Born Douglas Coplaston (though this is variously rendered in the records) Eggar on 29 Dec 1900, probably at Eton College like some or all of his four siblings. Their father, William Douglas Eggar MA, the author of "A Manual of Geometry" (1907), was also a housemaster and an assistant maths and science teacher at Eton and the family lived in the grounds. His grandfather, John, was Rector of Offwell, in Somerset.
An Old Etonian himself, Dougal was something of the family black sheep, but only by degrees. Service in the First World War was followed by studying theology. By October 1923 he had sailed for Demerara, in British Guiana, possibly connected with this. But he did not settle and tried several careers that did not suit him before he joined the police.
One of the tasks allotted to him was to attend and report on Communist Party meetings but this only served to convince him that the arguments of the Communists had merit. This was significantly developed after a football injury, which laid him up so much that he took to intensive reading.
This sharply increased his interest in politics, especially after a brother returned from a visit to the USA in 1928 with Upton Sinclair’s novel, Boston, an indictment of the American judicial system which mixed fictional characters with historical ones. This sparked his interest in the case of Nicolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian-born anarchists, who were framed for murdering two men during an armed robbery who were executed by the electric chair in 1927. By his own account, Sinclair's other books greatly influenced Eggar.
Having read John Cornford’s work (see separate entry) and hearing of his joining the International Brigade in Spain Eggar’s interest in the International Brigade’s Dependents’ Aid Association was prompted. He found that his own attempts to join the Brigade fighting in Spain was stymied by being associated with the police. Though his perfectly sensible reasoning that he wouldn’t have admitted this association if his aim was negative was sort of accepted but not enough to be recruited into military service.
But Eggar was a personal friend of Esmond Romilly (see separate entry), having spent time with Romilly at the progressive bookshop he worked at in Parton Street, near Red Lion Square, and in Meg's Café nearby. Romilly was able to get him accepted into the Brigade in November 1937, leaving on New Year’s Eve with a couple of dozen others on a supposed day trip to Calais. Eggar was one of the few with a passport, but he never saw it again as it was used to assist someone out of Germany. See http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80018339]
Serving at the front, he was eventually captured by the Italians and ended up as the oldest prisoner in the San Pedro de Cardeña concentration camp, in the city of Burgos. Clive Branson and Tony Gilbert were with him (see separate entries).
In 1939, he was registered as being a law student in London, sponsored by the Metropolitan Police.
Eggar was conscripted to work in the coal mines during the Second World War.
He died in 1992 in Lambeth.
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