Remembered by: Jake Wood
Date added: 4 Aug 2010
Douglas was born in Balham, south London, on the 26th February 1930, the only child to his parents, Harold and Jessie. And it wasn’t long before he did them proud, winning first prize in a baby show just a few months later!
He grew up in south London. Early photos taken out the back of the family home show a happy little boy with a great mop of unruly, white-blonde hair, playing with his friends.
This idyll would only last a few more years until at the age of ten, he was living through the Battle of Britain, and the Blitz.
A bomb blew his house’s windows out as he was sitting in the kitchen with his mother, and on another occasion he watched as a Heinkel bomber dropped bombs along the street he was standing on, as he waited to catch the bus home.
These were adventures though, and he had fond memories of collecting shrapnel, and cycling down to see his friend Bill.
These suburban beginnings would be remarkable enough for any ten year old. But it was watching those contrails swirling high above, and then feeling a Supermarine Spitfire roar over his head at rooftop level in all its Merlin’ed glory, that resolved his desire to take to the skies for his life.
So he did, and he was commissioned in 1951, passing off from the No.54 entry to R.A.F. Cranwell.
The numbers and types of aircraft he flew are bewildering: Prentices, Harvards, Varsitys, Lancasters, Shackletons, Ansons, Martinets, Chipmunks, Tiger Moths, Meteors, Vampires, Hastings, Andovers, Gnats, Beverleys, Caribous, Twin Pioneers, Beavers, Argosys and Hercules. Short of helicopters, (which he declared were against all the laws of physics), he flew nearly everything the R.A.F. had to offer at one cross section in time: jets, heavies and trainers alike.
The list of countries he flew to is even longer. In fact it would probably be more accurate to say that the only part of the world he did not fly to would be what was then the Soviet Union. No doubt this was actually something of a blessing, but he still made up for this gap in his travels many years later by holidaying in the Ukraine.
He rose to the rank of Wing Commander. He was Station Commander in Labuan, Borneo, and then Station Commander of Stanmore Park, a little closer to home in northwest London. He finished his R.A.F. career as a Senior Personnel Staff Officer.
He had three women in his life: Elizabeth, Greta and Jane; and three sons: Richard, Jake and Lucas.
He had a boyish sense of fun. As a boy, Lucas remembers his Dad conspiratorially asking him if he wanted to “Come and see something in the garden”, before being led theatrically slowly, anticipation growing with each footstep, into an overgrown corner of the acre-large garden, right beside the local church.
Douglas had lifted the cover off a manhole he had found while clearing away the undergrowth, and beckoned in wonderment for Lucas to look down and inspect the dark contents flowing away from church land.
“What do you think that is?”
“I don’t know Daddy…what is it?”
“That’s holy shit”.
After retiring from the R.A.F. in 1984, he was a Registrar for Henley Technical College. He worked hard to provide for his family, but in 1988 he suffered a stroke and had to leave work.
But this did not hold him back. And it was as ill health tried to claim him that he kicked back against it.
He took on a massive undertaking in researching and writing the history of the R.A.F. group he spent most of his career in, 38 Group, and this was published in 1996.
He kept his travelling up, revisiting far-flung destinations from his past, and adding new ones to his list.
And after being helped to recovery from the stroke by the Rivermead rehabilitation centre here in Oxford, he then went back there, to help out as a volunteer.
And it was here, where, just like the photos of a blonde-haired, happy little boy showed so many years before, that he enjoyed meeting people, and making friends. He could strike up a conversation with anyone, and make them feel good about themselves again.
His doctor described Douglas as “a fine man in whom I had the utmost respect. Even though he had significant medical problems he always dealt with them in a calm, polite and charming way”.
Now, finally, he can rest.
“Per ardua ad astra”.
He has lived his life in keeping with the Royal Air Force motto, and he thoroughly deserves its reward now:
“Through adversity to the stars”.
Wing Commander Douglas Harold Wood
26.2.1930 - 20.4.2010
Buried at Andover Cemetary with his parents, Harold and Jessie