Angus Falconer Douglas-Hamilton

Born at Brighton on 20th August 1863, Angus Douglas-Hamilton was the youngest son of Major-General Octavius Douglas-Hamilton and Katherine Macleod, and a great-great-grandson of Lieutenant-General James Douglas-Hamilton. He was educated at Foster's Naval Preparatory School, then privately by army tutors and latterly at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Having been commissioned as a Lieutenant into the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders on 23 August 1884, he served with the 1st Battalion during the latter stages of the Nile Expedition.

Douglas-Hamilton was promoted Captain on 7 December 1892, and from 1 February 1894 to 30 April 1899, he was Adjutant of the 6th Gordon Highlanders. During this period he married Anna Watson with whom he had one daughter, Camilla Beatrice. He returned to his former regiment serving with them on postings to Gibraltar, Malta, South Africa, North China, and India, and had attained the rank of Major by 1901. He retired in 1912.

In 1914, at the outbreak of the war, Douglas-Hamilton was 52 years old. Recalled, he was initially posted to Southampton where he served as Transport Officer. On 1 October 1914, he was give command of 6th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.

On 25 September 1915 during operations on Hill 70 at the Battle of Loos, the 15th (Scottish) Division were to attack on a 1500 yard frontage astride the Lens–Bethune and Vermelles–Loos Road redoubts. Once the redoubts and village of Loos had been captured, they were to then press home an attack on Hill 70 itself. Men from the 44th and 45th Brigades became diverted from their original direction by the fighting in Loos. On the eastern edge of the village there were a growing number of Scottish units that began to climb Hill 70, which resulted in the German defenders leaving the positions and retiring further back. The sight of the Germans fleeing spurred on the Scotsmen and about 900 crested the hill and began to advance down the bare and exposed side towards Cite St Laurent where the Germans were making ready to stand and fight. As the attackers got to within 300 yards they came under machine gun fire from the flanks and heavy rifle fire from their front. They were totally exposed but rather than finding whatever cover they could, they pressed home in short bursts only to discover the German wire uncut in long grass. The 45th Brigade, the Division’s reserve, had moved up to the old British front line to support the original attack on Cite St Auguste, but urgent requests for assistance from the 46th Brigade, for support to their left flank came in after it had become exposed due to the failure of the 1st Division to advance.

6th Cameron Highlanders went forward and formed a defensive flank from Chalet Wood to Chalk Pit Wood. They held Chalet Wood overnight, but were driven out. Douglas-Hamilton led his men back into the wood again and again, until only 50 were left. Hit, he said ‘I’m done’, but bandaged repeated ‘I must get up, I must get up’, and died. His battalion was almost entirely wiped out.

His VC citation reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when commanding his battalion during operations on the 25th and 26th September 1915, on Hill 70.  On the 26th, when the battalions on his right and left had retired, he rallied his own battalion again and again, and led his men forward four times.  The last time he led all that remained, consisting of about fifty men, in a most gallant manner, and was killed at their head.  It is mainly due to his bravery, untiring energy, and splendid leadership that the line at this point was enabled to check the enemy’s advance.”

(London Gazette 18th November 1915.)

His body was recovered in January 1916, the grave subsequently lost to shellfire, and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, although in 2013 it was reported that his remains had been found.