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Lt Cdr Donald Cameron Douglas











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Lieutenant Donald Cameron Douglas, Royal Navy received a Mention in Dispatches for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds whilst serving in H.M.S. Electra, lost in action in the Java Sea on 27th February, 1942. (1)

Lt Douglas then appears to have transferred to HMS Stratagem, Commanded by Lt Cmdr Clifford Raymond Pelly DSC.

On 22nd November 1944, on a calm morning three miles southwest of Malacca, HMS Stratagem was at periscope depth and watched a patrol plane and a Japanese destroyer. It was later established that a reconnaissance aircraft of the Japanese Navy had spotted and reported HMS Stratagem. At 12:10, the order was given dive. For four minutes, the crew listened in silence to the echoes as the destroyer which approached. Almost immediately, a grenade exploded underwater very close to the submarine, hitting the bow, plunging it into darkness. Five seconds later, a second explosion occurred and the first compartments began to be fill with water.

Attempts to close the locks (watertight doors?) were a failure and the crew was forced to abandon ship. Of the 48 crew, only 7 crew members survived the attack. They were captured, separated and sent to Japanese prison camps in Singapore. Only two survived and were released in September 1945; Lieutenant Donald Cameron Douglas, responsible diving and launching torpedoes, who was later to later write a detailed report of the loss of HMS Stratagem, and Michael Mills (who later published the report of Lieutenant Douglas).

Donald Douglas married Philippa Charlotte Norris c1943. In their obituary, they are described as beloved parents of Caroline, James and Sarah. However, they lost two of their sons in their childhood (one at a few months old and the second son at the age of 12). The surviving son (?James) died at 49 years of age, not long after his parents death (?2007).

Philippa died on 20th February 2006 and Donald a day later.


1.  I have not found him listed with the survivors of the Electra which was sunk on that day. Electra had been involved in rescuing passengers from the Athenia, the first ship to be sunk in the war, and the three men who survived the sinking of HMS Hood.
2.  LIEUTENANT-COLONEL DAVID HUNTER, who has died aged 81 (in 2001), was one of the youngest officers to be imprisoned in Colditz during the Second World War. In 1950 he won an MC during service in Malaya.
His release from Colditz was followed by a brief re-training period, after which he was posted to Berlin as OC Royal Marines. "They must have been crazy," he later recalled. "I was still in turmoil, and Germany was the last place to send me." He was soon posted back to Britain.
Shortly afterwards, he was posted to the aircraft carrier Illustrious where he met a young naval lieutenant, Donald Douglas, who had been a PoW of the Japanese. Agreeing, after several drinks, that the Illustrious did not seem to be a happy ship, they decided to approach its rather grim Captain, introduce themselves, and tell him they would not stand any nonsense. They tapped on the cabin door and entered. "Look, Sir," Hunter began, "we're here to tell you that we've both been b******d about as PoWs and we're not having any of it in peacetime!"
Douglas held his breath in horror, but to his surprise the Captain replied, "All right, I hear you. Dismiss!". At the end of his tour of duty, the Captain sent for them both and said, "Lucky for you on the first day we met that I was reading a book on how to deal with ex-PoWs, or your fate might have been different."
3.  Daily Telegraph 2006: Lt Cdr Donald Cameron (RN Retd) and Philippa Charlotte (née Norris) of Billingshurst, West Sussex. Philippa - on 20th February after a determined and uncompromising battle with cancer, shortly followed by Donald, after a recent stroke; both at St Richard's Hospital, Chichester. Together for 63 years through all adversity: death could not separate them. Beloved parents of Caroline, James and Sarah. Funeral at St Mary's Church, Billingshurst, on Wednesday 1st March at 2.30 p.m. No flowers, donations to Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Cancer Research UK or Macmillan Cancer Relief. Inquiries to Freeman Brothers 01403 254590.
4.  There is a Donald who was a brother of James, Diana and Jean, all children of Professor James Archibald Douglas, himself the grandson of James Douglas (1811-1868), of Stranraer, Scotland.  I am not sure that the dates are correct for this Donald Cameron Douglas.

Report on the loss of HMS Statagem (pdf) Includes details of his time as a POW.

Research note:
1.  Is there a connection with Commander Hugh Donald Cameron Douglas?

See also:
•  Douglas of Old headington family tree


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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024