Douglas, Lieutenant Roger MC DCM

Australian Flying Corps

Roger Douglas was a 20 year old Printer from Charters Towers, Queensland, when he joined the 25th Infantry Battalion at Alderley on 11 May 1915. He embarked on HMAT Aeneas at Brisbane on 29 June and served in the later stages of the Gallipoli campaign before moving to the Western Front, where he transferred to the 7th Brigade Machine Gun Company and was promoted to Sergeant in March 1916 before being commissioned in August. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for action at Pozieres in July, the citation reads: For conspicuous gallantry in action. He rallied part of the infantry, and guided them over the captured positions under heavy fire when they were without leaders and disorganised. He helped materially to repel counter-attacks.

Lt Douglas was awarded the Military Cross for his action at Westhoek Ridge on 20 September during the Third Battle of Ypres; the citation reads: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer took his MG Section over with the attacking infantry, and had them in position in a very short space of time. He selected excellent defensive positions. He was absolutely fearless and set a splendid example to all the men around him. His conduct cannot be too highly commended.

In December 1917 he transferred to the AFC and trained as a pilot. After a period at the School of Special Flying at Gosport, he served as an Instructor at No 6 Training Sqn AFC.

In September 1919 he was granted leave to participate in the England-Australia Air Race, in which he would be flying the Alliance P-2 Seabird G-EAOX, with LT F S L Ross as his co-pilot. The Seabird was the first venture of the newly-formed Alliance Aeroplane Company, and only two were built; the other machine established a record for the fastest flight from London to Madrid. On 13 November 1919 (the day after the Smith brothers, the Race winners, left England in Vickers Vimy G-EAOU) Seabird G-EAOX left Hounslow aerodrome at 11.35, with Lt Douglas at the controls and Lt Ross navigating. At about 11.40 the aircraft spun into the ground at Surbition, killing both airmen.

The Accident Investigation concluded that the aeroplane was airworthy, but had spun at too low an altitude to permit recovery. The spin was thought to be due to the pilot shutting off the engine while the aircraft was heavily loaded and flying at a low speed, which caused the aircraft to stall. It was also concluded that the pilot may have become disorientated due to the cockpit windows becoming fogged in cloud. The report noted: It is not unlikely that this interference [the design of the aeroplane, which allowed the pilot no direct forward vision at all, and only gave him views to the side] with his outlook may have been an important factor in the loss of control. The practice of enclosing a pilot behind windows is bad.

Lt R Douglas is buried in Grave IV H 1 at Brookwood Military Cemetery, England.

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