No.6402 Private Sydney Victor McDougall
Sydney Victor McDougall was born in 1895 to Harry McDougall and Elizabeth Chipman. They had married at Warrnambool in 1879 and had eight children:
- Horace Whitehouse McDougall - born 1880 at Hotham West
- Elsa Elizabeth McDougall - born 1883 at Hotham
- Amy Louisa McDougall - born 1885 at Hotham
- Harry McDougall - born 1888 at Hotham
- Adelaide Victoria McDougall - born 1893 at Newport
- Gladys Isabel McDougall - born 1897 at Newport
- Sydney Victor McDougall - born 1895 at Newport
- Walter Chipman McDougall - born 1890 at Williamstown
Harry McDougall (Sydney’s father) worked with the Victorian Railways, and in 1901 he was a foreman in the car-building section at the Victorian Railways workshops at Newport.
Independent (Footscray), 28 September 1901, p.2.
He later took up a farm at Tarneit, and entered local government.
Prior to his enlisting, Sydney McDougall worked as a farm labourer at Balliang in Victoria, and had no previous military experience.
Two months after his 21st birthday, Sydney McDougall swore his oath at Geelong, and enlisted in the A.I.F., on 17 October 1916. His initial training consisted of a brief term with the 'A' Reserve Coy at Geelong, before being transferred to the Royal Park Camp in Melbourne. On 17 November 1916, he was appointed to the 18th Reinforcements for the 22nd Battalion.
Private Sydney McDougall embarked from Melbourne per HMAT Hororia on 23 November 1916, and sailed direct to England. They disembarked at Plymouth on 29 January 1917, and marched in to the 6th Training Battalion at Larkhill.
The Bacchus Marsh Express reported that “Sydney Victor McDougall, of Balliang, (son of Cr. H. McDougal, Tarneit) has sailed for the Front. Prior to his departure, the residents of Anakie and Balliang presented him with a medal and a safety razor.”
Bacchus Marsh Express, 2 December 1916, p.3.
After three months of further training at Larkhill, Sydney McDougall proceeded overseas, via Folkstone, to join the 22nd Battalion in France. He was taken on strength on 14 May 1917, when the Battalion were resting at Mametz, before relocating to Bouzaincourt.
The 22nd Battalion spent most of 1917 in the trenches from Bullecourt to Broodseinde in the Flanders region, and moved to the Somme Valley in 1918.
On 13 January 1918, the Battalion were scheduled to move to the front. They moved from Kortepyp No.2 Camp, and entrained at Connaught Siding at 3.30 p.m. on a Light Railway train, departing at 4 p.m. The Battalion relieved the 25th Battalion A.I.F. in the front line by 8 p.m. without incident, and remained on duty for nine days.
Private McDougall chose not to accompany his unit and remained behind at Kortepyp Camp. For that act he was subsequently charged at a Field General Court Martial held on 28 January 1918.
"...Charge – While on Active Service
Desertion, in that he failed to accompany his platoon to the front line at 2 p.m. on 13.1.18".
The Battalion were relieved from the front line on the 22 January 1918, and went to the Romarin Camp for a rest, dry clothes and a hot meal. Private McDougall returned to the battalion on the same day, and was arrested at 10 a.m. He was then charged on the 22 January 1918. He was found Guilty, and sentenced to 5 years Penal Servitude.
At his trial the following evidence was presented –
- His Platoon Sergeant, No.961, F G Girand, called the Platoon Roll at 1.30 p.m. on 13 January 1918, and accused was absent. He conducted a search but could not find him. He placed accused’s equipment in the Division Store, and didn’t see the accused again until 22 January 1918. On 12 January 1918 the Machine Gun Coy was fallen in. He had called the roll, and accused was present. The Company Commander had warned the Company that they would be proceeding to the forward area for duty in the Trenches.
