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Commodore George Douglas



George Douglas, DFCCommodore George Douglas, A.V.S.M., D.F.C. was born in Doom Dooma, Assam, where his father had a tea estate. In 1930 he joined the British Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy Reserve as a midshipman. However, during the period of World War II he enrolled into active duty and was commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1946. After India’s independence he shifted to the Indian Navy where he pioneered naval aviation. He was a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and the National Defence College, New Delhi.

In the early years of the World War II he volunteered for Special Hazardous Service Operations on H.M.S. Oakfield. Termed "Operation Lucid" the mission was to attempt to fire-bomb the German wooden invasion barges with incendiary material and set them alight at Boulogne and Calais, France. The plan had the personal backing of Winston Churchill. As the mission was regarded as a suicide run only volunteers were used. Several attempts were undertaken between September and October 1940. Each one was cancelled due to a variety of reasons until it was suspected that the secrecy of the mission was compromised. During the world war II Douglas commanded Torpedo Bomber and Fighter combat squadrons and wings, and saw combat service in the Battle of the Atlantic, the Battles of the Mediterranean, North Africa, Burma, Malaysia, and in the Pacific. In 1943 he was awarded the "Distinguished Flying Cross" for gallantry while serving with Fighter Command, Royal Air Force. He was one of two navy pilots to receive this distinction, as normally such medals were reserved solely for R.A.F personnel. A year later he received the "Commander-in-Chief’s Commendation", Portsmouth Command and in 1945 he was awarded the South-East Asia Command commendation by Admiral Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander, S.E.A.C. As Captain (D), Captain Destroyers, he commanded the 11th Destroyer Squadron. From 1962-1966 he was the Principal Staff Officer to Government as Chief of Naval Aviation, making him the senior most naval aviator in the Indian Navy. In 1966, he was awarded AVSM. The citation read: "From the start of Naval Aviation in 1949, Commodore Douglas has been the driving force behind the evolution of the combatant Air Arm for the Navy. The development of aviation in the Indian Navy and the position it has attained are largely due to the initiative, hard work and leadership of Commodore Douglas. He has voluntarily undertaken several dangerous flying missions in order to set an example to young pilots".

Douglas left India in December 1966, first returning to the UK and later emigrating to Canada where he started a teaching career in St.John’s, Newfoundland. He retired to Victoria, British Columbia and passed away in 2008 at the age of 93 years.

He had a daughter, Tara who married Murray Frost, and a son, Douglas St. John.


• George was the father of Tara Douglas, Vice Chairman of the Canadian Council of Dr Graham's Homes. Tara relates the following story, “ I found the bible tucked into my father's special drawer. It has an inscription on the inner flap identifying that it was given to my Dad when he left the Homes at the age of 11 years. It was signed by Rev. John Graham. I also found a great photograph of Dr Graham as a relatively young man. My father had this bible with him his entire life.”

• His daughter Tara Douglas reports that "My father's official date of birth was accepted as 1915 but we now believe he might have been born in 1913. No birth record but there is a baptismal certificate that is somewhat damaged. He grew up in an orphanage missionary school in India where he was sent at the age of four. After this, he never went home again, never saw his mother, father or siblings again. So he did what he did with no help from anyone. "


George Douglas and the Indian Fleet Air Arm

The credit for establishing an effective Air Arm for the Indian Navy and developing a viable infrastructure for the Arm goes to Commodore George Douglas who was destined to be the guiding angel and moving spirit of the Indian Navy's Aviation Branch during its formative years and was the senior-most officer in this elite cadre.

After the War ended, Douglas was granted a regular commission in the Royal Navy in the rank of Lieutenant Commander but in October 1947 he obtained his release and joined the Government of India as a Nautical Surveyor. It was at this time that the Indian Navy was going through the process of setting up an aviation wing and in 1949 was looking around for an officer with Fleet Air Arm experience and sought to utilise his services for this purpose. Even though acceptance of this offer meant some loss ofemoluments for him, Lieutenant Commander Douglas accepted the assignment and commissioned on November 20, 1949 in the rank of Commander.

The vital task of developing the airstation at Cochin, adjacent to the naval base, Venduruthy, was given to Commander George Douglas who had served in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm with distinction, had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for valour, was demobilised after World War II and permitted, by special dispensation, to join the Indian Navy.

It was on May ll, 1953, that Venduruthy II was recommissioned as the Indian Naval Air Station, Garuda, with a squadron of four Sealand aircraft and with Commander George Douglas as the first Commanding Officer.

In 1957 Douglas was deputed to the Royal Navy for a Seahawk and Vampire jet introductory course and Fairy MKVII and Gannet Conversion Course at Lossiemouth and Eglinton. His 'Record of Flying Training' in the Royal Navy states,
'His keenness and enthusia sm set a fine example to the other students on course, many of whom are less than half his age'. The citation for the Vishisht Seva Medal Class II (equivalent to the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal) awarded to him in 1966 states:
'From the very start of Naval Aviation in the Indian Navy in 1949, Commodore Douglas has been the drivingforce behind the evolution of a combatant Air Arm for the Navy. The development of aviation in the Indian Navy and the position it has attained are largely due to the initiative, hard work and leadership of Commodore Douglas'.

He is still in the forefront in flying skill until 1966, by which time he had risen to the rank of Commodore, Douglas continued to serve the Indian Navy in various capacities, most of which pertained to aviation; as the Director of Air Equipment at Naval Headquarters, the first commander of Garuda, Director of Naval Air Staff and the highest aviation appointment, Chief of Naval Aviation, fora record period of over four years.
In 1957 Douglas played an important role in the acquisition and indigenous manufacture of the French Alouette III helicopter and theselection of the Alize aircraft for the Vikrant.



•  Indian Navy; The Navy Grows Wings, Birth of the Fleet Air Arm


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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024