There are two rooms in the pavilion of Liverpool Cricket Club which bear the names of one-time members who won the Victoria Cross. One, Noel Chavasse, is well-known to Liverpudlians and is commemorated across the city, but probably far fewer are familiar with the name of Eric Stuart Dougal and his Liverpool connection.
He was born at Tunbridge Wells, Kent on 13th April 1886, and after attending school there won an open Natural Science Exhibition at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Winning an athletics blue, he graduated in 1908 with a degree in Mechanical Sciences. He came to Liverpool in 1908, training under the Chief Engineer of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. During this time he lived at 17 Kimberley Street L8 (now demolished) and was a keen rugby and cricket player.
In March 1912 he took up a post in India as Assistant Engineer to the Bombay Port Trust. Soon after the outbreak of war in 1914 he joined the Bombay Light Horse but it was not until the end of 1915 that he received permission to return to the UK and apply for a commission. In July 1916 he was gazetted to the Special Reserve of the Royal Field Artillery, and was immediately posted to France to take part in the Somme offensive. The Brigade then moved to the Ypres Sector and in May 1917 he was promoted to Acting Captain. He won the Military Cross on the first day of the Battle of Messines (1917), for conspicuous gallantry in taking up observation posts in advanced and exposed positions, being slightly wounded but remaining at duty.
Moving to the Cambrai front he won the Victoria Cross for his gallantry on 10th April 1918. The citation which appeared in the London Gazette read as follows;
For most conspicuous bravery and skilful leadership in the field when in command of his battery. 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. Owing to Captain Dougall's personality and skilful leadership throughout this trying day there is no doubt that a serious breach in our line was averted. This gallant officer was killed four days later whilst directing the fire of his battery.
Four days after his heroics, on 14th April 1918, he was killed instantly by a shell while directing the fire of his battery. He was buried the following day in a small British cemetery at Westoure, some seven miles south-west of Ypres.
His name is commemorated in Dougall House, an officers’ residence building in Mumbai.
Dougall's grave at the Westoure Cemetery
A commemorative plaque at Dougall House, Mumbai.
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