Major Douglas Harry Acworth

55th Cokes Rifles, The Frontier Force, Indian Army

Malvern Commemoration: The Priory Church of St Mary and St Michael,

Burial/Commemoration: Port Said

Nature of Death: Died of pneumonia, Port Said, Egypt 6/2/19

Next of Kin: Son on Mr H A Acworth CIE of The Palms, Orchard Road; husband of Mrs Edith Acworth (nee Knowles)

Education: Mr Douglas' School, Malvern Link and Winchester College

Previous Employment: An Indian Army Officer, who joined in 1905 and served in the Mohmand Campaign of 1908

Douglas Harry Acworth

Douglas Acworth was the second child and elder son Mr and Mrs Acworth. His younger brother John fell at Passchendaele in October 1917. Douglas was educated at Mr Douglas’ School, Malvern Link and Winchester College. At Winchester he was a house prefect and was a very keen volunteer soldier (the predecessor of the Territorial Force). From Winchester he passed to Sandhurst where he gained an Indian Cadetship and joined the Indian Army in 1905, being appointed to the 55th Coke’s Rifles (one of the crack regiments of the old Punjab Frontier Force). He became in due course Quartermaster and Adjutant. He served in the Mohmand Campaign of 1908. Early in 1914 he came home on eight months leave and became a captain in July of that year.

On the outbreak of war he was one of the Indian officers detained in England He passed about two months with the 8th Rifle Brigade at Aldershot and was then sent to France to join the 57th Rifles (one of the “links” of his own Regiment). With them he served throughout the winter before La Basseé, seeing very hard service. On the 23rd November he performed a successful bombing exploit, for which he was recommended for the DSO, but being only a captain and the Military Cross being instituted, he received the MC instead, in the first gazette of the decoration. Captain Acworth’s exploit was held up to imitation in a printed Army Corps Order. He received a bayonet wound on this occasion.

At the end of April 1915, being then a Staff Captain he was badly wounded at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and sent home. He was for three months on medical leave, and then being still unfit for regimental duty he was appointed GSO III on the staff at Canterbury. As soon as he gained the use of his right arm, he was sent to Egypt to join the 58th Rifles. But his value as a Staff Officer was now too well known to permit him being kept as a regimental officer and he was successively appointed Staff Captain and then Brigade Major. Thence he passed as GSO III to lines of communications in Palestine, and then in the same capacity was called up to General Allenby’s Headquarters. This was the last step in his military career.

Major Acworth was married in June 1915 to Miss Edith Knowles, the daughter of the late Colonel Knowles of the 2nd Bengal Lancers and Mrs Knowles of Hove. He left her a widow with one child, a boy of two years old.

In December 1918 he was gazetted four weeks leave in England on urgent private affairs. The greater part of this leave he, with his wife and child, spent with his parents in Malvern.

He left England on the 21st January 1919 for Marseilles. The he was, with several other officers also bound for Egypt, detained some days waiting for a ship. On the 30th January he left Marseilles for Part Said in the P&O steam ship Kaiser-I-Hind. He expected to arrive on the 4th or 5th of February. On the 8th February his father in Malvern, and his wife in Hove each received a telegram from the India Office “deeply regretting that Major Acworth was officially reported from Egypt to have died of pneumonia 6th February: the Secretary of State expressing his sincere sympathy at the loss of this gallant officer.”

It was conjectured that he suffered an attack of influenza, followed by pneumonia. He landed at Port Said in a dying condition on the 5th February and was admitted to No 73 Casualty Clearing Station where he died the following day.

Not long after the report of the second of his sons to die, Douglas Acworth’s father made his intention known to retire from active politics at the following County Council Elections. Though he stated that that he felt the time had come when the public work he had been doing should be in younger and more efficient hands, it is difficult not to draw the conclusion that the death of both his sons influenced his decision to lead a less public life; a shame for a man of ability with much experience in colonial administration and local affairs.

