DOIG, Keith McKeddie MC (1891-1949)

Modified on Wed, 25 Jan 2017 09:17 by Con — Categorized as: Biography - All, Biography - Students, Geelong College, Biography of Military Service, Biography of War - World War I

DOIG, Dr Keith McKeddie MC (1891-1949)

Keith Doig, medical practitioner and a past President of the OGCA, died at Lorne in January 1949.
K M Doig (Prefect 1909).

K M Doig (Prefect 1909).

Born at Nathalia on 18 December 1891, the son of Mitchell Doig, a schoolmaster, and Henrietta Eliza nee McKeddie, Keith Doig entered Geelong College in 1905 on a junior scholarship and emerged in 1908 as dux and winner of further scholarships. A School Prefect in 1909 and a leader in sport, he was a member of the 1st Football XVIII in 1908 and its Captain in 1909; a member of the 1st Cricket XI of 1907, 1908 and Captain in 1909 and a member of the Athletics Team in 1908 and 1909. He was joint holder, for many years, of the College batting partnership record. His parallel successes in study and sport were continued at the University of Melbourne, where he won Blues for both cricket and football and played in league football for University. He graduated MB BS in 1914. His address at enrolment was 268 Gheringhap St, Geelong.

At College, he was awarded the following prizes:
1905, 1st, Arithmetic, Upper 4th Form.
1905, 1st, Algebra, Lower 4th Form.
1905, 1st, Latin, Lower 4th Form.
1905, 2nd, French, Middle 4th Form.
1907, 1st, Physics, 6th Form.
1908, Dux of the College.
1908, 1st, Geometry, 6th Form
1908, 2nd, Chemistry, Honour 6th Form.
1908, 2nd, Physics, Honour 6th Form
1908, 2nd, Trigonometry, 6th Form.

He enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) in March 1916, and embarked on HMAT A32 Themistodes on 28 July 1916. He arrived in France where he was posted as Regimental Medical Officer to 60 Battalion on 25 November 1916, remaining with the Regiment until 20 June 1918. The 60th Battalion had acquired one of its most important men. His influence was profound and his character and courage were to mark many men for the rest of their lives. The men also greatly moulded Dr Doig. His first night with the Battalion he noted matter-of-factly:

'25 November. Got to 60th Battalion at Switch Trench...moved on to Needle Dump. No room to sleep so went over to AADS but no room there. Found a small "funk hole" up the road which I slept, or rather spent the night in. Was flooded out and moreover well shelled. 26 November. Went over to Needle Dump. Trench shelled here during the morning and 7 men killed and 4 wounded. A most ghastly sight. Trench knee deep in mud...met Bill Leggatt (OGC)...and another Geelong boy (Sgt McKinlay). RAP is a deep German dug-out but unfortunately is right in middle of barrage line and machine gunning. Gueudecourt to left of us. 28 November...not many wounded but condition of men is pitiable. 30 November. Evacuated 80 cases trench foot.'

Many of Doig's letters to his fiancée and many diary entries are quoted in Robin Corfield's book, 'Hold Hard, Cobbers' (Vol. 1); the letters are reproduced with permission from his family in this book. He was ordered to rest after the winter of 1916 on the Somme, the coldest winter recorded for many years. He wrote to his fiancée, as recorded by Alf Batchelder in his history of the Melbourne Cricket Club, Playing the Greater Game:
‘We are shivering with the cold - ice, snow, sleet, slush and rain. And still the War goes on and still the wounded come in. Poor beggars! I do feel for them in this weather for lots of them frequently be out all night in a shell hole until they are found and the exposure is terrible...The mud is getting (if possible) worse. I think my trousers would stand up by themselves if I took them off so muddy are they. But of course one does not remove one's clothes with only a single blanket and no fire. And there are real frosts here at times believe me.’

Another of his letters contained a ribbon worn by a German aviator who bombed the 60th Battalion rest lines and was downed by anti-aircraft guns and brought in to have his wounds dressed. A further letter, dated 6 December 1916, complains again of the conditions:

‘My dear Louie,

Cold, wet, miserable, slush, mud, dirt-in fact everything one can imagine to produce
the blues in everybody. C'est la Guerre, and I suppose in Australia
The little birds are singing in the trees
The air is like a long cool slug 'er beer
A bosker smell of flowers is on the breeze
And 'eres me 'ere (in France)
It's a rotten, rotten war.’

In 1918, Doig was recommended for the Military Cross by his commanding officer, Pompey Elliott who Doig had treated when he first arrived. Doig’s award was gazetted on 1 January 1918. Elliott wrote: ‘During the period from February to September 1917 this officer has shown exceptional ability and devotion to duty. His work in the trenches on the Somme during the early months of the year under very trying circumstances was exceptionally good and later during the advance on Bapaume and forward from there his work was invaluable. On several occasions he established advanced RAPs under heavy fire and at all times was heedless of his own safety. Later at Bullecourt in May he displayed the same ability and courage and his work, when called upon to replace an RMO who had become a casualty in the front line system, was of the highest order. This Officer has proved himself to be one who does work of the highest quality under the most arduous circumstances. His courage and devotion to duty deserves special recognition.’

