DOUGLAS, Surgeon Lieutenant Francis (Frank) John

Portrait of Surgeon Lieutenant Francis (Frank) John DOUGLAS, the photographer was unknown. This portrait was donated to the Victor Harbor RSL by Dr DOUGLAS.

Francis John DOUGLAS was born at Glenelg on 10 September 1873, the seventh and youngest child of William Selby DOUGLAS and Margaret Bevis DOUGLAS (nee POOLE).

Frank, as he was known, was educated at a small private school at Glenelg and in 1885, at age 12, he commenced studies at St Peter’s College in Adelaide. In 1892, Frank commenced studies at the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine and because of the “Hospital Row” in 1896, Frank completed his studies at the University of Melbourne, graduating from there in December 1897.

As Frank was not a graduate of Adelaide University, he could obtain an appointment as a house surgeon (intern) in Adelaide. He took work in 1898 as a locum tenens, including Port August and Moonta, where he enlisted for service with the Bushmen’s Rifles in South Africa during what became known as the Boer War.

Frank had been appointed as a Surgeon-Lieutenant; daughter May Douglas later wrote in her book the recruits were camped at the old Exhibition Building on Frome Road. For three weeks, they learned mounted drill and getting to know their fellow soldiers and their mounts.

All ranks were required to be over the age of 25 years, good ‘bushmen’ and capable of looking after themselves in rough conditions. Frank was already an accomplished horseman.

From Jude Elton and Catherine Manning, History Trust of South Australia, we have drawn upon their research about the ‘Boer War’:

Nine contingents comprising 1531 South Australian men served in the Boer War: six contingents sailed from Port Adelaide and three Australian contingents included some South Australians. Up to 1510 horses went with these men. In addition, some South Australians also served as colonial troops, having paid their own way to South Africa or already present in the region. At least nine South Australian nurses served in the Boer War, under the command of Sister MS Bidmead.

The South Australian (Citizen) Bushmen’s Corps took pride of place amongst the South Australian contingents. It was funded by public subscription and the philanthropy of wealthy individuals. Its most prominent supporter was Adelaide businessman and parliamentarian Sir George Brookman who donated £1000. There were three contingents of the Imperial Bushmen (paid for by London) and two of the Mounted Rifles.

The Bushmen’s Corps, led by Captain SG Hubbe, was farewelled with a banquet hosted by the Mayor at the Adelaide Town Hall on 6 March 1900. Distinguished guests included Premier Frederick Holder and the Minister of War, Chief Secretary John Jenkins. The following day the corps, accompanied by regiments of the local Defence Force, rode on horseback through the city. Streamers and flags flew from buildings and lined the crowded streets. Even trams, bicycles and local horses were decorated for the occasion. Residents from Port Augusta were there to cheer on Lieutenant Charles Marsh Ives on the ‘handsome charger’ presented to him by that town. Governor Lord Tennyson took the salute as the troops passed the Town Hall. The corps left for South Africa on the SS Maplemore the next day.

The Maplemore docked at Beira on 11 April.  The Bushmen’s Contingent formed part of General Carrington’s force which crossed Rhodesia and entered the Transvaal from about Mafeking. It was intended that the 2nd Regiment of the Rhodesian Field Force should consist of the 3rd South Australians, 3rd Tasmanians, and the 3rd Queenslanders; but before Mafeking was reached, on 24th June, the Regiment was split up and was never brought together.  

Between 4 July and 9 August 1900, the Squadron was patrolling the Marico and working towards Elands River district.  On 6 August, Lieutenant Collins was badly wounded while on patrol. LT Douglas stayed with him and both were taken prisoner. Reduced to replacing dressings with portions of their shirts, with water but little food, both must have welcomed the approach of Kitchener’s Column, at which the Boers departed.

Typhoid and serious wounds were treated. Ambulance transport was by bullock wagons, the longest trek being about 100 miles, with few orderlies to help with the care of patients. Travelling at night and resting by day, the journey took 10 days. No casualty was lost.

On the 9 August the squadron retired to Mafeking with Carrington.  On 13 August they had a skirmish. Next day they were in a sharp fight at Buffelshoek.  On 15 August the squadron was put into a Composite Bushmen Regiment, along with ‘D’ Squadron of the 1st New South Wales Bushmen, Captain Poison’s squadron of the 5th New Zealand, and the 3rd Tasmanians.  