- No.4786 Corporal R H Sutherland stated that he knew the accused. At about 11 a.m. on 13 January, the men were warned to pack up their equipment, and Private McDougall complied. After lunch they moved out of their huts, and accused's kit was left behind. It was later placed in the Q.M.'s Store. Accused was not in the line with the Coy. Their afternoon parade was at 3 o’clock, and accused was not present.
- No.1634, Company Sergeant Major R C Werrett, found the accused in the Company lines at about 10 a.m. on 22 January, and placed him under arrest.
- In his defence, Private McDougall stated when he first joined the Battalion he was put on the Lewis Gun. On 12 January 1918 they told him he was to be put off the gun. He thought that this was unfair as he had been on it since 14 May 1917. It had worried him, so he absented himself from the Coy, and didn’t go into the line. He hadn’t been away from the battalion since 14 May, and had been through the Flanders Battles in October. He hadn’t complained to any of his superiors, or asked why they had taken him off the gun.
For reasons not contained in his service record, Private McDougall’s sentence was suspended by Captain R S Hills, on behalf of the General Commanding the Fourth Army, on 22 February 1918. Three months later, on 20 May 1918, his Suspended Sentence was then remitted. It was signed by Brig General J Dalton, Commanding the 6th Australian Infantry Brigade.
On 17 July 1918, the Battalion were in the Aubigny System of the front area, and were subjected to a gas bombardment for three hours, saturating their area. The men wore their S.B.R.'s for a considerable time, and the affected area had to be evacuated. The sultry nature of the weather caused the gas to hang about, and after 72 hours the unit had lost 200 of its men, including the officers in charge of 'A' and 'B' Companies. The companies were so depleted that 'A' and 'B' Companies were amalgamated.
On 23 July 1918, the 22nd Battalion were near Villers Bretonneux when they were subjected to a heavy bombardment of Yellow X gas *, and 50 men were reported as being gassed. One of these was Private Sydney McDougall.
After receiving initial treatment in France, Private McDougall was invalided back to England on 9 August 1918, where he was admitted to the Grayling Well War Hospital in Chichester.
His wounding was reported in the Bacchus Marsh Express as "Sydney McDougall was reported as being “gassed", after two years’ on Active Service."
Bacchus Marsh Express, 24 August 1918, p.3.
There is no mention in his service record if he ever returned to France after being discharged from Hospital, but it is unlikely. After returning to England, the war only lasted another three months.
On 2 April 1919, while he was stationed at the Littlemoor Camp, Sydney McDougall married Margaret Ellen Gapper at Christ Church, West Fordington, Dorset, England. A copy of their Marriage Certificate is in his service file.
The couple then waited until 9 August 1919 when they were able to obtain a passage home per H.T. Ceramic. After a six week voyage, they disembarked at Melbourne on 27 September 1919, and Sydney was eventually discharged from the A.I.F., through the 3rd Military District on 21 December,1919.
Sydney and his wife Margaret then returned to farming in the Balliang area, and remained on the land until 1942.
Between 1949 and 1954 Sydney worked as a Mill Hand in Bacchus Marsh, and then he worked as a Storeman, until his death in 1980.
Medals and Entitlements:
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Name on the Werribee Shire Oak Board: “McDOUGALL, S. V.”
The name “McDougall, S.O., Newport” first appeared in the Roll of Honor, Werribee Shire Banner, 13 February 1919, p.3.
His name is on the Roll of Honour in the Bacchus Marsh R.S.L. Rooms.
S. V. McDougall has a tree planted in his honour in the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour – No.S178.
In August 1919, Mr Harry McDougall of Truganina (his father) nominated for a position as councillor on the Werribee Shire, and was subsequently elected.
* GAS - The main gas used by the Germans was Yellow Cross, and it was delivered via shrapnel shells. (Yellow Cross shells contained the feared mustard gas. Blue crosses contained arsenic, white crosses were phosgene, and green crosses were chlorine gas)
The Last Fifty Miles by Adam Wakeling, p.6. Penguin/Viking
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