Hon. William Douglas-Home

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William Douglas-Home

Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Death: Died in Winchester, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles Cospatrick Archibald Douglas-Home, 13th Earl of Home and Lillian Countess of Home
Husband of Rachel Leila Douglas-Home, 27th Baroness Dacre
Father of James Thomas Archibald Douglas-Home, 28th Baron Dacre; <private> (Douglas-Home); <private> (Douglas-Home) and <private> (Douglas-Home)
Brother of Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; Bridget Douglas-Home; Hon. Henry Montagu Douglas-Home; Rachel Montagu-Douglas-Scott; Edward Charles Douglas-Home and 1 other

Managed by: Carole (Erickson) Pomeroy,Vol. C...
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About Hon. William Douglas-Home

William Douglas Home (3 June 1912, Edinburgh – 28 September 1992, Winchester) was court-martialled in World War II for his refusal to obey orders as a British Army officer and later became a successful British dramatist.

Douglas Home was the third son of the 13th Earl of Home and Lady Lilian Lambton, daughter of Frederick Lambton, 4th Earl of Durham. His eldest brother was Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Prime Minister, 1963-64.

He was educated at Eton College and New College, Oxford where he read History. His first play, Murder in Pupil Room, was performed by his classmates at Eton in 1926 when he was only fourteen.

On 26 July 1951 he married the equally aristocratic the Hon. Rachel Brand (who later inherited the barony of Dacre), the daughter of Thomas Brand, 4th Viscount Hampden & 26th Baron Dacre and Leila Emily Seely. They had four children.

During World War II, Douglas Home contested three parliamentary by-elections as an independent candidate opposed to Winston Churchill's war aim of an unconditional surrender by Germany.[1] The political parties in the wartime Coalition Government had agreed not to contest by-elections when a vacancy arose in a seat held by the other coalition parties. At the Glasgow Cathcart by-election, April 1942, he won 21% of the votes,[2] and at Windsor in June 1942, he won 42%.[3] In April 1944, he came a poor third at the Clay Cross by-election, losing his deposit.[4]

He had intended to contest the St Albans by-election in October 1943, but communications difficulties with the Army Council prevented him from receiving the necessary permission soon enough to meet the deadline for nominations.[5][6]

Post-war, Douglas Home stood twice as the Liberal Party candidate in Edinburgh South. He told a story in The Observer Magazine that he took a morning off from the election campaign to go shooting with his brother not long before he became Conservative Prime Minister. Alec uncharacteristically missed all the birds in the first drive. When William asked him what was wrong, Alec replied "I had to speak against some bloody Liberal last night!" He had been unaware that the "bloody Liberal" was his own younger brother. William's comment was, "I would have given him a lift if I'd known he was going." Previously William had briefly been the Conservative Party prospective parliamentary candidate for Kirkcaldy Burghs before resigning over foreign policy differences.

The elections in South Edinburgh had done much to revive Liberal support in the city, following as they did on the first win by a Liberal candidate in Newington Ward in the constituency. Party members were dismayed when he abruptly resigned as a member, apparently because he was not called to speak on a motion on the United Nations during a Party Conference. This was the end of his active political career.

Despite his opposition to the policy of requiring the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany he was conscripted into the Army in July 1940 and joined the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment).[7] He went to 161 Officer Cadet Training Unit (161 OCTU) in the buildings of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst where one of his colleagues was David Fraser. At Sandhurst, he was critical of the war, which he said had been unnecessary.[8] Douglas Home was commissioned in April 1941. While an officer he stood in the three parliamentary by-elections.

In 1944 Douglas Home was an officer in the 141st Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps (The Buffs) in the Normandy campaign. This was the first regiment to be equipped with the Churchill Crocodile flame-thrower tank.[9]

Captain Douglas Home refused to participate in the Allied operation to capture the port of Le Havre in September 1944 because French civilians had not been permitted to evacuate. He wrote to the Maidenhead Advertiser and the publication of his letter in the newspaper prompted his court-martial.

Douglas Home was charged at a Field General Court Martial held on 4 October 1944 that, when on active service, he disobeyed a lawful command given by his superior officer (contrary to Section 9 (2) of the Army Act 1881). He was convicted and sentenced to be cashiered and to serve one year's imprisonment with hard labour. The whole proceedings lasted two hours.[10]

One of the officers, Second Lieutenant James Wareing, described Douglas Home as follows:

  • "He did not go into any action as far as I am aware and when we were not in action he did nothing. I really don’t know how he came to be there at all in such an elite regiment.
  • "In the field he ate by himself and slept under a tank. He did not seem to be in charge of anyone. However he was put in charge of a group of tanks for the attack on Le Havre. This created something of a situation because he refused to go into action but at the same time was claiming that he could capture Le Havre without firing a single shot. The CO accordingly put him under close arrest under the supervision of another officer."[11]

