Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper
Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper

Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for Archibald Lucius Douglas appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
13 March 1913


We regret to announce that Admiral Sir Archibald Douglas, G.C.B., died yesterday morning at Newnham, Winchfield, Hants, in his 71st year. At the end of last year he underwent a serious operation, and, though he had been able to, do a certain amount of work, he never really recovered from it.

Archibald Lucius Douglas was born in 1842 at Quebec, where his father and uncle were practising physicians, and he entered the Navy in April, 1866, on the nomination of the then Governor-General of Canada, Sir E.W. Head. As a midshipman, and also after his promotion to lieutenant in 1862, he was in the Arrogant, screw vessel, and took part in all the engagements of her boats and naval brigade on the Congo and Gambia Rivers during her commission on the coast of Africa, when several effective blows were struck at the slave trade, along the west coast. In November, 1863, he was appointed gunnery lieutenant of the Aurora on the North American Station, and during the Fenian disturbances in Canada, when several vessels of the Navy were employed on the Lakes and the St. Lawrence under the direction of the Aurora’s captain, he was in command of the gunboat Hercules. Returning home, he was for three and a-half years senior staff officer of the Cambridge, gunnery schoolship at Devonport, and in May, 1872, was promoted to commander. In the same year he acted as instructor to the Channel and Reserve Fleets in the use of Captain Harvey’s towed torpedo. His principal service while in this rank was, however, that of Director of the Imperial Japanese Naval College in Yedo, having been selected by the Admiralty as commander of the Naval Mission to instruct the Japanese Navy. He held this office for two years (1873-75), and received the thanks of the Emperor of Japan and the approval of the Admiralty while holding the appointment. After his return home he was given command of the Egeria on the China Station, which he held until shortly before his promotion to captain in July, 1880.

As a captain Sir Archibald Douglas served in the Serapis during the naval and military operations in the Sudan, and received the Egyptian Medal, with the Khedive’s bronze star. On being relieved from the command of this ship he was appointed a member of the Ordnance Committee, and was occupied in these duties until he was selected for the command of the Edinburgh in the Mediterranean in the autumn of 1890. He .remained in her until January, 1892, when he was appointed to the Cambridge and successively commanded this ship and the Excellent, the two gunnery schools at Devonport and Portsmouth respectively, until he obtained flag rank in November, 1895. During the whole of his career he had shown special aptitude as a gunnery officer, and the bent of his talent and of his experience was towards scientific study in this direction. It was in the natural order of things, therefore, that he should be appointed vice-president of the Ordnance Committee. It was about this time that Captain (now Vice-Admiral Sir) Percy Scott in the Scylla was introducing those methods and appliances for instruction in shooting which have had such notable results in the marksmanship of the Fleet. In 1898 Sir Archibald Douglas was appointed Commander-in-Chief in the East Indies, with his flag in the Eclipse, but a year later he relinquished this appointment to go to the Admiralty as Second Sea Lord under Mr. Goschen, in Lord Salisbury’s third Administration.

Much attention was being paid at this time to the question of the education of officers of the Navy, a matter which fell within the department of the Second Sea Lord. The system of training officers then in force was much criticized, and after inquiry certain changes which had been recommended were approved of by the Board. It was very generally felt, however, that a large scheme of reform was necessary, and this was introduced in 1902, when Sir John, now Lord, Fisher succeeded Sir Archibald Douglas on the latter’s appointment as Commander-in-Chief on the North America and West Indies Station. His flagship was the Ariadne, and the circumstance that a Canadian commanded on the station was Heartily welcomed in the Dominion. With the exception of his period of duty on the lakes, he had not served in Canadian waters since he joined the Boscawen from the High School at Quebec in 1856. He had become a vice-admiral while still at the Admiralty, and after his return from the North American command he was rewarded with the much-coveted post of Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth - a post to which no officer of his rank had been appointed for something like 40 years. In March, 1905, he became an Admiral. It was during the time that he was Commander-in-Chief at the port that King Edward honoured the naval arsenal with a visit in order to launch the Dreadnought. Sir Archibald Douglas, while at Portsmouth, was president of a committee convened to investigate and report upon certain details of the working of the system of officers’ training. The report, which has been made the subject of much controversy, convinced the Board “that specialization for a period only is necessary, as opposed to permanent classification into separate lines.” Sir Archibald Douglas retired from active service in 1907.

The late admiral was an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria from 1893 to 1895. He was made a K.C.B. in 1902, a G.C.V.O. in 1905, and a G.C.B. in 1911. For the great services he had rendered to Japan, and as a mark of appreciation of the good results which had sprung from the system of training which he inaugurated, he received from the Emperor the Order of the Rising Sun of the First Class, and he was also decorated with the Legion of Honour and the First Class of the Spanish Order of Naval Merit. He married in 1871 Constance, a daughter of the Rev. William Hawks, formerly rector of Gateshead Fell, Durham, and had three sons and three daughters. He took special interest in the Work of the Marine Society ("Warspite" training ship); of which he was elected chairman in February, 1912, and again in the ensuing year. He had been a member of the committee for six years. Of high professional attainments and wide experience, Sir Archibald Douglas was a diligent worker, and served loyally and ably in many responsible posts. His genial and generous disposition secured for him the regard and respect of a wide circle of friends, by whom he will be sincerely mourned.

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