After returning to England, Doug was not posted back to the squadron, the war having come to an end and he and his crew tour-expired.
However the RAF had not finished with him yet, and he was posted to an air force station at Negumbo in Sri Lanka!
Like many of the jobs that the forces found to employ the thousands of men awaiting a return to civilian life, it was not very exciting, but the men found time for deer and leopard-hunting, sunbathing and swimming at the beautiful beaches. Fortunately it was only for a few months, and then Doug was shipped back to England and demobilized.
After an unsuccessful stint at university in Edinburgh, Doug got a job as a laboratory technician at Williams (Hounslow) Ltd., food colouring and dye manufacturers in London.
Eventually becoming bored with his work, in 1951 Doug left and applied for several jobs, being accepted for a position on a tea plantation in India!
Michakajan plantation was near Tezpur, a small city in Assam, north-eastern India, near the Himalayas. Doug was factory manager and stayed almost the full three years of his contract.
He had been corresponding with his sister’s brother-in-law, and liked the sound of Canada. After he had enjoyed Christmas with the family at home, he sailed to Canada, arriving in Toronto in January 1955. He worked loading freight for Canadian National Railways.
It was at this time he met Janet, an artist and set designer, and a recent arrival from Scotland. Janet returned to Scotland for a time but Doug convinced her to come back ….
Dougie and Janet married at the Unitarian Church on Sinclair, Toronto, on the 31st of May 1959.
Doug took a new job as an instrument man at Proctor & Redfern Consulting Engineers, and after a while studied, passed his exams, wrote his thesis and in 1968 became a registered Civil Engineer. He also had a stint at teaching.
In 1969 he achieved his first black belt in judo at the age of 43. He would achieve his second when he was 58.
Doug and Janet had two sons while in Toronto, Angus and Ian.
The family emigrated to New Zealand in 1974, thinking it would be a better place for bringing up the boys. Janet’s cousin had recommended it to them, and Janet had made an exploratory trip. They started off in Auckland (Epsom, then Devonport) with Janet working as a window-dresser for a large Queen St. department store. Doug was accepted for a job in Wellington as chief roading engineer for the Forest Service so they moved south.
A couple of years later he changed jobs again, to teach civil engineering (in particular, hydraulics) at the national Technical Correspondence Institute – his last job and the best job he ever had, he says. So he was disappointed when he was forced to retire at age 65.
During this period, Janet worked for many years as a set designer for Television New Zealand, her work often bringing her back up to Auckland.
The family moved back up to Auckland in the 90s, where they still live.
Doug has filled up his retirement years with many interests, continuing Masters fencing up into his 80s, playing croquet and doing some framing of Janet’s wonderful paintings. They took up writing classes together, and it was these that led to Doug’s two books.
In 2002, age 77, Doug told his full life story in his own words and in his very own whimsical style, self-publishing a book called “Aimless Wanderings of a Nincompoop”, still available in a few second-hand bookstores. It provides the definitive account of his time as a Flight Engineer at 75(NZ) Squadron and his crew’s dramatic last op’, but also covers his post-war exploits in Sri Lanka, England, India, Canada and New Zealand.
He shared the manuscript with his close friend and renowned photographer Lutz Dille, a German who had served on the Eastern Front in WW2, and who he and Janet met in Canada. Lutz replied by writing down his own story, which has some remarkable parallels with Doug’s, in some ways a mirror image.
Doug decided to combine the two stories into one book but sadly Lutz passed away in 2008 before the project was completed.
In April 2012, Doug and I made contact, 67 years after he had last seen Gerry. Amazing to find out that he had lived in Devonport for a while, not far from us, and that his and our boys had gone to the same primary school!
In June 2012 the New Zealand government sent a group of sixty Kiwi Bomber Command veterans to London for the official Bomber Command Memorial unveiling in June (and some to the following 75(NZ) Sqdn UK reunion), however Doug didn’t qualify as he served in the RAF, not the RNZAF. The UK government would not support the RAF veterans either, so they were left in a bureaucratic no-mans land.
This was seen as very unfair by some of us, who thought that a New Zealand citizen of 40 years who served in a New Zealand-named RAF squadron and sole survivor of a crew containing three NZers, more than deserved to attend, on their behalf if nothing else. The resulting campaign generated some publicity but unfortunately no action from the government.
However it did indirectly result in an incredibly generous gesture by Auckland businessman Ian Kuperus, and his wife, who arranged to take five of the Kiwi RAF veterans to London on a separate trip of their own, in September 2012. Ian was born in Holland, and through his parents he grew up with a feeling of gratitude towards RAF Bomber Command, especially for their Operation Manna food drops to the Dutch in the closing days of the war.
Doug and Janet both went on the trip, and in the event, they probably had an even better experience than they would have had on the RNZAF trip. They visited the Bomber Command Memorial, Runnymede, the Imperial War Museum at Hendon, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at Coningsby (complete with Spitfire fly-past) and went for a taxi ride in the Lancaster “Just Jane” at East Kirkby.
Doug has been an active member of the NZ Bomber Command Assn for a number of years and has attended some of the 75 Squadron RAF/RNZAF Assn reunions, one of a dwindling number of BC veterans who are now the stars at such events.
A couple of years ago Doug and Janet reluctantly left their beautiful little house in Grey Lynn and moved into the top-floor of an equally beautiful old brick villa in Westmere, with Ian and his family.
– More about Dougie & Janet at home.
Doug is still fit and mobile, although at 94 understandably his eyesight and hearing are not as strong as they were – he recently had laser treatment which restored his eyesight sufficiently to start reading large print books again. Along with Janet he takes a keen interest in politics and current affairs, actively involved in the Green Party and a member of Amnesty International.
Janet continues to paint and sculpt, holding occasional exhibitions and selling her work. She still designs sets for local repertory productions.