Seeking relatives of a Canadian pilot killed in WWII crash – Part 2

As per my last post, I’m still appealing for help in tracing living relatives of Flt Lt Donald Banbury Douglas, a young Canadian airman who died in a plane crash while on a test flight in Banffshire, Scotland in 1945.  Craig Anderson is planning to erect a memorial to Donald and the Scottish leading aircraftman who was also in the plane, G P Robbins, and would like to make contact with their relatives.  Having found a collection of documents and photos relating to Donald on the Veterans Affairs Canada website, I emailed them to ask permission to post a picture of him.

I then received several emails and documents from the archivist at the High School that Donald attended in Toronto. Forty young men from the same school died in WWII and the school commemorates them in a Memorial Book.  (Photo reproduced from the Memorial Book of Lawrence Park Collegiate in Toronto, Ontario with kind permission of R Whitehouse).  Capt Whitehouse was able to tell me that Donald was the only son in the family, and Craig had information to say that Donald’s mum, Lela Douglas, maiden surname Banbury, was part of the Knowles family from Aurora, Ontario.  I wonder if Donald had any sisters?

I appealed to the genealogy blogging community and my Facebook and Twitter followers to spread the word about this appeal (thanks, guys, please keep going!) and a comment was posted by Lorraine on Part 1, pointing me in the direction of Canada 411, a directory site.  It shows that there are 5 Knowles families in Aurora, and a LOT of Douglas families in Edmonton, so it will be more efficient to contact the Knowles families first.

Adrian left a comment saying “there is only six degrees of separation between everyone on the planet so if lots of people share this request on their Facebook page, the relatives will be found”.

Thank you, and please share using your preferred method of social media – there’s a nice selection of buttons below!


On the Veterans Affairs Canada website, you can view documents about the accident and very moving correspondence to and from Donald’s father, Walter Douglas.  These documents can be accessed in person – File RG24 (War Dead) Volume 27404,  in Ottawa, Canada, with the exception of the photo above.

Posted in Photos | 8 Comments

Canadian pilot killed in WWII crash – appeal for genealogy help please

Some of you will remember that I posted this time last year about Granny’s younger  brother, James, who was in the RAF and went missing during WWII.  Last week I was reading the Scottish Military Research Group’s blog post about an appeal for information on the two airmen (one Scot and one Canadian) killed in a WWII plane crash in Banff.

This is a pretty long post, and probably only relevant to those who live in, or have relatives in Aurora, Ontario, or have a particular interest in WWII RAF airmen, but please bear with me if you do :-)  I know how generous the genealogy blogging community is, and I have seen what great results others have had, so I thought this was worth a go.

For the past three years, Craig Anderson has been making plans to erect a memorial to these two airmen at the crash site, and he would like to make contact with their relatives before the unveiling ceremony, but he has run into difficulty with tracing relatives in Canada.  He wrote to the “Edmonton Journal” asking for help in tracing Donald’s living relatives.  Craig’s letter reads

“For the last three years, I have been researching a Second World War crash site in Banff, Scotland, where an RCAF pilot lost his life. The pilot was Donald Banbury Douglas, of Belleville, Ont. He was the only son of Walter and Lela Douglas (maiden name Banbury), who moved to Belleville from Edmonton prior to the war. Walter Douglas worked on the railway.

Later this year, I plan to place a memorial stone at the crash site and hold a short service in honour of this pilot. I am trying to contact any relatives of the family and would appreciate any assistance readers can offer.

Donald Douglas was a hero who had almost finished his tour of duty when this un-fortunate accident occurred. It is my duty to tell his story and finally build a memorial for future generations to remember him.”

Having fairly recently discovered that Granny had a brother I knew nothing of, and that, as a young newly-married man, his plane had been lost without trace in February 1941, I was very moved to read about Craig’s endeavours to keep the memory of these other two young men alive.  He feels strongly that they should be remembered, and I felt compelled to offer to help Craig if I could.

Now, I can do the genealogy research on the Scottish leading aircraftman – Gerard Patrick Robbins (born in 1912 in Dundee, the son of Patrick Robbins and Isabella McGinnis or Martin), but Craig needs help with the Canadian research on Donald’s relatives.    I found four trees on Ancestry which show Donald’s parents, although none mention Donald directly.  I messaged all four tree owners last Wednesday (22nd March), but I’ve not had any responses yet.  Fingers crossed!

