Family story from Mary Luxford
Douglas Walter Belcher was born on 15th July 1889, to Walter and Emily Belcher of Surbiton. His parents were drapers in business on Brighton Road. After finishing his education at Tiffin School, he first became a clerk at J Randall Porter of Surbiton, and then as an antique furniture salesman for Waring and Gillow (of Oxford Street, London). He was a chorister at St Mark’s Church, and enjoyed being a member of Surbiton United and Ditton Hill Cricket. Aged 18, he joined the 25th (Cyclist) Battalion of the County of London Regiment. On 1st July 1909, he transferred to the 9th Battalion (Queen Victoria Rifles), the start of his military career as a Rifleman. In 1913 he joined the Territorial Force, spending once a week and every holiday in training.
When war broke out Douglas was sent out to the Western Front, with the Old Contemptibles, the self-adopted name of the British Expeditionary Force in 1914. At the age of 25, Lance-Sergeant Belcher was awarded the Victoria Cross thanks to his brave actions with the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion, on 13th May 1915, in the midst of battle near Wieltje-St. Julien Road, Belgium. Blecher was in charge of a portion of advance group, during continuous bombardment by the Germans, whom were only 150-200 yards away. The Times newspaper reported on 24th May: ‘Only 278 men were left in the battalion, and during the day 91 of these fell. In one trench, Sergeant Belcher commanded four survivors of his regiment and two Hussars he had picked up. His trench was blown to pieces and he had to face a German attack which, by accurate and rapid rifle fire, he succeeded in repulsing. No more heroic game of bluff has ever been played and it saved the whole right of the 4th division.’
By the time the war had ended, Douglas was a Captain had been very affected by his time on the Western Front, experiencing nervous breakdowns once he returned home. After a short spell working for a bank, he bought and took over a greengrocer’s in Tunbridge Wells, on doctor’s orders to do something less stressful. He threw himself into the work of the British Legion, and was an active member of the Old Contemptibles Association, as well as continuing his membership of the Masons (since 1916). He had two sons with his wife Emily Frances Belcher (née Luxford): Francis “Bill” Douglas Belcher (1917) and Brian Wynn Belcher (1926).
Douglas Belcher died on 3rd June 1953, aged 63.