Doig served on through the Ypres offensive, Polygon Wood, where he suffered the loss of his great friend from Ormond days, George Elliott, who was mortally wounded at Chateau Wood on 26 September, as related by Ross McMullin in Pompey Elliott: Keith Doig, writing to his fiancée on the day his friend George Elliott was buried, admitted he had never been nearer death ' ...crouched in a shell hole with the big shells dropping all around me, I felt quite resigned and just wondered where the shell would hit me...I was blown off my feet three or four times, I was covered with earth thrown up by the shells, I was hit with small fragments, yet marvellous to say I came out unscathed...The Somme was bad, Bullecourt was worse, but this place beats all' .

Finally, came the turning point in the war, at Villers Bretonneux, the Defence of Amiens. Doig left 60 Battalion, after being posted to No 1 Army General Headquarters, Rouen. A letter printed in Pegasus of May 1918 reported on the comings and goings of his school colleagues in his battalion:

‘Just a few lines to let you know how we are getting on over here where, in spite of circumstances, the memory of the Old School is ever before us. We are at present in the line on a quiet sector of the front; consequently my work is reduced to a minimum, and beyond an occasional sick soldier, business is very quiet at the regimental aid post. My RAP (as it is called for short) is located in one of Fritz's 'pill-boxes', an excellently-built concrete affair, which he, perforce, had to leave some time ago. Allardyce, whom you will remember at School, is at present Transport Officer, and he occasionally comes in to see me, when he brings the rations up at night. He, by the way, has just been awarded the Croix de Guerre. Tom Kerr is in England, having a very well-deserved rest at the Training Battalion. Mr MacRoberts is very fit and well. He went away to a school (the tables are reversed) two or three days ago. Bill Leggatt, our signalling officer, is much the same as of yore, good-natured and very well-liked. Before we moved in, Arthur David came and had tea with us one night, and another night Jimmy Kininmonth came along to see us.’ All those mentioned, Allardyce, Kerr, Leggatt, David and Kininmonth, were Old Geelong Collegians. MacRoberts was on the staff.

The Australian War Memorial (AWM) Collection holds Keith Doig's diary and an extensive collection of letters to his then fiancée (p. 446 et seq), commenting on the war in general and, in particular, on conditions in trenches, the plight of the wounded, the artillery bombardments, his admiration for stretcher bearers, the differences between British and Australians, the conscription debate, mail, numerous attacks and counter-attacks, the Armistice, and the stoic attitude of Australians.

In one letter, he wrote:
‘Isn't it hard to realise that the business is finished as far as actual fighting is concerned and that victory is ours. But what a lot it has cost us and think of the men who have given all for it. Well, we can only hope that this is the end of war for all time, altho' I'm afraid that that is just too much to hope. Now remains to carry out the difficult and precarious peace settlements and that is going to take some time. Demobilisation of us will not be too quickly done as transport is necessary for food for victors and vanquished.’

The AWM Collection also holds a group portrait of the officers of 60 Battalion. The group includes Captain K McK Doig MC (RMO), Lieutenant W W Leggatt MC and Lieutenant A H MacRoberts

Doig returned to Australia on 23 July 1919, disembarking in September, and married his long-time fiancée ‘Louie’ Grant in 1920. They had originally become engaged shortly after he had enlisted. Lewis Maffra Grant was born on 8th September 1888, the daughter of William and Janette Langlands Grant, of Maffra. After World War I, he became a general medical practitioner in Colac, Dr Doig became one of the best known and loved citizens of the district; his particular sporting interest was tennis; for many years he arranged for College teams to play matches at Colac. He was always closely interested in the College and the OGCA. In 1948 he delivered what was described as a ‘happy, wise address to the school on Founder's Day’ which showed a ‘keen appreciation of the modern boy’ . His two sons, Drs Ron and Bill Doig, were also prominent Collegians. When his son Ron became dux in 1937, it was the first time that father and son had achieved that distinction.

Sources: Pegasus May 1918; Pegasus December 1938 p73; Pegasus January 1949 p51; Ad Astra September 1978 p2; James Affleck Geelong Collegians’ at the Great War pp 172-175 (citing Robin S Corfield, Hold Hard, Cobbers Vol. 1; Australian War Memorial; Ross McMullin, Pompey Elliott; Alf Batchelder, Playing the Greater Game: The Melbourne Cricket Club and its Ground in World War I); Jim Main and David Allen, Fallen: The Ultimate Heroes - Footballers who never returned from the war (2002); National Archives; AWM E03419B; E01426; E03421.