Tributes, Newspaper Reports & Biographer

“Capt DH Acworth, elder son of Mr H A Acworth CIE attached 57/Wilde’s Rifles, Frontier Force is now at the front. Capt Acworth is adjutant of the 55/Coke’s Rifles and was home on leave when war broke out. His regiment was not sent to France, being stationed on the Indian Frontier from where it was impossible to remove it.”
Malvern News 21/11/14

“Capt D H Acworth was wounded 25/11/14 and is reportedly doing well.”
Malvern News 5/12/14

“Captain D H Acworth of The Mythe has been awarded the MC. He was wounded on the 23/11/14 whilst serving with the 57/Wildes Rifles of the IEF. Capt Acworth is the Adjutant of the 55/Cokes Rifles, FF. Capt Acworth has been home on a few days leave. He arrived on 30/12/14 and left again for the front on Tuesday. His engagement to Miss Edith Knowles, youngest daughter of Col G Knowles 2/Bengal Lancers has been announced.”
Malvern News 9/1/15

“Capt Acworth in hospital with shrapnel wounds in the forearm and thigh; severe but not serious. On the 24th November Acworth got a bayonet thrust to the face. He is attached to the 57th Cokes Rifles, but for some time has been on the Ferozapore Bde Staff.”
Malvern News 1/5/15

“He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in November 1914. He was the first officer of the Indian Army to be awarded the MC, which was a new award. Although no citation exists for this award, the unit Acworth was attached to at the time (the 57th Wilde’s Rifles) was heavily involved in the first Battle of Ypres in the winter of 1914. On the 24th November he was wounded, having a bayonet thrust to the face. He was wounded again in April 1915; the Malvern News reported (1/5/15) he suffered shrapnel wounds to his forearm and thigh. He was later attached to the Ferozapore Brigade Staff.

Capt D H Acworth, 55 Cokes Rifles, who is under orders for the EEF was to have sailed on the Majola from Marseilles, which was sunk – the whole of his baggage went down with her.

Captain D H Acworth is now a Brigade Major with forces before Gaza.”
Malvern News 26/5/17

“Major D H Acworth (the elder and only surviving son of Mr and Mrs Acworth of The Palms, Malvern) has been mentioned in despatches in Allenby’s despatch. He was on the Headquarters Staff in Palestine since last spring.”
Malvern News 1/2/19

“On Saturday evening (8th February) Mr H A Acworth CIE of The Palms, Malvern received an official wire from the India Office informing him of the death of hs elder and only surviving son, Major D H Acworth MC in Egypt of pneumonia, on February 5th. Not only Malvern but the whole of the county will sympathise with Mr and Mrs Acworth and the family in their great bereavement.

“Major Douglas Harry Acworth MC was the second child and elder son of the two sons of Mr and Mrs Acworth. His younger brother John fell at Passchendaele in October 1917 as a 2nd Lieut in the Worcestershire Regiment. The elder brother was educated at Mr Douglas’ School, Malvern Link and Winchester College where he was in D House, then under Mr Theodore Kensington MA, now of Mathon Lodge, West Malvern. At Winchester he was a house prefect and a member of the Bisley eight. He was a very keen volunteer, a soldier from his youth up. From Winchester he passed to Sandhurst where he became a Cadet-Sergeant. He won while there a cup for rifle shooting. He gained an Indian Cadetship and joined the Indian Army in 1905, being appointed to the 55th Coke’s Rifles (formerly 1st Punjab Infantry) one of the crack regiments of the old Punjab Frontier Force. He became in due course Quartermaster and Adjutant. He served in the Mohmand Campaign of 1908, gaining the Frontier Medal with one Clasp. Early in 1914 he came home on eight months leave. He became a captain in July of that year.