For a long time, the Regiment did excellent work in the Western Transvaal as part of Lord Methuen’s force. At Buffelshoek, on 21 August the South Australians had sharp fighting and suffered casualties. For a second time they were in action at Ottoshoop, on 12 September, when Captain Hubbe was killed, and the Squadron suffered other losses. At Lichtenburg on 26 August, they again had casualties.  Lieutenant Collins having recovered, he was appointed to command the contingent with the rank of Captain.

Throughout the latter part of 1900 and the first quarter of 1901, the Composite Bushmen’s Regiment was in many engagements, chiefly in the Western Transvaal, but also in the north of the Orange River Colony.  In several of these the enemy fought with considerable determination, and as a matter of course losses were frequent.  For many months the Western Transvaal was dangerously denuded of troops, and consequently the strain on those who were there was severe.  The most constant watchfulness was necessary, for the enemy was ever alert and was ably led.  At Uitvalskop, on 3 February 1901, the squadron lost one man killed and Lieutenant JT Dempsey and five men wounded; and in the very severely contested action near Hartebeestfontein, on 16 February, Captain Collins, for the second time, and one other soldier, were wounded.  Altogether the squadron had four killed and twenty wounded.

In April 1901, the Squadron left Lord Methuen’s force for Australia, and Lord Methuen wrote to the Secretary of the South Australian Bushmen’s Committee a letter, in which he “tendered his tribute of praise” for the splendid work performed by the squadron, “… their cheerfulness in hardship, and good discipline”.  Among other things, his Lordship said, “I cannot conceive any body of men of whom a commander has greater reason to be proud” (source: 06/01/2009).

Lt Douglas saw service in Cape Colony, Orange River Colony, Transvaal and Rhodesia. His Queen’s South Africa medal has five clasps.

At the end of his South African service, Frank sailed aboard SS Chicago for Britain, docking at Southampton on 6 June 1901; Frank intended to have a holiday and undertake hospital work to gain wider experience.

After visiting relatives in Scotland and meeting up with his parents, who were also in Britain finalising a family estate matter, Frank obtained an appointment at London Hospital.

In 1902, Frank sailed for Australia, stopping in India to visit his father’s cousin, Bill MARSHALL and his wife, on their tea estate in Travancore (now Kerala), on the south-western tip of India.

On his return to Adelaide, Frank and his fiancée, Margaret Clerk ROBERTSON, decided to marry without further delay. However, Frank desired to have his own practice and on 1 December 1902, he purchased the practice of Dr Morgan O’LEARY in Victor Harbor. On 19 February 1903, Frank and Margaret were married at Golden Grove. There would later be six children of the marriage.

During the First World War he was the district medical officer and examined applicants to determine their medical fitness for overseas service. We know of one instance where he rejected a volunteer, one Ralph Reynolds ROSE, because of a football injury sustained whilst playing with the Victor Harbor Football Club. After his rejection, Ralph travelled to Melbourne where was not known, and promptly enlisted there.  Ralph later served with his brother Harold in the 14th Field Company Engineers in France. Ralph returned to Victor Harbor after the war and farmed near Victor. He died in 1947 following complications during hospital surgery.

Daughter Margaret, a diabetic since 1922, died on New Year’s Day 1947.

Frank practiced medicine a total of 52 years on the south coast; he retired in 1955, selling his practice to Dr COLLINS and Frank and Margaret moved to Gilberton.

Margaret died on 20 June 1962 after a short illness, whilst Frank died on 30 January 1964, he was 90 yeas of age. A service was held at the home mourners included eight Boer War veterans, one of whom had served with Frank in the campaign. Following a church service at St Augustine’s Victor harbor, Frank was buried in the Victor Harbor Cemetery in the family plot.

Two of Franks’ children, Sholto John DOUGLAS and Mary (May) Stewart DOUGLAS, served in the armed forces during the Second World War, both attained the rank of lieutenant colonel by war’s end.

Footnote: Son-in-law Richard BLANDY OBE (husband of Agnes), had a son by a previous marriage who was killed in action on 9 June 1944 in Eastern India. He is buried in Kohima War Cemetery, India.

