Charlie's Sons: Charlie and Bill Douglas

Charlie Douglas had two sons, as noted already, Charles and William. Charles (I'm just going to call him Dad) enjoyed holidays to Rothesay as a boy. He worked as an office boy at James Cunningham, coal fitters, in Glasgow and then in Rolls Royce. When the war came he took the opportunity to join up and have an adventure. Also, he knew that if he joined up first he would have some say in which service he would enter. He wanted to join the RAF, because he didn't fancy the marches infantry had to make. Perhaps he did not realise that the BEF was fully mechanised. Dad was not recommended for aircrew, he thinks this is because his Maths was not good enough. Presumably this reflected a weakness at trigonmetry. Given the high mortality rate for aircrew this may have saved his life.

When he was doing his basic training in England Dad linked together two news items in his mind and proved to be correct: reports from Germany that Hitler's deputy leader, Rudolph Hess, had gone missing and reports from home of a single plane flying over Eaglesham, where Dad had often visited his gran and other relatives.

It turned out that Hess had flown to Scotland hoping to meet the Duke of Hamilton (Douglas Douglas-Hamilton) whom he knew slightly as both were fliers to negotiate a Western Front peace to allow Germany to attack the USSR. As it happened he could not find his destination and if the duke knew of the plan he had wisely absented himself from Scotland. Hess was detained by a local farmer and spent the remainder of the war in the Tower of London.

Dad kept a diary spasmodically on the troopship voyage to India. It was a long journey as the Mediterranean Sea was not considered safe. Technically, he was not allowed to keep a diary but there seem to be endless numbers of people who kept some form of diary in the services. The diary still exists.

Dad was posted to a backwater RAF base in what is now Pakistan, RAF Jiwani. He seems to have had a great time and talked at length in our childhood about the good times he had with friends there. Corporal Albert Gething was a room mate and life long friend. I met him and his wife in 1982 at their Stockton home. Albert and Dad "invaded" neutral Iran when swimming a river: by crossing to the far bank they had entered Iran. That was as close as they came to seeing action. Dad was not eligible for the Burma Star as his base was too far from the combat zone. Throughout his time in service Dad was a direction finder wireless operator but in 1945 he applied to learn to fly. This would have meant a posting to flight school in Kenya. He fancied that. Thankfully the war came to an end before he could go on the 6 week course: the survival rate of pilots was very low in Asia at this time compared to the Americans (source Strategy and Tactics magazine).

Dad was demobilised and returned to Glasgow where he lived at his parents' home for a time and had a job. He moved to Northern Ireland around 1947 to work at Gilnahirk where there was a wireless station. This was a civilian posting. He was collected from the ferry by cousin Nessie Bennett's connection, Sam Keith, who lived in Waterloo Gardens. Always a reader, Dad bought a newspaper on the boat, the Irish Independent. Mr Keith made a little comment about the choice of paper being a surprise. This was Dad's introduction to Northern Ireland's divided nature. The Keiths were very welcoming, so much so that Dad did not attempt to find more permanent accommodation for himself at first and the Keiths did the work for him. Incidentally, I have a photo of the grave of their maid. Telling my Dad this in 2015 he just remarked, "Yes she was a nice woman, she's buried at Ballylesson. I was at her funeral." So there is a connection of sorts to my own church but he hadn't thought to mention it. At first he was in what his generation called "digs" on the Antrim Road, later he stayed with a Mrs Lynn on the Beersbridge Road. He had a good relationship with her and they remained in touch for the rest of her life. Fond of travel though he was, Dad had found his niche; he married Mum (who worked at the Enfield Dairies at Ballyhackamore) in 1952 and they moved to a house close to where Mum's parents lived. It was said that every other house in the area contained someone who worked at "the station."

 

Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow, where Dad enlisted (from discussglasgowguide.co.uk)

 

After my sister was born Dad began a 3 year placement to Singapore. They sailed out on 29th April 1955 on the SS Corfu, bound for Hong Kong first (Ancestry, UK Outgoing Passenger Lists 1878-1960) and returned in 1958. The family travelled home on the SS Himalaya, arriving on 2nd June 1958. Their stated address was the Cora Hotel, London. The previous port was Lisbon (from Ancestry, UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960). Going through the Suez Canal meant this was a shorter journey than that in WW2 when the Mediterranean was too dangerous and he sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. He could have uprooted the family on several occasions to Hong Kong or Cheltenham but Dad was conscious of the impact this would have on some of us and we remained in NI, though he did 4 stints in Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s. When the wireless station closed in 1977 Dad chose to stay in N Ireland where he worked in the National Farmer's Union as a clerk and then as a technician at Dundonald Girls' High School until he was able to retire. He wrote a lot of letters to newspapers and magazines, often winning prizes.

After retirement he discovered a limited talent for acting through an old colleague who was an 'extra'. Dad appeared in several NI TV programmes as an extra and in the first series of Game of Thrones.

When grandad heard the name chosen for my brother he replied quietly, "Welsh, isn't it?"  Dad deduced that something was wrong. Thinking it over he added the middle name "Charles". After a career in insurance he now devotes his time to wargaming and holidaying abroad.

My sister married and had two children. One lives in Ontario, Canada and the other is a printer. He lives in Millisle, Co Down, with his wife and two children.

I read Archaeology at Queen's University, Belfast before becoming a teacher. I am married but have no children.

Uncle Bill was born in 1927 at Caldercuilt Road but the family soon moved to the HIgh Street. Dad observed to me recently that when he left to join the RAF Bill was a school boy but when he came back he found his younger brother was a man, with evidence for this in the form of Bill fixing things around the house for his mother.

Bill was evacuated early in the war to a place in the Aberdeen area but after the Germans over-ran Norway this was in the range of their bombers so he was moved to Ayrshire. He was turned down for service in 1944 because of his eyesight. By the time he married Aunt Martha in 1954 he was working as an optical instrument maker. Earlier he had worked in a jewellery shop for a family relative and was regarded as having potential. The photo below, from Colin Douglas, shows him with a group of apprentices at his new work.

 

When he met Aunt Martha he was also working in a dance hall and apparently she thought he was a bit sure of himself. Nonetheless he persevered and she saw another side of him, the result being a marriage which lasted for over 60 years.

The wedding photo below (family collection) shows them at their Glasgow wedding, with Martha's best friend, May Coogan, as bridesmaid. Bill's friend, Jimmy Scott, was best man. After they married Aunt Jean Borland was able to secure their first home at Marmion Street (the same tenement block as themselves). The tenement block no longer exists, pulled down in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

 

I have another picture, an informal one showing the party leaving the registry office, from Colin Douglas.

Bill moved to "digs" in Hertfordshire around 1961 and when established at a job in the new town of Stevenage brought his family to join him. Here there was a garden, there were parks and the old attitudes of Glasgow could be forgotten even if the accents still remained.

Dad in RAF uniform around 1943 (family collection).

 

 

Note the top button undone. Dad's uniform had to be returned to th RAF when he was demobilised.

Dad, Uncle Bill and Gran (Mary Bennett) at her 100th birthday party at a care home in Stevenage, Herts. (Photo from a local newspaper?)

Below is part of Dad's RAF record. I found these among his documents recently. He was described as being of excellent character. The nearest RAF recruiting office was in Edinburgh, I understand.

Mary Bennett at her 100th birthday party in Stevenage, Herts, with two sons, five grandchildren, three great grandchildren and other relatives. I'm happy to put up names for those adults who are happy to be named.

Below is an aerial photo of RAF Mauripur:

From Dad's RAF Record: