Douglas Graham (British Army officer)

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Douglas Graham
Graham DAH.jpg
Born (1893-03-26)26 March 1893
Brechin, Angus, Scotland[1]
Died 28 September 1971(1971-09-28) (aged 78)
Brechin, Angus, Scotland
Buried Glasgow Necropolis, Glasgow, Scotland
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1913–1947
Rank Major General
Unit Royal Field Artillery
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
Commands held British Land Forces Norway (1945)
50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (1944–45)
56th (London) Infantry Division (1943)
153rd Infantry Brigade (1940–43)
27th Infantry Brigade (1940)
2nd Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (1937–40)
Battles/wars First World War
1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine
Second World War
Awards Companion of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches (4)
Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)
Officer of the Legion of Honour (France)
Croix de guerre (France)
Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav

Major General Douglas Alexander Henry Graham, CB, CBE, DSO & Bar, MC, DL (26 March 1893 – 28 September 1971) was a senior British Army officer who fought with distinction in both world wars. He is most notable during the Second World War for being the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 56th (London) Infantry Division during the Salerno landings in September 1943 and the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division during the D-Day landings in June 1944.

Early life and military career[edit]

Born the youngest of three children on 26 March 1893, the son of Mungo MacDougal Graham and Margaret Lyall Murray, Graham, after attending The Glasgow Academy and the University of Glasgow,[2]was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the 3rd Lowland Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, Territorial Force (TF), on 26 September 1911,[3] but he resigned his commission on 25 September 1912.[4] After attending the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he was granted a commission in the Regular Army, again as a second lieutenant, on 17 September 1913, in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), and was posted to the 1st Battalion.[5][6]

Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, which occurred in August 1914, Graham was promoted to lieutenant,[7] and he was serving as a platoon commander in 'D' Company of the 1st Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Philip Robertson, which soon became part of the 19th Brigade, when it was sent to the Western Front as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). After participating in the retreat from Mons, on 22 October 1914, during the early stages of the First Battle of Ypres, Graham was involved in an action that would lead to Rifleman Henry May, in Graham's platoon, the award of the Victoria Cross (VC). Whilst in the La Boutillerie area of France, Lieutenant Graham was wounded in the leg. Rifleman May, ignoring orders from Graham to leave him, dragged him, under heavy fire, 300 yards to safety.[8] After recovering from his wounds, Graham was promoted to captain on 18 June 1916,[9] and was appointed a brigade major on 30 April 1917.[10] He was awarded the Military Cross (MC) in the 1918 New Year Honours.[11] He finished the war having also been mentioned in despatches and awarded the French Croix de guerre.[12][6][1]

Between the wars[edit]

The war came to an end on 11 November 1918 where, just under two weeks before, Graham's first son, Mungo Alan Douglas, was born on 29 October.[1] Graham relinquished his appointment as brigade major on 8 June 1919,[13] and returned to regimental duty on 11 January 1920.[14] From 30 October 1921 he was seconded to the Indian Army as an assistant military secretary.[15] He returned to the United Kingdom and attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1924–1925 where, among his many numerous students there were Noel Irwin, Daril Watson, Ivor Thomas, Clifford Malden, Cyril Durnford, Michael O'Moore Creagh, Thomas Riddell-Webster, James Harter, Sydney Wason, Langley Browning, Frederick Hyland, Otto Lund, Rufus Laurie, Gerald Fitzgerald, John Reeve, Vyvyan Pope, Robert Studdert, Noel Napier-Clavering, Alfred Godwin-Austen, Gerald Brunskill, Archibald Nye, George Lammie, Noel Beresford-Pierse, Gerald Gartlan, Geoffrey Raikes, Humfrey Gale, Guy Robinson and Lionel Finch.[1] All of these men would, like Graham, become general officers.[1] He was appointed a staff officer with the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division, a Territorial Army (TA) formation, from 19 February 1928.[16][17]

He was promoted to major on 16 December 1930,[18][1] and from 31 December 1930 to 18 February 1932 he was Deputy Assistant Adjutant & Quarter-Master General (DAA&QMG), Lowland Area, Scottish Command.[17][19] From 1 May 1932 to 30 April 1935 he was Officer Commanding (OC) the Cameronians regimental depot at Hamilton, South Lanarkshire.[6] In June 1937 he had been promoted lieutenant colonel,[20] and, shortly after the birth of his second son, John Murray Graham, on 7 June,[1] was given command of the 2nd Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).[6] The battalion was then stationed in Palestine on internal security duties during the Arab Revolt and returned to England in 1938, where it became part of the 13th Infantry Brigade, part of Major General Harold Franklyn's 5th Infantry Division at Catterick, Yorkshire.[21][6]

Second World War[edit]

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Graham led his battalion overseas to France, arriving there in mid-September as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).[22] Unlike in the First World War, there was no immediate action and the first few months of the "Phoney War" (as this period of time was to become known) were spent building defensive positions in expectation of a repeat of the trench warfare of 1914–1918.[22] In early April 1940 Graham returned to Scotland and was given command of the 27th Infantry Brigade, part of the 9th (Highland) Infantry Division, a second-line TA formation, with the acting rank of brigadier, and the substantive rank of colonel.[6][23] In August 1940 Graham's brigade changed its designation to the 153rd Infantry Brigade when the 9th Division was reformed as the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division after the original 51st Division was lost in June 1940 during the latter stages of the Battle of France.[22] The new division's first General Officer Commanding (GOC) was Major General Alan Cunningham, who was replaced in October by Major General Neil Ritchie, the latter being succeeded in June 1941 by Major General Douglas Wimberley, who, being a Cameron Highlander, was determined to keep the division commanded only by Highlanders.[22] Graham, being an officer of a Lowland regiment, was the one exception, with Wimberley believing him to be highly competent and Graham retained his position.[22] The next year was spent training, mainly in Scotland, in preparation for a move overseas.[22]

On 11 June 1942, shortly before the division left for North Africa, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in that year's King's Birthday Honours,[24] and on 14 January 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions on 2 November 1942 during the Second Battle of El Alamein.[22][25][26] Following Alamein he continued to command his brigade as it joined the campaign in Tunisia, he was involved in actions leading up to Operation Pugilist, in particular an attack on outposts of the Mareth Line on the night of 16/17 March, that and his performance up to the capture of Sfax won him a bar to his DSO.[27][28]

In May 1943 Graham was selected by General Sir Bernard Montgomery, the British Eighth Army commander, to be the new General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 56th (London) Infantry Division,[6] another TA formation, with the rank of acting major general,[29] after the division's former commander, Major General Eric Miles, was wounded. He initially commanded the 56th Division during its training in North Africa (for which he was mentioned in despatches),[30] and then for the landings at Salerno (codenamed Operation Avalanche) as part of the Allied invasion of Italy on 9 September 1943. Graham's division held off against several German counterattacks, suffering severe casualties, and, after breaking out of the Salerno beachhead, took part in the capture of Naples, which was liberated on 1 October, and then advanced to the line of the Volturno River. However, Graham was injured, via a broken shoulder, on 10 October when his jeep tumbled into a shell crater. During the landings and the subsequent Italian campaign, his division was part of Lieutenant General Richard McCreery's British X Corps, attached to the American Fifth Army, under the command of Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark. As a result of Graham's performance he was appointed a U.S. Commander of the Legion of Merit.[31][32] He became a temporary major-general on 14 May 1944.[33] His Italian service also led to him being appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) on 24 August 1944.[34]

General Sir Bernard Montgomery in conversation with Major General Douglas Graham, GOC 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, Normandy, 20 June 1944.

In January 1944, after returning to the United Kingdom and recovering from his injuries, he was given command of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, a highly experienced TA formation which had served with distinction in North Africa and Sicily.[35] On 6 June 1944 (D-Day) the division took part in the Allied invasion of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord, during the initial beach assault on Gold Beach, where he was again mentioned in despatches for his contributions to the campaign,[36] and made an Officer of the Legion of Honour.[37]The rank of major general was made substantive on 6 October 1944 (with seniority from 1 February).[38]

He returned to England with the 50th Division in November 1944, after taking part in the Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine and playing a supporting role during Operation Market Garden in September. The 50th Division was, due to a severe shortage of manpower in the British Army, soon converted into a training division, but, in May 1945, was sent to Norway where it was involved in the liberation in 1945.[39] He received a further mention in despatches for "gallant and distinguished services in North West Europe" on 22 March 1945.[40]

In Norway he was GOC British Land Forces Norway where he convened the trial for war crimes of 10 German soldiers by a Military Court held at the law courts, Oslo, Norway. The accused were charged with committing a war crime, in that they at Ulven, Norway, in or about the month of July 1943, in violation of the laws and usages of war, were concerned in the killing of Lieutenant A. H. Andresen, Petty Officer B. Kleppe, Leading Stoker A. Bigseth, Able Seaman J. Klipper, Able Seaman G. B. Hansen, and Able Seaman K. Hals, Royal Norwegian Navy, and Leading Telegraphist R. Hull, Royal Navy, prisoners of war.[41] For his services to Norway, he was made a Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.[42]

Postwar and later life[edit]

The grave of Major General Douglas Graham, Glasgow Necropolis.