Photograph from the Australian War Memorial’s collection (P02578.013), the photographer is unknown; it was taken c1900 at Lichtenburg, South Africa. Lieutenant F.J. Douglas, a surgeon with the South Australian Bushmen’s Third Contingent, leaves field after making the top score in a cricket match played between Australia and England. For his service in the Boer War, Dr Douglas was awarded the Queen’s Medal with five clasps. Lichtenburg was a small town, near Pretoria in the western Transvaal, which had been held by the British since November 1900. The photograph was donated to the Memorial by W.H. Philp.
Family portrait from May DOUGLAS’ book, Counsellor, Guide and Friend.
This photograph shows Dick BLANDY’s grave in the Victor Harbor Cemetery; it was taken by RSL Victor Harbor History Research Team member Ian MILNES on 2 March 2010.
Entry from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s website for Dick BLANDY’s son who was killed in the Battle for India.
Entry from the British Gazette reporting the commissioning of LT Richard BLANDY in 1916.


DOUGLAS, M.S. Counsellor, Guide and Friend, by M S Douglas, Gilberton (1984).

Jude Elton & Catherine Manning, History Trust of South Australia, ‘Boer War’, SA History Hub, History Trust of South Australia, accessed 27 May 2020.

Website: (accessed 06/01/2009).

Website: (accessed 06/01/2009).

Flying Officer Alexander Charles DOUGLAS – killed in a flying accident on 13 January 1939

Alexander Charles DOUGLAS was born at Victor Harbor on 4 June 1912, the fifth child of Dr Francis (Frank) and Margaret Clerk Douglas (nee Robertson). He was educated at St Peter’s College and during his senior years he joined the naval cadets. On completion of his secondary studies in 1932, Charles, as he was known, gained admission to the University of Adelaide’s medical school in 1933.

Charles DOUGLAS is in the front row, second from left. From the University of Adelaide Archives.

On 1 January 1933, Charles was granted a commission in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve with the rank of Acting Sub-Lieutenant and following his end-of-year studies, he entrained to Melbourne for 12 days training at HMAS Cerberus. On 1 April 1934, Charles was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant.

         Following the completion of his second year at medical school, Charles was posted to HMAS Australia on 18 November 1934 for four months training. On 10 December, Australia embarked for the journey to Britain for exchange duty; aboard was the Duke of Gloucester, who had visited Victoria the previous month for the state’s centenary celebrations. The cruiser docked in Portsmouth on 28 March 1935 and was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet. The ship returned to England, remaining there from 21 June to 12 September; Charles resigned his commission on 7 October 1935 following his acceptance into the Royal Air Force for training as a pilot.

         Whether Charles had consulted with his family beforehand about the significant change in his career he was about to undertake is not known, but  most likely it would have been a disappointment to his parents not to continue his medical studies.

         Charles was accepted for pilot training and commenced flying training at No 3 Flight Training School (FTS) on 28 September 1935. He subsequently graduated and after more comprehensive single engine training, was awarded his pilot’s badge followed by a posting to No 1 Fighter Squadron RAF (Spitfires) on 5 August 1936, at Tangmere.

Charles was rated as a first class pilot and took part in the International Air Pageant at Zurich, Switzerland in 1938.

         On a flight from 14 January 1939, Charles’ aircraft crashed in fog and he and his passenger were killed.

The following information was accessed from the Aviation Safety Network ( )

Date: 14-JAN-1939

Time: 13:30 UTC

Type: Miles Magister Mk I

Owner/operator: 1 Sqn Royal Air Force (1 Sqn RAF)

Registration: N3907

C/n /msn:

Fatalities: Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2

Other fatalities: 0

Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)

Location: Eastergate Lane, Walberton, near Arundel, West Sussex – United Kingdom

Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)

Nature: Military

Departure airport: RAF Martlesham Heath, Suffolk

Destination airport: RAF Tangmere, West Sussex


On the afternoon of 13th January 1939, a Miles Magister (N3907) was flown by Flying Officer Douglas, with Sergeant Cooper as passenger, on a journey from Tangmere to Martlesham, having been told to stay the night if he could not return in daylight. For this reason, and also in view of the local weather conditions, he was not allowed to start the return journey.