“On the outbreak of war he was one of the Indian officers detained in England by Lord Kitchener to drill new levies, when 600 other officers were sent back to India. He passed about two months with the 8th Rifle Brigade at Aldershot and was then sent to France to join the 57th Rifles (one of the “links” of his own Regiment) with the Indian Army Corps. With them he served throughout the winter before La Basseé, seeing very hard service. He was one of the recipients of the bronze cross with the red, white and blue ribbon [the 1914 Star]. On the 23rd November he performed an extraordinarily gallant, dangerous and successful bombing exploit, for which he was recommended for the DSO, but being only a captain and the Military Cross being instituted, he received the MC instead, in the first gazette of the decoration, in the days when it was really reserved for actual service under fire. Bombs in those days were not the scientific instruments they now are, but were simply jam tine charged with gun cotton. Captain Acworth’s exploit was held up to imitation in a printed Army Corps Order. He was associated in it with his friend Lieut Robson RE, who was killed a month later. Captain Acworth received a bayonet wound on this occasion.

“At the end of April 1915, being then a Staff Captain he was badly wounded at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and sent home. He was for three months on medical leave, and then being still unfit for regimental duty he was appointed GSO III on the staff at Canterbury. As soon as he gained the use of his right arm, through which a shrapnel ball had passed from elbow to wrist, though he never recovered its full strength, he was sent to Egypt to join the 58th Rifles. But his value as a Staff Officer was now too well known to permit him being kept as a regimental officer and he was successively appointed Staff Captain and then Brigade Major. Thence he passed as GSO III to lines of communications in Palestine, and then in the same capacity was called up to General Allenby’s Headquarters. This was the last step in his military career.

“Major Acworth was married in June 1915 to Miss Edith Knowles, the daughter of the late Colonel Knowles of the 2nd Bengal Lancers and Mrs Knowles of Hove. He leaves her a widow with one child, a boy of two years old.

“In December 1918 he was gazetted four weeks leave in England on urgent a private affairs. The greater part of this leave he, with his wife and child, spent with his parents in Malvern.

“He left England on the 21st January 1919 for Marseilles. The he was, with several other officers also bound for Egypt, detained some days waiting for a ship. On the 30th January he left Marseilles for Part Said in the P&O steam ship Kaiser-I-Hind. He expected to arrive on the 4th or 5th of February. One the 8th February his father in Malvern, and his wife in Hove each received a telegram from the India Office “deeply regretting that Major Acworth was officially reported from Egypt to have died of pneumonia 6th February: the Secretary of State expressing his sincere sympathy at the loss of this gallant officer.”

“It is conjectured that he was attacked by influenza, followed by septic pneumonia. He landed at Port Said in a dying condition on the 5th February and was admitted to No 73 Casualty Clearing Station. He died the following day.

“Douglas Acworth was a born soldier. He was a man of magnificent physique over six feet in height (his younger brother was 6 ft 2 in) muscular, active and handsome. He was a splendid horseman, and an extraordinarily fine shot with rifle, gun and revolver. A few months before he came home in 1914 he had won a silver cup as “the best man at arms in the Bannu Brigade.” Probably there was not a finer officer of his rank in the army – cool steady and patient, decisive and as brave as a lion. And no officer was ever more thoughtful or careful of his men. His regiment was devoted to him, and there is hardly an officer or man who will not drop a tear at the news of his death. He was not a “bookish” man, but a most earnest student of his profession and of historical and military literature. His father, though no doubt his superior in more literary capacity, yet says that his son’s military essays, reports and despatches are, for lucidity, such as he himself could never have written. He was one of the most modest, quiet and even-tempered of men.

“Major Acworth was like his younger brother a man of profound religious convictions., a simple hearted and earnest member of the Church of England, and a regular communicant. He was several times “mentioned” in despatches, including General Allenby’s last despatch.

“Since the above was written it has been ascertained that Major Acworth was landed on the 5th February at Port Said and taken to No 73 Casualty Clearing Station where he must have died the same day.”

In the same edition Douglas Acworth’s father made his intention known of his desire to retire from active politics at the next County Council Elections. Though he stated that that he felt the time had come when the public work he had been doing should be in younger and more efficient hands, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the death of both his sons influenced his decision to lead a less public life; a shame for a man of ability with much experience in colonial administration and local affairs.
Malvern News 15/2/19

Malvern News 21/11/14, 5/12/14, 9/1/15, 1/5/15, 26/5/17, 1/2/19, 15/2/19.

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