Another officer described the incident in front of Le Havre as follows:

  • "I was a troop leader in C Squadron 141 RAC and was the escorting officer of William Douglas Home, for two or three days, following his arrest. If my memory serves me correctly he was arrested by order of Major Dan Duffy, our squadron commander and he so ordered the arrest because Captain Douglas Home refused to act as an LO. Home told me that the reason he refused this duty was that if the operation was carried out as planned a large number of French civilians would be killed. He told me that he had offered to negotiate a German surrender but had been refused and consequently declined to serve."[12] "I did not know Home before his secondment to the squadron as an LO for the Le Havre operation as he spent most of his time at RHQ."[13]

Wareing continued:

  • "Whilst under arrest Home had written to the editor of the Maidenhead Advertiser who published an exclusive on how Le Havre was captured without firing a single shot. Unlike the letters from other ranks the letters from officers were not subject to 100% censorship but to random screening."
  • "In any event when the War Office saw the newspaper article they immediately investigated the source of the information. The initial upshot was that our CO Lieutenant Colonel H. Waddell was relieved of command and demoted to Major although he continued in combat until we reached Brussels. Here he [Lt Col Waddell] faced a Court Martial and managed to win his case and be reinstated. It was suspected that Home had used his influence with his brother, a member of the Government, the future Lord Home and future Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas Home. This could have explained the demotion of our CO. Justice was finally seen to be done because William Home was sent to prison."
  • "He served 8 months, initially in Wormwood Scrubs, then completing his term in Wakefield Prison."[11]

Captain Andrew Wilson, M.C. also served in 141 RAC. In his autobiography Flame Thrower, published in 1956, he recounts this incident and its consequences. Wilson wrote his story deliberately in the third person:

  • "Even when he sailed with the regiment to Normandy, William had continued his private war-against-war. While headquarters were near Bayeux, he had written to the newspapers about some German ambulances shot up by British fighters. And what he had written was true. Wilson had seen the ambulances, riddled with bullets on the Tilly road. Later Waddell had posted William to Duffy’s squadron to take part in the assault on Le Havre. There were thousands of civilians in the town, which was soon to be bombed with 50,000 tons of explosive. William’s moment of decision had at last arrived. On the morning of the battle he returned to regimental headquarters and, finding the C.O. in the act of shaving, told him that be refused to take part. Waddell called a witness. “Will you carry out my order, Home?” – “No, sir.”"[9]

In 1988, Douglas Home, prompted by the Waldheim affair, applied for a pardon. His argument was that the attack on Le Havre was a war crime because of the failure to evacuate civilians, and that if Waldheim ought to have disobeyed orders to save civilian lives, he was justified in doing the same.[14] The appeal was abandoned.[13]

William Douglas Home wrote some 50 plays, most of them comedies in an upper class setting.

  • "In the space of a month or two after his release he wrote two plays which were successful in London in 1947. The first Now Barabbas was based on his experience in gaol and in the latter some of the characters were drawn from his family."[11]

Although Douglas Home was a prolific playwright, his works have neither the depth nor the durability of such near contemporaries as Rattigan or Coward. However, his play The Reluctant Debutante has been adapted twice into film. The first film, made in 1958, retained the same title and featured Rex Harrison and Sandra Dee with a screenplay by the playwright himself. The second was released in 2003, under the title What a Girl Wants, starring Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth and Kelly Preston. The remake features a hereditary peer in the House of Lords who disclaims his title in order to stand for election to the House of Commons; Alec Douglas Home was one of the first to do that after the enacting of the Peerage Act 1963.

As part of the 1975 centennial season of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, a specially-written curtain raiser by Douglas Home, called Dramatic Licence, was played by Peter Pratt as Richard D'Oyly Carte, Kenneth Sandford as W.S. Gilbert and John Ayldon as Arthur Sullivan, in which Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte plan the birth of Trial by Jury in 1875.[15]


