G P DOUGLASS MEMORIAL AWARD

For a number of years the WH Pincott Club has been presenting Year 12 rowers with a small gift thanking them for their contribution to GGS Rowing. In 2017 the decision was made to reinstate the "GP Douglass Memorial Award" - after the award of the same name was gifted between 1920 and 1957.

Our thanks to the Officer Family from Warrnambool who are descendants of the Douglass family. Our gift to all Year 12 rowers now has a very special meaning.

The story of Lieut. George Percival Douglass MC (1896-1918) is one of a life tragically cut short by war. Sadly, it is not a unique story. WW1 claimed the lives of more than 60,000 Australians, with many more wounded or permanently disabled. Many of these men, including G P Douglass, enlisted during or shortly after secondary school. More than one hundred years later, the sacrifice made by these men is still felt strongly. Geelong Grammar School commemorates the lives of those who went to war in various ways, including plaques on the war memorial and stained glass windows in the Chapel. The story of one man, G P Douglass, in many ways symbolises the sacrifice made by many Old Geelong Grammarians.

G P Douglass The Student

George Percival Douglass was the only son of Henry Percival Douglass (OGG) and Enid Mary Douglass (nee Webster). He was born in Geelong and attended GGS from 1909 to 1914. He was a house prefect of Perry House, played 1st XVIII Football from 1912 to 1914 and was the 1914 Swimming Champion.
He rowed 3 Seat in the 1913 1st VIII and 5 Seat in the victorious 1914 1st VIII. (The 1914 Crew was the first GGS crew to win the Head of the River in an eight-oared boat).

GP Douglass army pic

G P Douglass The Soldier

He enlisted (along with a number of his crew mates) in the Australian Imperial Force on 20 August 1914, aged 18, while still at school. He went to Broadmeadows Camp before being shipped out to Egypt on 21 October 1914 with the 5th Battalion, 1st Division, A.I.F., arriving in Egypt in early December. It is difficult to imagine what it would have been like for young Australians, many of whom would have never left their home state, finding themselves in a foreign and hostile land far away from home. However, his time in Egypt was cut short by illness. He was admitted to hospital on the 13 March 1915 with acute Rheumatism (pain in joints and muscles) and after spending three months in an Egyptian hospital he returned home to Australia in July. He was discharged as medically unfit in December 1915.

With continued desire to help King and Country, he again sailed to England after Christmas in 1915 and enlisted in the Royal Field Army (RFA). The RFA provided medium calibre artillery support, including Howitzers. George was accepted into the RFA (157th Brigade), and was deployed to France in July 1916. By late 1917 George was reported to be suffering from “gas throat”, and had lost his voice, probably the result of poisoning from chlorine gas. This possibly occurred during The Battle of the Somme (July - November 1916) which saw extensive use of chlorine gas. Chlorine gas was one of several gases used by both the Germans and British throughout the war.The use of chemical weapons in war was eventually outlawed under the Geneva Protocol of 1925.

GP Douglass grave stone

In August 1917 George was sent to complete a gunnery course in Amiens, a city in Northern France on the banks of the Somme, in order to recover from gas poisoning.

In early 1918 George was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, continuing to serve in France. In July 1918 his name appeared in the Supplement to the London Gazette in a list of citations for the Military Cross:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer carried out long reconnaissances [sic] in and beyond the front line infantry during daylight along a wide front, He sent back valuable information, which was only obtained at great personal risk.

He was critically wounded on 24 of August 1918 while trying to help a fallen gunner. He died the following day and was buried at Arneke British Cemetery, just outside the town of Cassel in northern France.

He is commemorated at the School on the war memorial plaque and the G P Douglass window in the Chapel. The School was also recently presented with the generous gift of a ceramic poppy from the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London (2014). This gift was made by Sheila Miskin (nee Scott) to commemorate the life of her uncle ‘Geordie’.

The G P Douglass Memorial Award

On December 6th 1920, Mr and Mrs H P Douglass donated £200 (just shy of two years school fees at GGS in 1920) to the School, in order for a presentation to be made annually of a trophy award named after their son, to all the members of the First VIII.

As far as we know, this memorial award was given from 1920 through to 1957. Initially, a small oar was presented, followed by a medallion. On at least one occasion a silver napkin ring was awarded.

The G.P. Douglass Oar, awarded annually to the crew and cox who represented the School in the Race for the Head of the River, was inaugurated by the purchasing of Peace Bonds by his parents, Mr and Mrs H.P. Douglass. A window in All Saints’ Chapel, Corio, commemorated the life of G.P. Douglass and his father, Henry Percival Douglass. It was unveiled by the Hon. Donald Mackinnon on Monday, 10th November 1930, the left glass contains a figure of Bishop Patterson, who was killed by natives in the Melanesian Islands, and the right that of Dr. Livingstone. Both men are wearing their everyday clothing and are surrounded by natives. The colouring and expressions are particularly fine, in the background of both glasses are trees and water - the blue of the Pacific and the green of the palms.

- Extract from “Geelong Grammarians at the Great War” by James (Bim) Affleck (Cu'67)
Photos courtesy of the Officer Family

Medals that would have been received by G P Douglass for his military service (photo: Drew Ryan):

GP-Douglass-medals

Napkin ring, miniature oar and commemorative medallion gifted to Year 12 rowers between 1920-57:

GP Douglass memorial napkin ring GP Douglass memorial oar GP Douglass memorial medallion

Above text contains excerpts from an exhibition curated by Geoff Laurenson (Geelong Grammar School Archivist) in April 2017