Malcolm McDougall was born in Welling in 1889. He was the middle child of three boys – John was older and Edward younger. They were close in age, with only 3 years between them. The three boys lived with their parents John and Harriett, nee Dengate (who had married at St.Mary’s Church, West Malling, Kent on the 6th September 1887). In the 1891 Census the family were living Woodlands Cottage at 63 Belle Grove, Welling. The family employed a live-in servant, Louisa Perfect and John Snr. was working for the London County Council as a Civil Engineer.
Malcolm came from an educated family of Engineers. His father, uncle and grandfather (who had moved to London from Inverness with his young wife) had all been Civil Engineers. Malcolm and his brothers attended the Blackheath Proprietory School. In 1911 his two brothers would follow in the family tradition and study Civil Engineering at Goldsmith’s College, Malcolm would instead specialise in Chemistry at the Bromley School of Art.
By the time Malcolm was 11 the family had moved from Welling to 98 Lee Road in Lewisham and by the age of 21 the family had moved again to a large detached house in Bromley – ‘Arlington’ 19 Bromley Common.
We know very little of Malcolm’s military record other than he was a Pioneer in the Royal Engineers, service number 159353. The Royal Engineers’ responsibilities included tunneling, field signalling, surveying, railway and road construction.
In April 1915 the poisonous gas, chlorine, was used by the Germans for the first time, although its use was outlawed by the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. The Allies decided to retaliate with gas and so in July 1915 special units of the Royal Engineers were formed to undertake gas attacks, under the command of Major HC Foulkes, With his background in chemistry, Malcolm joined one of these units, ‘P’ Special Company. All non-officers were known as Chemist Corporals, often jokingly referred to as Comical Chemical Corporals. Initially there were only around 900 men in the special units but by late 1916 they had grown to 208 Officers and 5306 Chemist Corporals. These units were also responsible for trench flamethrowers.
Malcom died on 4th July 1917 aged 27, He is buried at Essex Farm Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium. His younger brother, Edward, had died 6 months earlier in Salonika. His parents were by then living at Linton House in Sedlescombe, in the village where Malcolm’s mother had been born.
The oldest of the three brothers John Fraser McDougall survived the war. He had joined the Army probably in 1916, serving initially in the Middlesex Regiment and later the 9th Border Regiment, Service No.52160. He was discharged from service on the 23rd September 1919.
To the local people Essex Farm Cemetery is also known as the John McCrea Cemetery. John McCrea was an army Surgeon working in a Casualty Clearing Station on the site of the current cemetery when on the 3rd May 1915 he composed the famous poem ”In Flanders Fields”. John McCrea died later in the war from pneumonia.
The War Memorial pictured here which commemorates Malcolm and his brother Edward is from St. John the Baptist Parish Church, Seddlescombe and was built by their uncle, James Dengate and his son, Frank. Their father, John, is also buried in the Churchyard, having died in July 1919.
This story has been researched by volunteers. We have taken every effort to ensure its accuracy. If you are related to this soldier, or if you have any further information, please do get in touch.
The East Wickham and Welling War Memorial Trust will be adding Malcolm McDougall’s name to our war memorial over the centenary of the First World War.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission :cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/159609/McDOUGALL,%20MALCOLM
Sedlescombe War Memorial