Douglas Buchanan Stephenson was born in Chorlton on December 19, 1890. His father, Claudius Stephenson died when Douglas was 6 years old and the family then moved to Cheadle, near Stockport. Douglas was educated at Stockport Grammar and by 1906 he was working as a clerk at the Stockport branch of the Manchester & County Bank.
Douglas joined the 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment Territorials as a Private and on May 29, 1912 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion. A year later, on July 17, 1913, he was promoted to Lieutenant. He mobilised with the 1/9th at the outbreak of war but contracted influenza and developed pneumonia and so was unable to travel with them to Egypt. He returned to Ashton in early October after recuperating at St. Annes on Sea, again volunteering for overseas service and was promoted to temporary Captain. He spent October and November in Ashton managing the recruitment of new men into the Battalion.
The first large draft (5 Officers and 222 men) sent out from the UK to reinforce the Battalion at Gallipoli arrived at Cape Helles on July 23, 1915 and Lt. Stephenson was the ranking Officer of the group. Two weeks later they were involved in the Battle of Krithia Vineyard but Lt. Stephenson was not specifically mentioned. He was made temporary Captain on September 13, 1915, which is normally associated with commanding a Company, and relinquished it on October 9, 1915 when he was evacuated sick to hospital in Alexandria. He did not rejoin the Battalion until January 3, 1916 when they were temporarily in Mudros, en-route to Egypt.
He served with the 1/9th in Egypt without incident until May 27, 1916 when he again went sick to hospital and remained there for 113 days. He was promoted to Captain on June 1, 1916. On September 30th he attended a school of instruction for 3 weeks in Cairo. His older brother, Captain Claudius Stephenson of the 12th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, died of wounds on November 2, 1916 in Salonika. On February 20, 1917 he was awarded 38 days of home leave in the UK.
He rejoined the Battalion in France on March 30, 1917 and took over Command of D Company. Around two weeks later attended a course of instruction for Company Commanders in Martieny. He attended another course in May and upon his return was awarded 10 days home leave from September 27 to October 7, 1917. On December 27he attended a Lewis Gun course at Le Touquet, rejoining the Battalion 10 days later.
On the night of 11/12 February 1918, Captain Stephenson led a successful raid on the German lines (between Festubert and Cuinchy in northern France). The raiding party consisted of 3 Officers and 98 men of D company. Three men were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Capt. Stephenson was awarded the Military Cross. The citation in the London Gazette reads:
Capt. Douglas Buchanan Stephenson, Manch. R. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When in command of a raiding party he showed great dash, and at one place where the wire was not cut himself lay on the strands, thus enabling his men to pass over. He displayed great resolution, and prior to the operation, which resulted in the capture of seven prisoners and two machine guns, twenty-five of the enemy being killed, he showed the most commendable keenness, and inspired his men with great confidence, which helped to ensure its success.
On March 21, 1918 the 9th Manchesters were serving in the in the 198th Brigade of the 66th (2nd/East Lancashire) Division. The 9th Battalion were in the support line at Hervilly, East of Péronne, on the evening of March 20, 1918. The entire divisional front came under an intense artillery and gas bombardment starting at 4.40am and the Battalion was quickly moved up towards the front and by 4pm on the afternoon of March 21st, 2 Companies of the 9th Battalion were in front of Trinket redoubt. The following is excerpted from a report on operations March 21/22 by Lt. Col. EC Lloyd, Commanding Officer of the Battalion at that time:
“March 22, 1918. At about 10:30am a barrage was put down in the rear of the trenches, which was at first taken to be that of the enemy, but it increased in volume and two direct hits came on the Battalion Headquarters killing one company commander [Capt. DB Stephenson] who was there and severely wounding the Adjutant [Capt. OJ Sutton]. … A pigeon basket was luckily found and despatched to ask our artillery to cease fire.”
Around noon, the Battalion was forced to retire from their position under heavy enemy machine gun fire from both flanks. Captain Douglas Buchanan Stephenson, MC was killed in action on March 22, 1918. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Poziers Memorial, the Stockport War Memorial and the Ashton Under Lyne Civic War Memorial. He was 27 years old.