The Modern Pentathlon was first introduced as an Olympic discipline in 1912 and, 20 years later, an Old Lambrookian was selected for the British team. His name was Jeffrey MacDougall and, in the 1932 issue of the Lambrook Chronicle, he described the format of this event to his eager readers:

This is a modern version of an ancient competition forming part of the Greek Olympiads and consists of the following five events: Riding, Shooting, Fencing, Swimming and Running.

As it happens, some current pupils at Lambrook also take part in these five disciplines – but separately, not as a combined event. The specific requirements in Jeffrey’s contest were also rather different from our individual school versions in many cases. Going into more detail, he explained that ‘Riding’ covered a cross-country course of 3½ miles, ‘Shooting’ was with a revolver, ‘Fencing’ was with foils, ‘Swimming’ was over 330 metres, and ‘Running’ consisted of a 2½ mile cross-country course.

At the end of the tournament, Jeffrey was placed fifteenth overall but, in the absence of a podium result, he displayed sportsmanship rather than disappointment and returned home declaring:

1932 has been a wonderful year for those fortunate athletes who, under the leadership of Lord Burghley, made the long journey across the Atlantic and the continent of N. America to take their part in the Games of the Tenth Olympiad at Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast… It was a wonderful experience for all those who had the luck to be included in the team. The Americans were as kind and hospitable as they had been efficient in their organisation, and California is a beautiful country with a marvellous climate.

Despite this general praise and admiration, Jeffrey knew that there was definitely room for improvement as far as his own personal performance was concerned, so he resumed training. Four years later, he won the British Pentathlon Championships and was reselected to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games.

The 1936 Games of the XI Olympiad were held in Berlin, much closer to home, and this time Jeffrey succeeded in retaining his position as the top British competitor in the Modern Pentathlon, achieving thirteenth place overall. Sadly, he was denied a further opportunity to climb higher up the rankings as the 1940 Olympic Games were inevitably cancelled, owing to the Second World War.

Jeffrey MacDougall was born on 16 September 1911 to British parents who at that time were living overseas in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1919, once peace had returned to Europe following the First World War, the family moved back to England and Jeffrey joined form IB at Lambrook in the Easter Term of 1922.

That Autumn saw Jeffrey already representing Lambrook at Football in the 3rd (Junior) XI and his team celebrated an unbeaten season – ‘MacDougall did well.’ He also reached the quarter-finals of the Golf Competition and passed his test in Swimming. By 1923, Jeffrey had moved up to the 2nd XI teams for Football as well as Cricket, and in 1924 he was selected for the top Football and Rugby teams as inside left and full-back respectively. The Lambrook Chronicle reported that he ‘kept cool and kicked well’ in addition to being a ‘good dribbler.’

In other pursuits, Jeffrey continued his Golfing activities, took up Fives, and was enrolled as a Scout in the School Troop. At the end of the Summer Term of 1925, he transferred to Malvern College where he joined House 9 – Mr Fraser’s. After four years of academic study and sporting activity, he was appointed Head of House, as well as gaining a Boxing Colour and a House Colour at Cricket.

Having been awarded a Cadet Scholarship to the R.M.C. Sandhurst, Jeffrey achieved a distinction for physical drill and equitation before being commissioned into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in 1932. Four years later, and only five weeks after competing in the Berlin Olympics, he was granted a probationary secondment to the RAF with a temporary commission as a Flying Officer.

This joint-service collaboration continued after the outbreak of the Second World War, when Jeffrey was sent to the Middle East as a member of an Army co-operation squadron and promoted to Captain (D.C.L.I.) / Flight Lieutenant (R.A.F.) in 1940.

In November that year, flying with No. 110 (Bomber) Squadron back in Europe and now holding the rank of Squadron Leader, Jeffrey was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for gallantry. The award citation, published in the London Gazette, read as follows:

“One night in November 1940, Squadron Leader MacDougall was the pilot and Sergeant Gray the air gunner of an aircraft detailed to carry out harassing attacks on enemy aerodromes. At 0300 hours, Amiens-Glisy aerodrome was identified and found to be illuminated for night flying. A large four-engine enemy aircraft was seen in the air and Squadron Leader MacDougall decided to attack it before bombing the aerodrome. He rapidly overhauled the enemy and from close range Sergeant Gray opened fire. His first burst entered one of the port engines which immediately emitted smoke. He then fired two long bursts into the fuselage. The aircraft was seen to fall, out of control, and eventually it hit the ground and exploded. Squadron Leader MacDougall then returned to Amiens-Glisy and bombed the aerodrome in the face of intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire. He has completed 22 and Sergeant Gray 26 operational missions, and both have at all times pressed home their attacks with courage and determination.”

The award of this decoration was announced to the Lambrook community in the 1940 Chronicle, as was Jeffrey’s engagement to Miss Jean Steuart-Menzies – their subsequent marriage being reported in the 1941 issue.

Sadly, the printers’ deadline for the 1942 Lambrook Chronicle was met before its Editor had received the tragic news that Wing Commander Jeffrey MacDougall, D.F.C., D.C.L.I. & R.A.F. had been killed in action on 11 December that year, at the age of 31.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission enclosure at Reading Cemetery includes a memorial to those casualties who were cremated there, including an inscription showing Jeffrey’s name. He is also included on the Roll of Honour in the Ante-Chapel at Malvern College.

Within the ancient Church of St Michael and All Angels at Enborne, Berkshire, are two much smaller memorials – a Second World War panel listing four fatalities, and a family plaque with just two.
Reunited there in name, at their country village church, are both Jeffrey and his younger brother George – a Leading Aircraftman in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, who died of his injuries on active service following an aircraft accident at Kumalo Air Station, Bulawayo, on 25 September 1941.

George had followed his older brother to Lambrook in late 1922, played Cricket, Football and Rugby for the School, won his Form’s Story Competition prize and transferred to Uppingham School, where he rose to become Captain of his House – The Lodge. Having progressed to Cambridge University, George continued his academic studies reading Geography, then Anthropology, at Christ’s College before becoming an Inspector for the Plantations Syndicate in Sudan until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Both George and his Olympian brother Jeffrey MacDougall feature on the 1939 – 1945 Roll of Honour in the Lambrook Chapel. Their names were read out at the School’s Memorial Service in June 1946, as they still are during our annual Acts of Remembrance.


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