Doctor Campbell Mellis Douglas

Doctor Campbell Mellis Douglas

Campbell Mellis Douglas was born in Grosse Île, Québec, on August 5, 1840, and educated at St. John's College and Laval University. He later attended the Edinburgh School of Medicine, where he received his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1861, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Douglas joined the British Medical Service in 1862 and was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot at Rangoon (also known as Yangon), in Burma. By 1867, he had risen to the rank of major.

Douglas was serving as Assistant Surgeon in charge of a party of four privates of the 2/24th Regiment (now known as the South Wales Borderers), who were involved in a rescue at sea during a storm.

"For the very gallant and daring manner in which, on the 7th of May, 1867, they risked their lives in manning a boat and proceeding through a dangerous surf to the rescue of some of their comrades, who formed part of an expedition which had been sent to the Island of Little Andaman, by order of the Chief Commissioner of British Burmah, with the view of ascertaining the fate of the Commander and seven of the crew of the ship 'Assam Valley,' who had landed there, and were supposed to have been murdered by the natives.

The officer who commanded the troops on the occasion reports : 'About an hour later in the day, Dr. Douglas, 2nd Battalion, 24th Regiment, and the four Privates referred to, gallantly manning the second gig, made their way through the surf almost to the shore, but finding their boat was half filled with water, they retired. A second attempt made by Dr. Douglas and party proved successful, five of us being safely passed through the surf to the boats outside. A third and last trip got the whole of the party left on shore safe to the boats.

It is stated that Dr. Douglas accomplished these trips through the surf to the shore by no ordinary exertion. He stood in the bows of the boat, and worked her in an intrepid and seamanlike manner, cool to a degree, as if what he was then doing was an ordinary act of every-day life. The four Privates behaved in an equally cool and collected manner, rowing through the roughest surf when the slightest hesitation or want of pluck on the part of any one of them would have been attended by the gravest results. It is reported that seventeen officers and men were thus saved from what must otherwise have been a fearful risk, if not certainty of death."

- Victoria Cross citation, The London Gazette, December 17, 1867

The 24th Regiment Badge

Douglas later achieved the rank of lieutenant-colonel and served on the Northwest Frontier in India. He retired from the British military in 1882 and settled in Lakefield, Ontario, opening a private practice. He married and raised four children. He was recruited for service as a medical officer during the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, where he further distinguished himself, arriving in time to treat the wounded from the May 3 Battle of Fish Creek and caring for the soldiers wounded during the Battle of Batoche, on May 14.

Campbell Mellis Douglas retired to England in 1894, and died at Hollington, Somerset, on December 30, 1909.

For the actions which earned him the Victoria Cross, Douglas was also awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Humane Society. His medals are in the collection of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.

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