  • Great Possessions (1937) The Secretary Bird (1967)
  • Passing By (1940) The Queen's Highland Servant (1967)
  • Now Barabbas (1947) The Grouse Moor Image (1968)
  • The Chiltern Hundreds (1947) The Jockey Club Stakes (1970)
  • Ambassador Extraordinary (1948) Uncle Dick's Surprise (1970)
  • The Thistle and the Rose (1948) The Douglas Cause (1971)
  • Master of Arts (1949) Lloyd George Knew My Father (1972)
  • The Bad Samaritan (1952) In the Red (1972)
  • Caro William (1952) At the End of the Day (1973)
  • The Manor of Northstead (1954) The Dame of Sark (1974)
  • The Reluctant Debutante (1955) The Lord's Lieutenant (1974)
  • The Iron Duchess (1957) Dramatic Licence (1975)
  • Aunt Edwina (1959) The Consulting Room (1977)
  • Up a Gum Tree (1960) The Perch (1977)
  • The Bad Soldier Smith (1961) Rolls Hyphen Royce (1977)
  • The Cigarette Girl (1962) The Kingfisher (1977)
  • The Drawing Room Tragedy (1963) The Editor Regrets (1979)
  • The Reluctant Peer (1964) Four Hurts Double (1982)
  • The Bishop and the Actress (1964) Her Mother Came Too (1982)
  • Two Account Rendered (1964) The Golf Umbrella (1983)
  • Betzi (1965) David and Jonathan (1984)
  • A Friend Indeed (1965) After the Ball is Over (1985)
  • Portraits (1987)
  • A Christmas Truce (1989)


  • Douglas Home's screenwriting credits include:
  • Sleeping Car to Trieste (1948)
  • The Colditz Story (1955) (dialogue)
  • The Reluctant Debutante (1958), remade as What a Girl Wants (2003)
  • Follow That Horse! (1960)


  • William Douglas Home, Mr Home pronounced Hume; an autobiography, London, Collins, (1979)


  • 1.^ William Douglas Home in the Dictionary of National Biography
  • 2.^ Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 587. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
  • 3.^ Craig, page, 294
  • 4.^ Craig, page 321
  • 5.^ Nominations At St. Albans: Would-Be Candidate And Army Council, The Times, Tuesday 5 October 1943, page 2
  • 6.^ New M.P. For St. Albans, The Times, Wednesday 6 October 1943; page 2
  • 7.^ William Douglas Home, Mr Home pronounced Hume, London, Collins, 1979, p 51
  • 8.^ Fraser, David, Wars and Shadows, Memoirs of General Sir David Fraser, pub Allen Lane, 2002. ISBN 0-713-99627-7 pages 151-158.
  • 9.^ a b Wilson, Andrew, Flame Thrower, pub Kimber, 1956.
  • 10.^ Smith, R. C. (1998) Refusal of Orders: the case of William Douglas Home. WaiMilHist
  • 11.^ a b c "A Lesson in Opportunism: With 141 Regiment RAC at Le Havre 1944", by 2nd Lieutenant James Wareing, 141 RAC, the Kentish Regiment (The Buffs), 79th Armoured Division, 2nd British Corps, 1st Canadian Army, contributed on 19 April 2004.
  • 12.^ Message 3 - A Lesson in Opportunism, posted on 2 February 2005 by phrchilds
  • 13.^ a b Message 5 - A Lesson in Opportunism, posted on 03 February 2005 by phrchilds
  • 14.^ Andrew Knapp; The Destruction and Liberation of Le Havre in Modern Memory (War In History, 2007)
  • 15.^ Forbes, Elizabeth. Kenneth Sandford obituary, The Independent, 23 September 2004
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Douglas-Home
  • ___________________
  • Hon. William Douglas-Home1
  • M, #29952, b. 3 June 1912, d. 28 September 1992
  • Last Edited=22 Apr 2011
  • Consanguinity Index=0.42%
  • Hon. William Douglas-Home was born on 3 June 1912.1 He was the son of Charles Cospatrick Archibald Douglas-Home, 13th Earl of Home and Lady Lillian Lambton.1 He married Rachel Leila Brand, Baroness Dacre, daughter of Thomas Henry Brand, 4th Viscount Hampden of Glynde and Leila Emily Seely, on 26 July 1951.1 He died on 28 September 1992 at age 80.1
  • He was educated at Eton College, Windsor, Berkshire, England.1 He was educated in 1934 at New College, Oxford University, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).1 He fought in the Second World War.1 He gained the rank of Captain in the service of the Royal Armoured Corps.1 He was a playwright.1
  • Children of Hon. William Douglas-Home and Rachel Leila Brand, Baroness Dacre
    • 1.Hon. James Thomas Archibald Douglas-Home+2 b. 16 May 1952
    • 2.Hon. Sarah Douglas-Home+2 b. 4 Jul 1954
    • 3.Hon. Gian Leila Douglas-Home2 b. 23 Jun 1958
    • 4.Hon. Dinah Lilian Douglas-Home+2 b. 22 Jan 1964
  • Citations
  • 1.[S37] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 2, page 1950. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.
  • 2.[S37] Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition, volume 1, page 1013.
  • From: http://thepeerage.com/p2996.htm#i29952
  • _________________
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Hon. William Douglas-Home's Timeline

June 3, 1912
Edinburgh, Scotland
May 16, 1952
Age 39
September 28, 1992
Age 80
Winchester, UK