I found several documents and photos relating to Donald on the Veterans Affairs Canada great website, but as it’s a weekend, I haven’t had a reply to my request for permission to share their photo of him with you.  Go and have a look – he’s very dashing :-)

Craig had contact on Thursday from relatives of Donald, but they had only known of him when he was young.  They pointed him in the direction of Aurora near Toronto for Donald’s mum’s side of the family.  She came from the Knowles family who were prominent in the town.

If you think you may be related to Donald, or can help Craig by spreading the word that he is on the look out for Donald’s living relations, I’d be really grateful if you would share this post.

All heroes deserve to be remembered :-)

Thank you, if you made it to the bottom of this long post – you can contact Craig by leaving a wee message as a comment – he says he’s away this weekend, so I don’t have his permission to publicly post his email address (but it’s published in the text of his letter to the Edmonton Journal above, just remove the extra hyphen).

I’ll do a Part Two, as and when we get more details, and update you on my research on the fitter, Gerard Robbins, but I won’t post any details relating to people who are still living without their written permission.  Please share and make sure that Donald and Gerard are appropriately remembered, and hope that their relatives will find out about Craig’s mission.

Read Part 2 for a progress report.


Posted in Photos | 5 Comments

Sepia Saturday 118 – Going Out – no bagpipes please!

This week’s theme for Sepia Saturday is “going out”, as suggested by Liz Stratton of Attics and Old Lace.  I could have posted many photos of the family on outings to the playground, picnics, or fishing trips, but I chose a few showing my maternal grandparents, Douglas and Elsie (of the road trip to Monaco) going out to dinner.  Please feel free to come along!

Here they are at a social event in 1950 – they’re the couple on the left.  I don’t know who their friends are but they were obviously close, and I love the lady’s halter neck dress.  On close inspection, I wonder if the man is Elsie’s younger brother, Bill, who was a surgeon and emigrated from Scotland to the US.  I don’t remember ever meeting him.  His sisters called him “Wee Billy B” as he was the baby of the family :-)

And again at a Christmas Bash in December 1951 – Elsie’s sister, Jan, is the lady on the left sporting a rather nautical-looking hat similar to the man in the middle.  I wonder what that was about?  If you look closely behind the glamorous lady holding a glass of wine, there is someone loitering at the door with a shopping bag.  It’s not Santa, then.

Grub’s up!  We’re waiting on the dessert course and Elsie is showing great interest in something on the table.  Where on earth did she get those black lacy gloves?  There’s a poster pinned to the curtains – maybe it was advertising the entertainment for the evening?

Douglas looks rather proprietorial with his hands clasped in front of him.  Some of the boys at the back look very young.  Maybe it was a “works do”?  Douglas started off as a mechanic and ending up running a motor dealership in Dunfermline, so maybe the youngsters were apprentice mechanics.

A more recent shot – I reckon from the 1980’s.  Elsie is in red with Douglas’s brother, Norman, on her right.  The brothers were spread out over the UK, but met up regularly.  It must have been cold outside – look at the condensation on the windows.  Do you think Douglas is trying to stick his fingers in his ears as the piper goes past?  :-)

Go out with the other Sepia Saturday contributors and have fun!

Before we pack up and get in the taxi, Jen at Climbing My Family Tree says that Google Friend Connect no longer works with WordPress blogs, so if you follow me using Friend Connect, you’ll need to add me again using another method.


Posted in Photos, Sepia Saturday | 22 Comments

Sepia Saturday 116 – Facial Hair – no, not mine

The theme for this week’s Sepia Saturday post is Facial Hair.  I’m not a big fan of the old Face Fungus – a bit of designer stubble is OK, but a man sporting the full “burst mattress” look  is likely to see me heading for the hills.  At speed.

I couldn’t find any photos of beards in Great Granny’s collection, however there were a couple of moustaches.  First of all, I present Great Granny and her husband (James Stewart) who has quite a full “mouser”.

And to follow, we have their son, also James Stewart.

James was my see-sawing Granny‘s brother  – I had no idea that she had two brothers, I had only ever heard talk of one.  My auntie was helping me identify relatives in old photos, and I came to this picture of a handsome young airman and asked “do you know who this is?” and she replied “that’s my uncle who was killed in World War II”.   I did a bit of further research and was able to find out where and when he died – he and his crew were in a Wellington bomber heading for Wilmhelmshaven when their plane was lost without trace.  I’m so pleased that I found him in the photo collection and can give him his rightful place in our family tree.

