Tribute: Douglas Joss

  |  Published: May 1st 2019

Douglas Alexander Joss was born 15 May 1921 in Aberdeen to Herbert and Dora Joss and would become the eldest of 5 children. His father worked for the post office and in 1923 went to Uganda as a veterinary assistant. This was the first of his many of travels. It was a short-lived stay as due to illness his father was repatriated the following year. They returned to Aberdeen before moving to Oundle. At about 5 years of age Doug showed an entrepreneurial spirit - he was able to swap his sister Dora for a bicycle. Whilst he was pleased with the trade, his mother was less so. The family moved again, this time to Coventry, in 1932.

In November 1938, at the age of 17, he went to Birmingham and applied to join the RAF. The references sent to the RAF by his Headmaster stated: Attendance – Excellent, Conduct – Very Good and Manners – Quite Satisfactory.

His initial training took him from West Drayton to Finningley to Pembroke Dock to Henlow to Locking and Upavon all in less than 2 years. Doug’s stay ay Upavon lasted nearly a year before he was off again. It was here that they asked for volunteers - all he knew was that he required tropical kit. Shortly after they set sail they were told it was Takoradi in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). He and his fellow riggers reassembled Blenheims and Hurricanes to fight in North Africa. He continued to the staging stations to provide support, these included Kano and Maiduguri (now Nigeria) and Fort Lamy, French Equatorial Africa (now Chad). During the time he was in West Africa he contracted Malaria 5 times and was sent back to UK on a French Troop ship and it was here he spent his 21st birthday which he remembers well:  “My 21st birthday came halfway through it and the lads on the mess deck decided to give me a treat. They persuaded the Flight Sergeant in charge to release me from duties on that day, which I was allowed to spend lying on the deck all day where my friends brought me presents. A few razor blades, a packet of cigarettes or sometimes a few biscuits, whether they had scrounged them or stolen them from the Officer’s Mess, I don’t know. How much the simple things in life can be appreciated in difficult circumstances. I will always remember it and them with much gratitude and affection.”

Following treatment at the Institute of Tropical Medicine at RAF Halton he returned to his duties as a rigger and applied for aircrew. He was accepted and started his training in August 1943. He and his fellow crew members joined 626 Squadron at RAF Wickenby on 14 June 1944, he was a rear gunner in a Lancaster and 2 weeks later they went on their first sortie of what was to be 31, it was to Siracourt site of V1 bunker the last to Gelsenkirchen on 11 November. His crew was the first to survive a tour for many months.   He was commissioned mid tour and spent a short time in UK before becoming a personnel officer travelling to India, Chittagong in what was then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh, Burma, Malaya then Singapore and helped repatriate female POWs. VJ day had been declared as they approached Malaysia.
Following another short spell in the UK he was posted to Germany as PA to Deputy Commander in Chief of the British Air Forces of Occupation and was then sent as OC of the Leave Centre in Scharfoldendorf, where he developed a stomach complaint that required hospitalization at the Military Hospital in Rinteln where he was to meet his future wife Lois.

He died on 19 February 2019.

To read more of Douglas Joss, especially his life in Wendover, go to wendovernews.co.uk/news/local-face-douglas-joss.

Douglas headshot
photo of bomber crew
After their first combat mission Doug (bottom left) suggested the crew have their photograph taken together in case they never returned. They paid in advance to the photographer who agreed to send the prints to their homes if they did not collect them within the next 2 or 3 weeks. Fortunately they didn’t need posting.
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