Douglas Herman CANNAN


CANNAN, Douglas Herman

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 23 September 1914, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: 15th Infantry Battalion
Born: Townsville, Queensland, 14 April 1880
Home Town: Chelmer, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Townsville Central State School, Brisbane Grammar School
Occupation: Manager Fish Market Board
Died: Killed in Action, Gallipoli, 8 August 1915, aged 35 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Brisbane Grammar School Memorial Library WW1 Honour Board 1, Corinda Sherwood Shire Roll of Honor, Graceville War Memorial, Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing, Marburg Church Altar Plaque, United Service Club
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World War 1 Service

23 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Captain, Brisbane, Queensland
22 Dec 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 15th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
22 Dec 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Captain, 15th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ceramic, Melbourne
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 15th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
11 Jul 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Major, 15th Infantry Battalion
8 Aug 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 15th Infantry Battalion, The August Offensive - Lone Pine, Suvla Bay, Sari Bair, The Nek and Hill 60 - Gallipoli

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Douglas Cannan was one of six children born to John Kearsey Cannan and Elizabeth Christian Cannan. Douglas’s father was a bank manager. Soon after Douglas’s birth in Townsville in April 1880, the family moved to Brisbane and settled at “Leswell” Chelmer. Douglas like his brothers attended Central Boys State School and then Brisbane Grammar. Service was obviously something that was instilled in the Cannan boys from a young age. Douglas and his younger brother James both received commissions in the 9th Infantry Regiment (Citizens Forces) in 1904. Both continued to serve as part time officers until the outbreak of war.

At the time of his enlistment, Douglas was 34 years old, single and employed as the secretary and manager of the Queensland Fish Marketing Board. He was commissioned as a Captain in the 15th Battalion in command of “D” Company. The Battalion Commander was Douglas’s younger brother James.

The 15th battalion would form part of the 4th Brigade AIF under Brigadier John Monash. The battalion travelled to Sydney where they embarked on the “Ceramic” on 22nd December 1915 and arrived in Alexandria on 31st January 1915.

The 4th brigade went ashore at Gallipoli late in the afternoon of the 25th April and immediately moved from the beach up a gully (Monash Gully) to a precarious position on the heights which eventually bore the name of an officer of the 15th; Quinn’s Post. The 15th remained on Gallipoli holding the line at Quinn’s for the next month. On 1st June, Douglas was evacuated to Lemnos with tonsillitis and rejoined his company ten days later. Douglas was promoted to Temporary Major on the 11th July.

Birdwood, the British Commander at Anzac, was under some pressure to secure a breakthrough to the heights above the beach-head. The ultimate goal was the commanding hill named Chunuk Bair and in early August, a series of coordinated attacks was planned to drive the Turks from the high ground.  The first of these offensives (a diversion really) was the attack on Lone Pine (where Albert Jacka won the first Australian Victoria Cross) followed by a second landing of British troops at Suvla. The main offensive was planned for the northern sector of the Anzac beachhead which entailed an advance at night along the beach before turning inland to scale a series of ridges towards the heights of Hill 971 also known as Sari Bair. The 4th Brigade would be part of this action on 8th August.

As was often the case at Anzac, the planning did not live up to expectations and the 4th Brigade soon found themselves lost in the dark in a bewildering tangle of gullies; primarily due to a reliance on Greek guides rather than the maps which had been issued. It was soon apparent that no advance could be made and the Battalion Commander of the 15th, Lieutenant Colonel James Cannan ordered a withdrawal. The battalion war diary records that during the 8th August, eight officers were wounded and eight officers were missing. Among the missing was Douglas Cannan.

The official records indicate that Douglas was listed as Wounded and Missing. The August offensives were a failure all round and the Anzac front settled into a stalemate which was eventually ended with the withdrawal of all forces in December.

Back in Egypt; investigations were conducted into the fate of Douglas Cannan. Conflicting statements from witnesses variously reported that Douglas had been captured, that he had been shot and left behind when the battalion withdrew, and even one witness who stated that he had attended Douglas’s burial. The final determination was that Douglas had been killed in action and probably “buried by the Turks.” The findings were relayed to Headquarters signed by Douglas’s younger brother, James.

Douglas’s personal effects (which in the case of officers included all uniform items) were eventually returned to the family in Chelmer. His eldest brother, John K. Cannan (jnr); a solicitor with his own firm in the city handled the winding up of Douglas’s estate. Douglas had named his elder sister, Catherine as sole executor.

When the Imperial War Graves Commission returned to Gallipoli in 1919, no trace of Douglas Cannan could be found. He is commemorated on the Australian Memorial at Lone Pine. Douglas, as a Grammar old boy, is also commemorated in the “Golden Book” at Brisbane Grammar.

Douglas’s brother, James, who went on to serve on the Western Front and subsequently as Quarter Master General during World War 2 applied for the Gallipoli Medallion on behalf of Douglas in 1967.

Courtesy of

Ian Lang

Mango Hill