Douglas, known as Billy, was born in Lancashire in 1880 and studied at Bury Grammar School and the University of Manchester. He took a BSc in botany and zoology before studying medicine, in which he qualified in 1905. Douglas held various appointments at MRI and was private assistant to Sir William Thorburn. Douglas took the FRCS in 1910 and was appointed honorary surgeon to Ancoats Hospital Manchester. Douglas served in Egypt during the war, but was invalided home in 1916, and attached to the Second Western General Hospital. On demobilisation he was appointed visiting surgeon to Withington Hospital Manchester, and in 1922 became honorary surgeon at MRI. Douglas was consulting surgeon to Christie Hospital, where he did important work on cancer of the mouth and tongue. This work was the basis for his Moynihan Lecture to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1947. He also had a successful private practice. Douglas retired from hospital work in 1945, but continued in private practice until 1950. He was appointed adviser in surgery to the regional board of the NHS. Douglas died on 23 February 1965.