Surely the best part of rediscovering the JN-Dog story for me was finding out that one of the crew was still alive and living here in Auckland. And then to meet Doug Williamson, and his lovely wife Janet – such nice people and now such good friends.
We catch up regularly, at NZ Bomber Command Assn. events, whenever Doug & Janet pop over to Devonport for old times’ sake (they lived here at one stage) and whenever one party or the other feels the need for a coffee and chinwag.
The photo above is from one of those coffees in early November last year when Michael Copsey (NZBCA executive committee member) kindly drove them over to my place.
Michael had met Dougie at the RAF 100 event last September and taken an interest in his story. Michael’s Dad was a Bomb Aimer with 218 Squadron who had flown with a Flight Engineer called Lyndon Sims. Lyndon had gone on to serve with 75(NZ) Squadron as Engineering Section Leader, and Michael thought that Dougie, as a fellow Flight Engineer, may remember him.
We worked out that Lyndon had left the squadron just before Dougie and the boys arrived, however there was still lots to talk about.
Back in September 2013, I was part of a very special visit with Doug and Janet, by Gerry’s son Phil and grandson, Sean on a trip back to NZ from their home in L.A..
In a surrealistic moment that sent shivers up my spine, we got out of the car to go into their house and a Spitfire and P-51 Mustang flew overhead!
Such a privilege to be part of this ‘reunion’ of mates, almost 70 years later.
More recently, Doug, Janet and I caught up for lunch at the Esplanade in Devonport – Janet has happy memories of staying there when she was working for TVNZ in Auckland, while she and Doug and the boys were still living in Wellington. Wonderfully independent and mobile, they had bused and ferried across, and we had a very nice lunch, talking about our latest exciting contact with Ralph Sparrow’s grandson Dave, among other things.
After lunch we walked along to BookMark, the wonderful 2nd-hand bookshop in the main street owned by Mark Owen, an avid collector of militaria. He is the owner of the “D-Dog portrait” that we took to Doug’s 90th birthday party, so it was nice to be able to introduce Doug to him and for Doug to tell his story in person.
Doug is very fit and well, hard to believe he is 93. His eyesight is not 100%, but was recently improved significantly by laser surgery, so that he can read large-print books again. He wears a hearing aid, and has a soft voice, but is as sharp and quick as you like.
He has a gentle, self-deprecating sense of humour and is great company. He and Janet are both very young of mind, very involved in community and politics – keen Green Party members!
Janet is a very accomplished artist. After a career of painting, sculpting and television set design, she still designs sets for local repertory productions and still sculpts and paints – she occasionally holds exhibitions and sells her work. We have one of her paintings and I would love to buy more of them.
From a 70-year-old story about Gerry’s crewmate who fell out of their Lancaster, to good friends within easy driving distance for a coffee and a natter! I feel very lucky indeed to have got to know them, and look forward to catching up again soon!