The next morning he was told that if the conditions on the route improved he could leave not later than 15.00 hours. On receipt of weather reports from Borough Hill at 11.15, Douglas was granted permission to proceed – the reports gave Tangmere 2000 yards visibility with clouds 10/10 at 1000 feet, and a light easterly wind. Magister N3707 was airborne at 12.15, with the weather at Martlesham being slightly hazy, sun shining and visibility 4000 yards. Between 13.15 and 13.30 the aircraft was heard by two civilians, 3 miles south-east of Tangmere, and the engine appeared to be running normally. It was misty and drizzling at the time and the aircraft was seen to emerge from cloud at a height of about 200 feet, in a very steep dive. The pilot apparently only realised his predicament at this moment and applied full power as he tried to level out, but the Magister hit the ground killing both occupants.

Douglas had trained at No. 3 F.T.S. and gained his wings in May 1936. With a total of 510 flying hours logged, he was considered to be well above average as a pilot with a considerable amount of instrument flying in clouds to his credit. He had also recently passed an instructor’s course on the Link Trainer. Why this accident happened remained a mystery.

From the website

Western Daily Press – Monday 16 January 1939


Plane Partly Buried in Field.

Flying Officer Alexander Charles Douglas, the pilot, and his passenger, Sergeant John James Cooper, were killed on Saturday when their R.A.F. plane from the No. 1 Fighter Squadron, Tangmere, Sussex crashed at Walberton, near Arundel. The plane crashed into a field about 15 yards from Eastergate Lane, Walberton, and close to the Chichester-Bognor main road. It narrowly missed hitting a group of farm buildings, partly burying itself.

Portsmouth Evening News – Monday 16 January 1939




One of the most brilliant pilots in The Royal Air Force, Flight Lieutenant Alexander Charles Douglas, stationed at Tangmere, lost his life with Sergeant J.J. Cooper, also of Tangmere, in a plane crash a few miles from Tangmere Aerodrome on Saturday afternoon.

Flight Lieutenant Douglas was bringing a Miles Magister training machine from Martlesham Experimental Station back to Tangmere when it crashed behind a barn at the side of the main Chichester to Bognor Road.

The extraordinary skill at stunt flying won him a host of admirers and at the end of the last Empire Air Display at Tangmere, his aerobatic display brought every RAF man at the station to the front to witness his spectacular display , which thrilled the thousands of spectators who attended.

He was the leader of a special flight of Hawker Furies specialising in aerobatics, and a little over a year ago he represented the Royal Air Force at an International aeronautics exhibition in Switzerland where he gave one of his spectacular displays of stunt flying.

Flight to Australia.

Some time next month he had intended to attempt a flight to Australia with a brother officer, using a light aeroplane for the journey. An Australian by birth, he intended to visit his parents, whom he had not seen for three years.

He is the son of Dr. and Mrs. F. J. Douglas of Victor Harbour, Australia, and it is reported that during the summer his engagement to Miss Joan Edith Carey, of Chiddingfold was broken off.

Sergeant Cooper had been at Tangmere for several years and was in charge of stores. He leaves a widow and an 11-year old daughter.

Portsmouth Evening News – Thursday 19 January 1939


The funeral took place at Tangmere yesterday of Flying Officer Alexander C. Douglas, the brilliant young Australian R.A.F. pilot, who was killed when the training machine he was flying crashed at Walberton on Saturday. Almost the whole station turned out to pay a last tribute. The coffin, which was covered with the Union Jack, was carried by brother officers, and a guard of honour lined the path to the village church.

The service was conducted by the Rev. D. J. C. Hearn (Vicar of Tangmere), and the Rev. Julian Bickersteth (Head Master of Felsted School). The interment followed in the graveyard. A firing party fired three rounds over the grave, and the Last Post and Reveille were sounded by a bugler.

General view of the churchyard of St Andrew’s Church, Tangmere. The majority of the burials are airmen who died in flying accidents both before and after the Second World War. The photographs shown here were taken by Victor Harbor RSL members Ian & Janet MILNES on 23 September 2011.
Plaque in the churchyard commemorating the burials of both Allied and German airmen during the Second World War.
There are many airmen buried in the St Andrews Tangmere Cemetery who were casualties of flying accidents.

The service record of Alexander’s naval service, from the National Archives of Australia.
Article from The Victor Harbour Times, edition of Friday, 20 January 1939.

The Victor Harbour Times, edition of Friday, 27 January 1939.


DOUGLAS, M.S. – Counsellor, Guide and Friend – Dr Frank Douglas of Victor Harbor, M.S. DOUGLAS, Adelaide (1984).

Royal Air Force correspondence dated 8 June 2011 outlining brief details of Flying Officer DOUGLAS’ service.

