Private Henry Douglas



Henry Douglas was born on 26 January 1882 at Larne Street, Ballymena, one of at least eight children of stonemason Henry Douglas and his wife Sarah (nee Carson). By 1901 he was living with his family at 18 Wavney Road, Ballymena and working as a shopkeeper.

In September 1901 he and his cousin William left for South Africa. Family recollections and later media reports hold that he served in the Boer War, probably with the 133rd or 134th Irish Horse Company, 29th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry, which were raised in Ulster in 1901. It appears that he remained in South Africa after the war, only returning home when or shortly before the Great War began in 1914.


Belfast Weekly Times 14 September 1901


Douglas enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron between 2 and 26 October 1914 (No. UD/58 – later Corps of Dragoons No. D/21229).

The squadron had been created at Enniskillen at the beginning of the war to play the role of divisional cavalry for the 36th (Ulster) Division. Just before the Division embarked for France, its senior officers sourced a large number of their orderlies from the Inniskillings squadron – as many as thirty men. Private Douglas was one of these, and was assigned as orderly to general staff officer Wilfrid Spender.

Douglas embarked for France with Spender and the Division's headquarters on 3 October 1915.

He served in this capacity throughout the war. The correspondence between Spender and his wife includes many references to Private Douglas and his groom William Magill (another Inniskilling Dragoon), and it is clear that he had some affection for the man and appreciated his work.

Typical of his comments, for example, he wrote that "Douglas in spite of his quiet manner is a typical Irishman and kindles at the least spark."

After the Armistice, at the end of January 1919 Douglas left France for home. Spender had earlier written that "I shall feel rather lost when [Magill] and Douglas go ...[and] I am not at all sure that they will not rather miss their present life".

Douglas was transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 5 March 1919.


Just before leaving for France in 1915 Douglas had married Mina Craig at Belfast. Their child Henry, born in July 1917, later emigrated to Australia. Another child, Woodrow Craig, born in July 1920, was killed in 1943 when the submarine HMS Tigris was sunk in the Mediterranean.


Douglas's cousin William also served in the war, in the 3rd South African Infantry. He was captured at Delville Wood on 19 July 1916, spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner.


Ballymena Observer 25 August 1916


Henry Douglas died on 4 August 1962 at his residence at 4 Breda Park, Belfast.


Image, press clippings and some of the information above kindly provided by his grandson, Rob Douglas.