- Name: Robert Ewing DOUGLAS
- D.O.B: 7th Apr, 1906
- D.O.A: 13th Jun, 1930
- D.O.D: 10th Aug, 1959
- Award: Empire Gallantry Medal translated to George Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Leading Aircraftman, No 80 (Bomber) Squadron, Royal Air Force
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
BETWEEN THE WARS
The stresses of the First World War led to political revolution in much of Europe and, in extreme cases, social collapse. Even the victors, Britain and France, were not immune to the economic upheaval and labour unrest resulting from the transition from war to peace and the demobilization of hundreds of thousands of men. This made them extremely nervous of the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia and they decided to send aid to the anti-Bolshevik forces. However, an Allied North Russia Expeditionary Force had to be withdrawn once it became clear that internal opposition to the Bolsheviks had been defeated. In Britain a postwar boom failed to prove long-lasting and in May 1926 there was a General Strike, triggered by a crisis in the Mining Industry. The Great Depression followed in 1929 and by 1931 Britain was forced to abandon the Gold Standard. In large parts of the country and especially in the traditional industries there was widespread unemployment throughout the 1930s, symbolized by the Jarrow Crusade of 1936. Conditions were much worse on the Continent and the interwar period witnessed the rise of the Dictators. The coming to power in Germany of Hitler in 1933 was to lead inexorably to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. In the years of increasingly uneasy peace between 1919 and September 1939 only eleven VCs were awarded and of these only one, the award to Captain G P Meynell in 1935, took place outside the period 1919-21. Of the eleven awards, five related to actions against the Bolsheviks, four to actions on the North-West Frontier of India and one to an an engagement in what is now Iraq. The remaining award was that in 1921 to the American Unknown Warrior. Of the Albert, Edward and Empire Gallantry Medals awarded in the same period, 142 recipients lived long enough for their awards to be converted to the GC. The geographical distribution of the actions that occasioned the awards is witness to the Global spread of the British Empire, which reached its widest extent after the First World War. However, some of the awards, for gallantry in India, Egypt and the Sudan, and Palestine, reflected both the stresses in maintaining that dominion and the duties it entailed. After service personnel and policemen, coal miners formed the largest group of recipients, demonstrating the central importance of coal to the British economy and the dangers inherent in securing it. Those who worked in coal and gold mines in India and Africa were also honoured. Both in the mines and in industry as a whole, the threat posed by poisonous gases led to many awards. New industries brought new hazards with them. Other dangers overcome were of a more basic sort. Awards were also made to those who, throughout the Empire, confronted mad elephants, rabid dogs and marauding sharks.
For conspicuous gallantry displayed in an attempt to save the lives of two fellow airmen at Kohat, India, on the 13th June, 1930. An aeroplane proceeding on patrol with a crew of two and a load of live bombs stalled shortly after leaving the ground and crashed on the edge of the aerodrome, immediately bursting into flames. Leading Aircraftman Douglas, who witnessed the crash, was the first to arrive on the scene of the accident and found the air gunner lying two yards from the wreckage, his clothes burning badly. These flames Douglas quenched with a hand extinguisher, and, after disentangling part of the gun equipment from the injured man’s person, dragged him clear of the machine with the assistance of another airman who had arrived on the scene, and, after subduing a renewed burst of flames in his clothing, got him on board the ambulance. He then turned his attention to the pilot in the burning machine and had approached to within twelve yards of the wreckage when the first of the bombs exploded. Realising then that there was no hope of the pilot being still alive, he started to get clear and was some thirty yards away when a second bomb exploded. In advancing so close to the flames this airman took a grave risk as he was fully aware that the aircraft contained live bombs of a powerful type.