Douglas, Rev. James (Jimmy)
Mentioned in Despatches
Chaplain 4th Class
No. 244123, Royal Army Chaplains’ Department (RACD) attached
5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment
Killed on active service on Saturday 5 August 1944 (aged 34)
Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery, Calvados, France (Grave VII. C. 3)
Museum of Army Chaplaincy, Amport House, Andover, Hampshire
Wesley College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin
Colebrook (Aghalurcher) Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Ronan’s)
Family grave headstone in Clones Graveyard
The death of Chaplain 4th Class James Douglas (No. 244123) was reported in the 19 August 1944 edition of the County Down Spectator and there was a death notice in the 17 August 1944 edition of the Belfast News-Letter.
James Douglas was born on 9 March 1910 at 12 South Parade, Waterford and he was the second son of John and Kathleen Douglas (nee Walshe, sometimes Walsh) who were married on 10 August 1904 in Trinity Church of Ireland Cathedral, Waterford. John Douglas, a teacher who was born in County Antrim and was living at 14 Beresford Street, Waterford, was a son of John Douglas, a Superintendent of Fishery. Kathleen Walshe, a teacher who was born in Dublin and was living at 32 William Street, Waterford, was a daughter of William Walshe, a commercial traveller. After they were married, the Douglas family lived at 12 South Parade, Waterford. Both John and Kathleen Douglas (nee Walshe) were National School Teachers and they had three children:
John Henry (born 10 July 1905 at 12 South Parade, Waterford)
James (born 9 March 1910 at 12 South Parade, Waterford)
Kenneth Malcolm (born 11 June 1914; died of enteritis 29 August 1914)
James Douglas was educated at Newtown School in Waterford (a co-educational school run by a Board of Management but owned by the Religious Society of Friends); at Wesley College Dublin and at Trinity College Dublin where he studied Theology. James Douglas enjoyed swimming, water polo and rugby at Trinity and he represented the College on the rugby field.
James Douglas obtained a BA degree from Trinity College Dublin in 1932 and entered Holy Orders. He was a Curate in Magheralin Parish Church of Ireland Church, Co. Armagh from 1933 until 1938 when he went to Colebrook Parish Church as Curate-in-Charge.
On 25 April 1935 James Douglas and Annie Hildegarde (Hilda) Harte were married in Wesley Centenary Methodist Church, Hamilton Road, Bangor. Hilda Harte, who was born on 12 April 1907 in South Circular Road, Dublin was a daughter of the Rev. Frederick Edward Harte MA and Annie Humphreys Harte (nee Guard) who were married on 4 July 1899 in Abbey Street Methodist Church Dublin. Frederick Edward Harte, a Methodist Minister and, for a time, President of the Irish Methodist Conference, was a son of Edward Harte, a Wesleyan Minister. Annie Guard was a daughter of Wesley Guard, also a Methodist Minister. The Rev. Frederick Edward Harte’s five sisters (Hilda’s aunts) founded Glenlola School in Bangor in 1897 – Millicent Anne (Headmistress), Charlotte Alicia (art teacher), Ruby Martha (chemistry teacher), Edith Hunter and Mabel.
At the outbreak of the Second World War the Rev. James Douglas was Curate-in-Charge in Colebrook (Aghalurcher) Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Ronan’s), Co. Fermanagh and, in September 1942, he joined the Army Chaplains’ Department. After initial training in Omagh, followed by Padre Training in England for two years, James Douglas went to France in June 1944 where he served with the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department (RACD) attached to the 5th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment in 129th Brigade of the 43rd Division.
Chaplain 4th Class James Douglas (No. 244123) arrived in Normandy some two weeks after the D-Day Landings on 6 June 1944 (Operation Neptune) and he ministered to the soldiers in his Regiment during the subsequent heavy fighting in the Battle of Normandy (Operation Overlord).
Chaplain 4th Class James Douglas (No. 244123) was 34 when he was killed by shellfire around 10.00 pm on Saturday 5 August 1944 while his Regiment was taking up position to make an advance on Mont Pincon, the highest point in Calvados, Normandy. He was climbing out of a truck at a newly established Regimental Aid Post (RAP) beside a crossroads near Duval and was killed instantaneously when the truck sustained a direct hit.
It is interesting to note that James Douglas’s father had died on 27 July 1944, in Clones, Co. Cavan and James would have been entitled to return home on compassionate leave at that time. As he made clear in a letter written to his wife Hilda on 3 August 1944 (two days before his death), James Douglas declined the opportunity to come home, in order to remain with the soldiers fighting at the Front who needed his spiritual support.
The Rev. James Douglas left a widow and three young children – Anne (aged 8) and twins James and Mary (aged 5). When their father died, they were living with their mother in Sheridan Lodge, Helen’s Bay, Co. Down. In a letter to Hilda Douglas, James’s widow, the Rev. Ivan Neill (Senior Army Chaplain) described ‘Jimmy’ as ‘a hero and a saint’.
James Douglas’s distinguished service was recognised in the Battalion Field Obituary, in Regimental Histories and by a mention in despatches in the London Gazette on 22 March 1945.
Chaplain 4th Class James Douglas (No. 244123) was originally buried in an orchard on a farm close to the crossroads where he was killed (the CWGC map reference for the grave was ‘Near Duval, France, Sheet 7F/3, 1/50,000, grid reference 795449).
Later, his body was exhumed and reinterred in Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery, Calvados, France (Grave VII. C. 3). There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
I THANK MY GOD
UPON EVERY REMEMBRANCE
Chaplain 4th Class James Douglas (No. 244123) is commemorated in the Museum of Army Chaplaincy, Amport House, Andover, Hampshire; in Wesley College Dublin; in Trinity College Dublin; in Colebrook (Aghalurcher) Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Ronan’s) and on the Douglas family grave headstone in Clones Graveyard, Co. Cavan.