Wikipedia website HMAS Australia, accessed 28 May 2020 :

Newspaper reports of Flying Officer DOUGLAS’ death from the website

Trove Newspapers for articles published in the Victor Harbour Times:

University of Adelaide Archives, accessed 26 May 2020 :

Researched and written by the RSL Victor Harbor Sub-branch History Research Team, May 2020.

SX1463 Lt Col Sholto John DOUGLAS – twice Mentioned in Despatches

This photograph is from the University of Adelaide’s Archives; it shows the Second Year Medical Students, 1925. Sholto DOUGLAS is in the back row, third from left.

Sholto John Douglas was born at Victor Harbor on 18 May 1905, the second child of six children of Dr Francis (Frank) and Margaret Clerk Douglas (nee Robertson). He was educated at St Peter’s College (1919-1923) and served with the 10th Battalion Militia in 1923-1924. In 1924, he commenced studying medicine at the University of Adelaide.

Graduating in November 1929, Sholto he served as an intern for one year and in May 1932, he and sister May sailed for England. Sholto undertook post-graduate work at the Middlesex Hospital in London followed by University College Hospital and orthopaedics at the Wingfield Morris Hospital, Oxford. In 1934, Sholto was house surgeon to Mr Rodney Maingot, a well-known surgeon at Southend on Sea, Essex. Shortly after, he became seriously ill and underwent a major operation, later recovering. The next year, Sholto returned to Australian and assisted his father in the south coast practice. In 1938, Sholto moved to Collinswood in Adelaide and purchased a practice in partnership with Dr Denys Hornabrook and Dr Neil     Wigg in Gilberton.

On 14 January 1939, Sholto’s younger brother, Alexander Charles DOUGLAS, a pilot with No 1 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, a Spitfire squadron, was killed in a flying accident near the Squadron’s base at Tangmere, England. He was buried in St Andrews Church Cemetery, Tangmere.

    Sholto was 34, and still single when he enlisted in the 2nd AIF on 9 December 1939. He was commissioned as a captain in the army medical corps, the date of his appointment effective from 29 August 1939. Captain Douglas was regarded as one of the “thirty-niners”, a title retained in the post-war years by those early enlistees. On 14 December, he was posted to the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion and four days later entrained to Melbourne. The Battalion was established on 14 December

    Capt Douglas embarked from Sydney for overseas service on 4 May 1940 aboard the HMT X1(the Queen Mary) with the 18th Infantry Brigade, part of the 6th Division. During the voyage, on 10 June, Sholto was admitted to the ship’s hospital; he was discharged six days later. The convoy was destined for service in the Middle East, however with the fall of France, and an imminent perceived threat of invasion of Britain, the convoy was diverted to the United Kingdom and deployed in the defence of the country. On 17 June, all troops disembarked at Gourock in Scotland. They remained in Britain at the Tidworth Pennings camp on the Salisbury Plains. During their time the Battle of Britain was being fought. On 14 November, Capt Douglas embarked for the Middle East and arrived in Palestine (Egypt) on 30 December. The convoy sailed around Africa rather than through the Mediterranean due to the threat of enemy submarine activity. The 6th Division trained in the desert near Ikingi Maryutand.

    On 6 April 1941, Sholto was with to the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion as the regimental medical officer; that day the Battalion sailed for Greece to support the 6th Division. The Battalion moved to Gerania to support the different units supporting the Aliakmon line. The ill-fated expedition was soon evacuated in the face of overwhelming German forces and headquarters company including Sholto, were evacuated separately whilst others did not fare so well. Many were killed or captured on Crete. Of the 104 casualties of the Greek campaign in the Battalion, 77 were captured, two escaped and one died in Germany as a POW.

    Sholto was evacuated to 1st Australian General Hospital in Egypt on 24 July 1941 suffering from erysipelas of the right thigh. He returned to his unit on 27 July. The Battalion then moved to Syria at the end of October following the campaign to capture the country from the Vichy French and camped near Damascus.

On 8 November 1941, sister May enlisted in the Australian Military Forces and her first official appointment was as Assistant Commandant of the Australian Women’s Army Service South Australia, effective from 23 November 1941. She was later to hold that post in Queensland. 

    On 4 February 1942, Sholto was detached to the 2/1st Casualty Clearing Station based at Gaza. Australian forces were being withdrawn back to Australia and on 8 February, he embarked aboard the troop transport USS Mount Vernon (AP-22) from Port Suez, disembarking in Adelaide on 10 March 1942. All troops were then granted leave.