Graham retired from the army on 6 February 1947.[43] Between 22 August 1954 and 26 March 1958 he was the Colonel of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).[44][45] He also served as Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Ross and Cromarty from 11 June 1956 until his resignation on 15 March 1960.[46][47]

He died on 28 September 1971, a few weeks after the early death of his second son, John Murray Graham. He is buried in the John Murray plot at the top of Glasgow Necropolis.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Smart, p. 127
  2. ^ "ARCHIVE SERVICES: Roll of Honour". University of Glasgow. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  3. ^ "No. 28540". The London Gazette. 10 October 1911. pp. 7377–7378. 
  4. ^ "No. 28647". The London Gazette. 24 September 1912. p. 7024. 
  5. ^ "No. 28756". The London Gazette. 16 September 1913. pp. 6560–6561. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "British Army officer histories". Unit Histories. Retrieved 6 June 2017. 
  7. ^ "No. 29003". The London Gazette. 11 December 1914. p. 10584. 
  8. ^ "Henry May VC". 2006-09-16. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  9. ^ "No. 29715". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 August 1916. p. 8253. 
  10. ^ "No. 30118". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 June 1917. pp. 5615–5616. 
  11. ^ "No. 30450". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1917. pp. 30–36. 
  12. ^ "No. 31688". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 December 1919. pp. 15578–15579. 
  13. ^ "No. 31892". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 January 1920. pp. 5338–5339. 
  14. ^ "No. 31727". The London Gazette. 9 January 1920. pp. 487–488. 
  15. ^ "No. 32254". The London Gazette. 11 March 1921. pp. 2000–2002. 
  16. ^ "No. 33361". The London Gazette. 28 February 1928. p. 1410. 
  17. ^ a b "No. 33680". The London Gazette. 13 January 1931. p. 305. 
  18. ^ "No. 33670". The London Gazette. 16 December 1930. p. 8078. 
  19. ^ "No. 33802". The London Gazette. 26 February 1932. p. 1295. 
  20. ^ "No. 34413". The London Gazette. 29 June 1937. p. 4176. 
  21. ^ "2nd Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) [UK]". Archived from the original on 26 December 2005. Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Mead, p. 184
  23. ^ "No. 34883". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 June 1940. p. 3921. 
  24. ^ "No. 35586". The London Gazette. 5 June 1942. p. 2483. 
  25. ^ "No. 35862". The London Gazette. 12 January 1943. p. 320. 
  26. ^ "Documents Online — Image Details — Description, Name, Graham, Douglas Alexander Henry" (fee required to see full details of citation). The National Archives. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  27. ^ "Documents Online — Image Details — Description, Name, Graham, Douglas Alexander Henry" (fee required to see full details of citation). The National Archives. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  28. ^ "No. 36083". The London Gazette. 6 July 1943. p. 3086. 
  29. ^ "No. 36045". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1943. p. 2625. 
  30. ^ "No. 36327". The London Gazette. 11 January 1944. p. 258. 
  31. ^ "Documents Online — Image Details — Description, Name, Graham, D A H" (fee required to see full details of citation). The National Archives. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  32. ^ "No. 37853". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 January 1947. p. 323. 
  33. ^ "No. 37462". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 February 1946. p. 895. 
  34. ^ "No. 36668". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 August 1944. p. 3917. 
  35. ^ "50th Infantry Division". Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  36. ^ "No. 36720". The London Gazette (Supplement). 26 September 1944. p. 4474. 
  37. ^ "Documents Online — Image Details — Description, Name, Graham, Douglas Alexander Henry" (fee required to see full details of citation). The National Archives. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  38. ^ "No. 36731". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 October 1944. p. 4573. 
  39. ^ "WW2 people's stories". BBC. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  40. ^ "No. 36994". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 March 1945. p. 1548. 
  41. ^ "Affidavit Relating to Execution of British Crew of Torpedo Boat No.345, Norway, July 1943". USGPO. VII: 145–148. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. 
  42. ^ "No. 37961". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 May 1947. p. 2290. 
  43. ^ "No. 37874". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 February 1947. p. 653. 
  44. ^ "No. 40257". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 August 1954. p. 4811. 
  45. ^ "No. 41343". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 March 1958. p. 1924. 
  46. ^ "No. 40814". The London Gazette. 26 June 1956. p. 3732. 
  47. ^ "No. 41983". The London Gazette. 15 March 1960. p. 1911. 


  • Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: a biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0. 
  • Smart, Nick (2005). Biographical Dictionary of British Generals of the Second World War. Barnesley: Pen & Sword. ISBN 1844150496. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Eric Miles
GOC 56th (London) Infantry Division
May – October 1943
Succeeded by
Gerald Templer
Preceded by
Sidney Kirkman
GOC 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division
January – October 1944
Succeeded by
Lewis Lyne
Preceded by
Lewis Lyne
GOC 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Post redesignated British Land Forces Norway
Preceded by
New post
GOC British Land Forces Norway
August – November 1945
Succeeded by
Post disbanded