Born: 1918, Ipswich.
Died: 15th July 1941; age 22; Douglas was fatally shot by accident by the sentry Gunner Elliott, at the Coastal Battery, at St Catherine’s Castle in Fowey, Cornwall.
Died from internal hemorrhage, the bullet entering the right breast and coming out on the left side of the back.
Gunner Elliott was committed to the Assizes on charge of manslaughter.
Residence: 88, Sidegate Lane, Ipswich.
Rank: Gunner; Service Number: 937947.
Regiment: Royal Artillery, 557 Coast Regiment.
Relatives Notified & Address: Son of Ellen Durrant, of 88, Sidegate Lane, Ipswich.
Father: James Durrant, born December 1873, Islington, Middlesex.
Mother: Ellen Jane Durrant (nee Howard), born March 1878, Islington, Middlesex.
Western Morning news – 24th July1941
SENTRY ACCUSED OF MANSLAUGHTER
Seized Bayonet Story
Elliott, 22, a soldier, stationed in a South-West town, appeared before local magistrates yesterday, charged with manslaughter by shooting of Douglas Victor Durrant, a soldier in the same unit, on July 15th,
Mr. J.C. Hubbard prosecuted, and Mr. W.g. Scown defended.
Mr. Hubbard made it claer that what happened arose from no quarrel or disagreement, and indeed, the accused and the man killed were on the most friendly terms.
Emlyn Thomas Hughes, a non-commissioned officer, guard commander on the night in question, said accused was on sentry duty, and deceased was standing near by. When he went up and told Elliott that he would be relieved he was perfectly normal.
“While I was walking about 30 yeard away, I heard someone shout Guard commander, come here? I ran back, and saw Durrant lying wounded on the right side of the gate. Elliott was bending over him trying to undo his trouser belt.
George Clegg, another soldier, said he was standing inside the entrance gate near a man whom he now knew to have been Durrant. He heard the conversation, in which the deceased was boasting that he could take the bayonet off Elliott’s rifle and stab him with it before he could fire the shot. Clegg said there was nothing quarrelsome about the conversation. A second or two afterwards he heard a shot fired, and ran in, calling for the guard commander.
Questioned by Mr. Scown, Clegg said Durrant actually took the bayonet off Elliott’s rifle and made a thrust with it towards Elliott’s stomach.
The Commanding Officer of the unit, asked by the Magistrates’ Clerk, “Ifsomeone attempted to snatch a rifle or bayonet from a sentry, would the sentry be permitted to load his rifle?” replied, “In a general case, yes.” Mr. Scown: I think you will agree that a sentry must resist any effort by anyone to deprive him of his rifle or bayoner? – Correct.
ALWAYS GOOD PALS
P.S. Harris said after his arrest Elliott made a statement, in which he said: ” This is a most regretable affair, as Durrant and I have always been very good pals and the best of friends since we have been in the unit together,”
Elliott later in his statement said: “Durrant caught hold of my bayonet and took off my rifle. It was then that he remarked that he could easily stab me with my own bayonet before I could get my rifle loaded. Not knowing the consequence of such a foolish thing I placed five rounds into the magazine of my rifle and closed the bolt. I neglected to apply the safety catch.
“It was then, to my regret, that Durrant once more took hold of the bayonet, and then the rifle went off.” Elliott’s statement concluded: “But I deeply regret what has happened, as I did not intend to do Durrant any injury whatever.”
Elliott pleaded “Not guilty,” and reserved his defense.
The magistrates held that a Prima facie case has been made out, and committed Elliott for trial at the next Cornwall Assize, personal bail of £25 being allowed with a surety of a further £25.
Extra information courtesy of Phil Hadley.