    On 28 March 1942, Sholto married Alison Mary CLARKE (nee MILNE); a son was born on 22 January 1943 and named Charles (William Sholto DOUGLAS) after Sholto’s late brother. The records indicate that Alison had a son by a previous marriage.

    On 1 September 1942, Capt Douglas embarked from Brisbane aboard the 2/1st Hospital Ship and disembarked at Milne Bay six days later. On 9 September 1942, he was promoted to major and served in the New Guinea campaign with the 2/3rd Australian Convalescent Depot. On 20 August 1943, Sholto was posted to the 2/11th Australian Field Ambulance, part of the 5th Division formation.

On 17 July 1943, Sholto was charged with the following offence:

Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline in that he did lose (on 12 May 1943) his pistol serial number 769826 on issue to him.

Major Douglas was paraded before the GOC 5th Division (Major General E. MILFORD), where he pleaded guilty; the award was stoppage of his pay until he had paid the sum of six pounds five shillings representing the cost of the pistol.

Despite the infraction, Sholto was Mentioned in Despatches for his exceptional service in the New Guinea campaign. Sholto returned to Australia on 31 January 1944, and on 24 July 1944, he was promoted to the rank Lieutenant Colonel and appointed to command the 2/11th Field Ambulance.  On 28 March 1945, the unit embarked from Cairns aboard the Van Hertzog and sailed for Morotai, disembarking there on 7 April. Morotai became the staging area for the invasion of Tarakan.

Lt Col Douglas embarked aboard LST 743 at Morotai on 22 April for duty on Tarakan in readiness for the invasion that took place on 1 May. The 2/11th Field Ambulance formed part of the 26th Australian Infantry Brigade. Sholto’s splendid service in the field was again recognised, when he was Mentioned in Despatches for the second time.

    Lt Col Douglas remained on Tarakan after the Japanese surrender, serving there until 26 November 1945. His duties included providing medical attention to recovered former POWs and assisting the civilian population who suffered badly under the Japanese occupation. On 26 November, he embarked on HMS Formidable from Tarakan, the picked more Australians at Morotai and disembarked at Sydney on 8 December 1945. Formidable was a British Royal Navy carrier that had been used to transport former POWs back to Australia. On this voyage, it was used to repatriate long serving troops and their equipment home from the Southwest Pacific theatre. 

Sholto’s demobilisation form indicates the points system was used in order to determine his priority for repatriation. It also reveals he had one child under 16 years of age and one child over 16 years of age. Sholto had served a total of 1,449 days overseas – almost four years out of Australia – England & Middle East 676 days; New Guinea 519 days; NEI 254 days.

    Lt Col Douglas disembarked in Sydney on 6 December 1945; that day he relinquished command of the 2/11th Field Ambulance. Sholto entrained to Adelaide, arriving there on 8 December and was demobilised on 12 December 1945.

Sholto died on 20 February 1984, age 78. His ashes were scattered from The Bluff at Encounter Bay, as were his wife who pre-deceased him on 5 April 1974.

This photograph from the Australian War Memorial’s collection (089788) shows Lt Col Sholto Douglas meeting with General Sir Thomas Blamey during a visit to 2/11th Field Ambulance at Tarakan, Borneo, on 5 August 1945. 
From left: General Blamey, Lt Col N. Morgan, CO of the 2/12th Field Ambulance, Lt Col Douglas, CO of the 2/11th Field Ambulance, Capt L. McMahon, medical officer of 2/12th Field Ambulance. The soldier on the bed is unidentified; he had previously been wounded in action. 


Service file of SX1463 Lt Sholto John DOUGLAS purchased from the National Archives of Australia. The file can be viewed online at:

DOUGLAS, M.S. – Counsellor, Guide and Friend – Dr Frank Douglas of Victor Harbor, M.S. DOUGLAS, Adelaide (1984).

Trove Newspapers for articles published in the Victor Harbour Times:

Trove Newspapers for articles published in The Advertiser:

Researched and written by the RSL Victor Harbor Sub-branch History Research Team, May 2020.

SFX30364 Lieutenant Colonel Mary (May) Stewart DOUGLAS

Official portrait of Lt-Col M.S. DOUGLAS in her office in Melbourne, it was taken shortly after her promotion to lieutenant-colonel in July 1943. This photograph was purchased form the Australian War Memorial’s collection (item number 066305).

