RELATIVES today (Monday, July 14) paid tribute to a North-East RAF veteran who was shot down and captured by Nazi forces during the Second World War.
Norman Douglas, who died on Monday, June 30, became a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over Holland in 1943.
He had flown out of Middleton-St-George, near Darlington, County Durham, on his seventh mission as a bomb aimer and observer with the 419 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force – the same squadron as famed Victoria Cross recipient Andrew Mynarski.
During the mission, the crew was forced to bail out over occupied territory when a night fighter attacked their craft.
One of their crew died but the others managed to parachute to the ground and evaded capture for days, until local villagers turned them over to German forces.
Mr Douglas lived out the rest of the war as a prisoner in camps in Lithuania and Pomerania before being abandoned by guards during a march between camps as the Russians approached.
His nephew, Jim Douglas said: “He never used to talk about his experiences but in the last few years of his life, he talked and talked about the adventures he’d had.
“He said his captors treated him quite well, but he was badly nourished and a lot of people died during long marches between camps when the war was concluding – that was the worst part.”
Mr Douglas was awarded the rare Caterpillar Club accolade, which is given to those who survive parachuting out of an aircraft – though he missed out on a medal given for the successful completion of seven missions as his capture meant he failed to complete the seventh.
The nature-lover became an ordinance surveyor after the war and was married to his wife Margaret for more than 59 years. The couple had a daughter, Jane, who died in 2002 from cancer.
Mr Douglas died from old age at 91, having lived in Walworth, near Darlington for 36 years.
Jim Douglas said: “He was a typical English gentleman, always wore a tie and was polite, welcoming and never confrontational.
“He loved life, nature and the North-East and had a great sense of humour.”
Mr Douglas’ funeral, which will be attended by an RAF flag-bearer, will take place at Darlington Crematorium from 2.15pm tomorrow (Tuesday, July 15).
The family will be accepting donations to the Lifeboat Fund in place of flowers.