the expedition to the north of Germany of 1805-6. He served also in the Peninsular campaign from February 1812 to March 1814. He was rewarded with the gold cross for his services at Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, and Nivelle, having commanded a field-battery, and a silver war-medal with one clasp for San Sebastian.

He was retired on Full Pay, 6 May 1835.

He was brother of General William Douglas R.E. and Captain Robert Douglas who assumed the surname Willan  on his marriage with Isabella Willan

There is a memorial in Holy Trinity Churchyard, Claygate, though the inscription is now reportedly indecipherable.

At his death, he left four daughters and one surviving son, Major Robert Douglas, 13th Light Infantry, who is married to his cousin, Miss J.M. Douglas-Willan. General Douglas's other son lost his life, when a mere boy, in an attempt to save the life of a drowning person.

stall plate

Order of the Bath, Military, Companion’s Chapel Stall Plate, General Robert Douglas, C.B., Royal Artillery, recipient of a spectacular Peninsular Army Gold Cross, for Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees and Nivelle.

Yeo family research states:
He was appointed Commander of the Corps of Artillery Drivers(1) on their establishment in 1795 and retained that appointment until the breaking up of the Corps in 1817. He clearly became a wealthy man - styling himself Colonel Commandant of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, Robert Douglas made his will in November 1826 in which he left legacies of tens of thousands of pounds to his wife Mary and their daughter and three sons - including a bequest of £8,000 to Robert junior and any children he might have.

Robert junior followed his father into the Royal Artillery, in which he had an active and distinguished career too. His service record shows that Robert junior was born in New York on 28 July 1780, presumably when his father was serving there. He joined the Royal Artillery as a Gentleman Cadet on 20 Aug 1794 and rose rapidly through the ranks. In a long career, he spent 9 years abroad in West Indies (1800/05); Hanover (1805); the “Peninsula” - ie Portugal, Spain & France (1812/14); and Malta (1819/20); He served under Wellington’s command in the Peninsula War where he fought at major battles including Salamanca, Vittoria and San Sebastian. At some point Robert’s service was recognised by the honour of Companion of the Bath. Intriguingly, Robert senior made a codicil to his will on Christmas Day 1826. Therein he revoked the legacy of £8,000 to Robert junior “and in consequence of the marriage of my son Robert Douglas unto Dorcas Male that the said sum of £8,000 …. shall be equally divided among the natural children as have been born of the said Dorcas Male before his marriage with her and such other children as may be born to him in wedlock … the said children at present numbering five and baptised by the several names of Robert (1817); Harriet (1819); Matilda (1823); Archibald (n/k); and Amelia Dorcas (1825)”. (Note - the dates in brackets have been identified by the present authors in the Woolwich, Kent parish register). Robert and Dorcas were married in the same parish on 16 Dec 1826 - just ten days before Robert senior made his codicil. Robert senior died aged 83 and was buried on 11 April 1827 in St Nicholas, Plumstead in accordance with his wishes. His will proved on 20 April 1827. Shortly after Robert senior’s codicil, Robert and Dorcas had a further daughter Margaret born in Woolwich on 1 Feb 1827 - she was the only “legitimate” child of Robert’s mentioned on his service record, which also cites his marriage details. Robert retired from the army on full pay on 6 May 1835, though in an apparent quirk of military procedure, he continued to receive promotions in 1841, 1854 and 1859. He died at Claygate near Esher, Surrey on 10 Feb 1871. His age at death was recorded as 93. His wife Dorcas survived him by five years, and died in Alverstoke, Hants in 1876 aged 91. With legacies of over £1000 each from their grandfather’s will, Harriet, Matilda, Amelia Dorcas and Margaret must have been desirable brides - the two Yeo brothers Thomas Frederick and Gerald Aubrey marrying two Douglas sisters Matilda and Amelia Dorcas in 1852 and 1855 respectively thereby establishing a tie into another prominent military family.

From Civilian Contractors to Royal Artillery Drivers: A Short History

Traditionally, the Royal Artillery relied on civilian contractors to transport its guns and equipment. However, this system proved unreliable, with drivers often abandoning their posts during battles. To address this issue, the Corps of Captains' Commissaries and Drivers was formed in 1794, providing trained and disciplined personnel specifically for handling artillery logistics.

This initial iteration underwent several transformations:

* 1801: Reformed as the Corps of Gunner Drivers
* 1806: Renamed the Royal Artillery Drivers
* 1822: Disbanded, with all enlisted men becoming "Gunner and Driver" within the Royal Artillery. This distinction was later removed in 1918, with personnel simply referred to as "Gunners."

It's important to note that the Royal Horse Artillery maintained its own separate driver corps throughout this period.

The early structure of the Royal Artillery Drivers faced challenges. Initially, individual companies operated independently under captain commissaries who held significant purchasing power. This system, however, led to mismanagement and financial irregularities. To address these concerns, an "Officer of Artillery" was appointed to oversee the entire corps, ensuring better control and efficiency.

Major-General Robert Douglas, a distinguished veteran of the American Revolutionary War, became the first Commandant of the Royal Artillery Drivers in 1795, holding the position until the corps' disbandment in 1817.


Not to be confused with:

General Robert Douglas, Count of Skenninge 1611-1661
Major-General Robert Douglas (of Garlston, NB) Born c1744, died 7th June 1798
Lt General Robert Douglas  abt 1745 - 1827
Major General Robert Douglas Death: Aug. 20. 1828 At Great Baddow, Essex,
Major General Robert Douglas 1727-1809
Major General Sir Robert Percy Douglas died on 30 September 1891 aged 87
Major General Robert Wilkins Douglass Jr. born in 1900 in Memphis, Tennessee, USA




Sources for this article include:
  • The Annual Register,1871
  • Illustrated London News; 4 March 1871
  • XVIIth Report of the Commissioners of Military Enquiry. London: Parliament (House of Lords). 1812

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