William 'Alec' Douglas

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Alec Alec Alec    Hector on Billy

William Alexander Binny "Alec" Douglas is a Canadian naval historian, who was Director, Directorate of History, National Defence Headquarters (Canada), 1973–1993, then Director General History, 1993–1994.

The son of Hector Douglas,  a British engineer working in Southern Rhodesia, and Phyllis Fernie, he was born in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia on 4th June 1929.

Douglas left as a youngster for England and after the outbreak of World War II was evacuated to Canada with other children during the "Blitz". Reaching college age while in Canada, he joined the Canadian University Naval Training Divisions to help finance his undergraduate education at the University of Toronto, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1951.

After training in HMCS Ottawa (DDH 229) and HMCS Swansea (K328) in 1951–1954, Douglas qualified for Lieutenant with the Royal Navy, then served as a watchkeeping officer in HMCS Quebec (C66), HMCS Penetang (K676), and HMCS Outremont (K322) between 1955 and 1957. He then served as navigating and operations officer in HMCS Ottawa (DDH 229) and HMCS Kootenay (DDE 258) in 1958–1960. Assigned to staff duty in 1960, he became navigation equipment and trials officer on the staff of Flag Officer, Atlantic Coast, then, as a lieutenant commander became squadron navigator and operations officer with the 7th Canadian Escort Squadron in 1961–1964. During this period, he earned a Master of Arts degree in history at Dalhousie University in 1962, with a thesis on “Halifax as an element of sea power, 1749–1766”. In 1964, he was posted as naval staff officer and associate professor of military studies at the Royal Military College of Canada. In 1967 he was assigned as an historian at the Directorate of History, National Defence Headquarters, in Ottawa. Promoted to commander in 1970, he became senior historian in the Directorate. During this period he completed graduate studies at Queen’s University under Sydney F. Wise, earning a Ph.D. in 1973 with a thesis on “Nova Scotia and the Royal Navy, 1713–1766”. After retiring from active service in 1973, he was appointed Director, Directorate of History, National Defence Headquarters, serving until 1993, becoming Director General History, in 1993–1994.

Among his appointments, he was a member of the Public Service Commission Committee of Peers for the Canadian Government Historical Research Group, 1973–1994; National Commissioner, Canadian National Commission for Military History; Chairman, Canadian Commission for the History of the Second World war, 1973–1984; Vice President, 1976–1981, and Member of Council, North American Society for Oceanic History, 1973–1985; Director, Ontario Historical Society, 1975–1983; Secretary, 1984–1989, and President, 1990–1993, Canadian Nautical Research Society; Adjunct Professor, Carleton University, 1985– ; Visiting professor of history Duke University, 1988-1989, 2001-2002; Vice-President, International Commission for Maritime History, 1995-2000; Visiting Research Fellow, Clare Hall, Cambridge, 1996.>

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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024