Mary Stewart DOUGLAS was born at Victor Harbor on 20 January 1904, the eldest of six children of Francis (Frank) John DOUGLAS and Margaret Clerk DOUGLAS (nee ROBERTSON). 

She was most likely educated at Victor Harbor Public School and later was a boarder at Church of England Girls Grammar School in Geelong from 1919 to 1921. Her father was the local general practitioner and surgeon for the Victor Harbor district, Dr Frank DOUGLAS had purchased the Victor Harbor practice of Dr O’LEARY in November 1902.

May, as she was widely known, travelled to the United Kingdom in 1932 with her brother Sholto where she carried out girl guide activities. By 1938, she was a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and nursing orderly. There were numerous reports in the (Adelaide) Advertiser’s social pages at the time of May and Sholto mixing in social circles around England.

On 14 January 1939, her younger brother Alexander Charles DOUGLAS, a pilot with No 1 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, a Spitfire squadron, was killed in a flying accident near the Squadron’s base at Tangmere, England. He was buried in St Andrews Church Cemetery, Tangmere.

May was single and age 37, when she enlisted in the Australian Military Forces on 8 November 1941. She stated her occupation as “home duties” and had attained her Leaving Certificate. May had been a Captain and Commissioner of the Girl Guide’s Association. She was given the serial number SF64640.

May’s first official appointment was as Assistant Commandant of the Australian Women’s Army Service South Australia on 23 November 1941. She was later to hold that post in Queensland. May was promoted to temporary major on 4 November 1942.

On 9 July 1943, she was promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel and that day her rank of major became substantive. On 19 July 1943 she volunteered for service in the 2nd AIF and was given the serial number SFX30364. She was now eligible for overseas service. May was taken on strength of ‘A’ Branch of the Director General of Medical Services on 19 July 1943 and appointed as Comptroller of the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service.

Lt Col DOUGLAS travelled around Australia, visiting hospitals where her troops were serving. She also travelled to New Guinea, Bougainville and Moratai.

May DOUGLAS was the only woman to have been a member of all four of the Women’s Army Services – the VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment), AAMWS, AWAS, then after the war, the WRAAC. The VAD would later become the nucleus for the AAMWS.

On 24 June 1946, May was demobilised and she returned to civilian life, becoming District Commissioner of the Girl Guides (1946-1948), later Deputy South Australian Commissioner (1949-1952), State Commissioner (1952-1958). On 1 June 1953 she was appointed an Officer of the British Empire and was presented with the award personally by Queen Elizabeth II. From 23 April 1961 to April 1966 she was Honorary Colonel of the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps.

In 1995, at age 91, she attended the Australia Remembers celebrations in Canberra, which honoured the service rendered by women in the war effort during the Second World War.

On 26 January 1997 she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

    Mary Stewart DOUGLAS died on 8 May 1999, age 95 and was buried in the Victor Harbor Cemetery.

The Victor Harbour Times, edition of Friday, 16 October 1942.
The Victor Harbour Times, edition of Friday, 9 July 1943.
The Victor Harbour Times, edition of Friday, 6 August 1943.
Studio portrait of Lt- Col M.S. DOUGLAS, circa 1945; the photographer was B. THOMAS. From the State Library of South Australia collection number B55919.
The Advertiser, edition of 18 April 1966.
Plaque on War Memorial Drive, Adelaide (approximately 50 metres from the King William Road intersection) commemorating the tree planted by LT COL M.S. DOUGLAS (retired) on 17 February 1963; the tree has been long gone but the plaque remains. This photograph was taken by RSL Victor Harbor History Team Member Ian MILNES on 16 January 2020.
Photograph of the DOUGLAS family plot in the Victor Harbor Cemetery. This photograph was taken by Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team member Ian MILNES on 7 March 2010.


Service file of SFX30364 Mary Stewart DOUGLAS purchased form the National Archives of Australia; the file is now viewable online at:

DOUGLAS, M.S. – Counsellor, Guide and Friend – Dr Frank Douglas of Victor Harbor, M.S. DOUGLAS, Adelaide (1984).

Trove Newspapers for articles published in the Victor Harbour Times:

Researched and written by the RSL Victor Harbor Sub-branch History Research Team, May 2020.