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Private William Douglas

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Published : 1 Article
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Date of Birth : N/A
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Douglas, William I Private Douglas l, soldier. Born in Lanarkshire; by trade a joiner. In 1845, at age eighteen, enlisted, in Dublin, in 1st Dragoons, transferring the following year to 10th Royal Hussars; served with that regiment in Ireland, England, India, the Crimea, and thereafter again in England. Twice promoted to corporal; on each occasion reduced to the ranks. On several occasions, from 1857 to 1861, forfeited regular pay by reason of absence; also forfeited good conduct pay. In 1858, at Aldershot, recorded as among "Soldiers in Confinement for Military and Civil Offences"; recorded confined in guard room and in military prison. In 1865, after twenty years' service, discharged at own request, in Cahir, Ireland, with rank of private (Muster Rolls, Public Record Office, London. Court-martial records not seen).




      Author of Soldiering in Sunshine and Storm, 1865, an account of his regiment in India and in the Crimea and its return to England; Horse-Shoeing As It Is and As It Should Be, 1873; Duelling Days in the Army, 1887. On title page of Duelling Days, recorded himself as author of three Historical Records – one of the Household Cavalry, one of the 10th Royal Hussars, and one of H.M. 27th Foot. His "Historical Records" of the 10th Royal Hussars appeared (unsigned) in United Service Magazine, Feb. 1874–Jan. 1876; in last instalment, stated that he hoped to publish the "Records" in book form in spring of 1876; apparently did not do so. The other two "Records" probably published also in a periodical.
      The H.W. article assigned to Douglas ["In a Military Prison" XIX, 230-37. Feb. 5, 1859] is a detailed account of life in a military prison (not named, but indicated to be in southern England) to which the writer was sentenced (no date given) for forty-two days for "a breach of one of the many Articles of War." It is a criticism of courts-martial, which are "only a matter of form," of over severity of punishment, of prison discipline with its "harassing" labour and its "torture" of solitary confinement. Editorial comment prefaced to the article stated that it was written by a "Private Soldier" and explained: "We do not adopt his opinions, but we give him the opportunity of expressing them"; the comment did concede that "Dietary and Labour" in military prisons were "too severe." Payment for the 13½-col. article recorded as £3.3.0 – a fraction of the standard payment for an article of that length.
      In 1861 Douglas contributed to A.Y.R. the article "Lost in the Jungle" (Oct. 19), reprinted, with Dickens's permission, in Soldiering in Sunshine and Storm. Dickens had a copy of the book in his library (Stonehouse, Catalogue).
      In 1876 Douglas again submitted an article to A.Y.R. (he may have submitted others in the meantime). Charles Dickens, Jr., wrote to him, Sept. 13, that the "interesting paper on military law" was too long for acceptance as Douglas had written it; he suggested Douglas's shortening it and at the same time arranging the material so as to admit of the paper's being published in two parts (A.Y.R. Letter-Book). "Military Law. From the Point of View of a Private Soldier" appeared in A.Y.R. Nov. 18. It is a criticism of the "system" that makes impossible a soldier's having justice done him; it recounts instances of courts-martial weighted against the soldier, unfairly conducted, and marked by overseverity of sentence and punishment. Editorially, "Military Law" fared much as had Douglas's H.W. article. It was published in A.Y.R., stated the prefatory comment, "as a genuine contribution to the discussion of a question of national interest and importance," but "the Conductor of this Journal" wished it understood that he did "not bind himself to an agreement, in all particulars, with the views and opinions expressed."
                                  AIlibone

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971 

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