Alfred Lionel DOUGLAS

DOUGLAS, Alfred Lionel

Service Numbers: 3032, 3032A
Enlisted: 24 August 1915, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 48th Infantry Battalion
Born: Sialkot, Punjab, India , 30 December 1893
Home Town: Sherwood, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Nottingham CofE School
Occupation: Locomotive Fireman
Died: Killed in Action, France, 8 August 1916, aged 22 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France, Serre Road Cemetery No 2, Beaumont Hamel, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Corinda Sherwood Shire Roll of Honor, Graceville War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

24 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 3032, Brisbane, Queensland
30 Dec 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3032, 26th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
30 Dec 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 3032, 26th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Itonus, Brisbane
9 Mar 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 48th Infantry Battalion
8 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3032A, 48th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

When completing the Roll of Honour Circular in 1920, Mrs Amy Douglas of Mary Street, Sherwood reported that her son, Alfred, had been born in Silkot, Punjab, India. She stated he attended school in Nottingham, England and had qualifications in railway construction and marine engineering. By the time of his enlistment on 24th August 1915, Alfred was 22 years old and employed as a fireman on the railways. Alfred’s father had died in 1910 and as a dutiful son, Alfred allotted four fifths of his pay to his mother.

Alfred was drafted as a reinforcement for the 26th Battalion and embarked on the “Itonus” in Brisbane on 30th December 1915. While the ship was waiting to take on West Australian reinforcements in Fremantle, Alfred went AWL for 26 hours and was fined 2 days pay.

By the time Alfred arrived in Egypt, the entire Australian force had been evacuated from Gallipoli and was in the process of doubling its size, by creating two new infantry divisions to supplement the two that had been on Gallipoli. Rather than joining the 26th Battalion, Alfred was transferred to the 48th Battalion on 9th March. The 48th was predominantly a West Australian battalion and there were so many members of the 48th from the Leane family (including the battalion commander) that the battalion was referred to as the Joan of Arc Battalion (Maid of Orleans; made of all Leanes). The 48th was part of the newly created 4th Division AIF.

After brigade training in Egypt the 48th embarked for France; arriving in Marseilles on 19th June. Like all of the newly arrived Australian battalions, the 48th travelled by train to Hazebrouk where they were billeted. The battalion war diary for the remainder of the month is primarily concerned with the weather (it was wet) and the tardiness in receiving officer reinforcements from ANZAC Corps.

On 1st July 1916, Haig (Supreme British Commander on the Western Front) launched the Somme offensive. Casualties were enormous but Haig was determined to keep up the pressure. Three of the four Australian divisions in France were deployed to the Somme. The Australians were to go into their first major action at Pozieres and the 1st and 2nd Divisions were put into the line in late July. After these two divisions had exhausted themselves in gaining the high ground above the village, the 4th Division was brought up to defend the ground captured.

Pozieres is renowned for the intensity of the artillery barrages laid down by the German defenders; and the 48th Battalion was to suffer the most of any of the Australian units. Between the 5th and the 7th August, the 48th suffered 598 casualties (out of a nominal strength of 950); over 100 of which were killed with the rest wounded. At the roll call on the 8th August after being pulled out of the line; apart from the casualties listed above, there were 76 missing. Among the missing was Alfred Douglas.

Red Cross Wounded and Missing reports failed to point definitively to Alfred’s fate, and there was even a search of prisoner of war records to see if he had been captured. It was not until a court of inquiry was held in early 1917 that Alfred was officially listed as Killed in Action. The authorities were tardy in providing the necessary death certificates to Alfred’s mother which prompted her to write to Base Records; in addition to two letters from Mutual Life Assurance with a similar request. Amy Douglas’s circumstances no doubt made her rather dependant on the income that would come from the life policy as well as the war gratuity and a war widow’s pension.

As late as 1927, the imperial War Graves Commission was writing to Amy to inform her that searches of the battlefield had failed to uncover her son’s remains. In 1933, The Australian Government resolved to erect a lasting memorial to all the Australians who had fallen in France and had no known grave. The Australian National Memorial at Villers Bretonneux across the Somme from Pozieres was officially dedicated by King George VI in 1938. Alfred Douglas is commemorated on the memorial tablets with some 10,000 others at Villers Bretonneux.

Courtesy of Ian Lang

Mango Hill