Here’s an interesting item I came across

It’s a Moustache Cup – designed to prevent one’s ‘tache dangling in one’s tea and the subsequent drips and embarrassment in front of visitors :-)

My Grandfather on my maternal side told us all sorts of dubious stories when we were kids.  This post reminds me of one tale, which said that if you were having difficulty growing a luxuriant beard, you should rub salt on your chin.  When the hair sprouts out looking for a drink, you should tie a knot in it so it can’t retreat.  Hmm….

Check out what other Sepia Saturday posters have to say on the theme of facial hair!


Posted in Great Granny's album, Photos, Sentimental Sunday | 16 Comments

Sepia Saturday 115 – Fun and Games

This weeks Sepia Saturday inspiration comes from a 1904 photo of Korean women playing a board game.  I’ve raided Great Granny’s albums again, and while there are no photos of board games, Granny got up to various other activities with her cousins, the Hardies. These pictures are rather more sedate than previous ones!

Anyone for tennis?  This picture was taken on a weekend away at Elmslea in Dundee in May 1928.  The little girl looks really grumpy – was there a tantrum brewing up?

Granny, on the left, was keen on golf  – this was taken in 1928 at Mount Pleasant.  No loud checked trousers or Pringle jumpers for these two lady golfers.  She must have been keen on watching golf as well as she took this photo of Bobby Jones (USA) playing in the British Open Golf Championships.

There’s no date noted on the back, but a quick internet search shows that Bobby won with a score of 285 at St Andrews in 1928.  He also won the British Open Championship in 1926 and 1930.

I don’t know what game they are playing here – I can’t see any rackets or a ball – but they’ve rigged up a bit of netting in the garden.  Any ideas?  I see there’s a hat abandoned on the grass and hope it didn’t get trampled in the excitement….

Here we have a tennis court and a pile of rackets on the table but it seems that relaxing in deck chairs was preferable.  Check out the hats and that parasol!

I’m very pleased to see the young lad cuddling the cat (I’m a Cat Person) and even the cat looks pleased :-)  I suspect he was a big ginger cat.

If you enjoyed this peek into Great Granny’s album you can see more by clicking the link in the cloud tag on the right.

Head off to Sepia Saturday to see what other bloggers were inspired to post on the subject of Games.


Posted in Great Granny's album | 15 Comments

Sepia Saturday – 1955 road trip from Scotland to Europe and back

This week’s Sepia Saturday theme is on the subject of shoes, however all my family photos seem to show folks in Utilitarian Footwear (not very attractive or interesting) so I’m not sticking with the theme this week (although I would show you photos of my huge collection of US-made cowboy boots if you asked nicely).  Granny did do some outrageous stuff while wearing her good stockings and shoes, but that’s a story you’ve heard before, while she was up a tree with her cousins, and old enough to know better.  This week, may I introduce my maternal  Grandmother (the somewhat boistrous and fun Elsie of the trashed sewing box) and the rather more reserved but the best Granddad ever (Douglas the biker)….

Having posted a charming photo of Norman (Douglas’s brother) and his cute granddaughter, Rose, I decided to rummage around in my photos and see what pics I have of Douglas’s other brothers.  Douglas had 6 brothers,  James who died aged 3 1/2 from scarlet fever, Bruce and Tommy who I don’t have any photos of, and Andrew, Norman and Gordon.  These last three brothers managed to maintain contact with Douglas and they met up regularly and had photos taken for posterity.  Douglas was the last of the brothers to die,  in 2002 (he was 91).

Douglas and Elsie took a road trip in 1955 with Douglas’s brother, Gordon, and his wife Betty.  My mum would have been 17 when her folks just decided to Up Sticks from central Scotland and head off to Europe for a couple of months.  Quite a surprising decision at the time, I would think, but Douglas was a mechanic to trade, so they had no worries about the reliability of the vehicle.  They obviously had no worries about being shut in a car with his brother and sister-in-law either :-)

They headed off from Fife, Scotland – and I have to tell you, I never saw Douglas or Elsie in such a casual state when they were older – so it’s lovely to see now :-).  The four of them went off on their travels, annoying goatherds in the French Alps by nicking their sticks

picnicking at the side of the road while the locals were trying to fish,

and generally being a bit touristy.  I bet Douglas had to drag Elsie out of the Casino.

But at least the only run-in with the cops was to find out the way to Turin, and not to bail Elsie out of the Police Station :-)

There will be a couple of further instalments from this little album, so if you are a Sepia Saturday blogger and want to see what the Fab Four got up to, please subscribe in your reader of choice, as I hope to be back “on theme” next week :-)

Jo :-)

Posted in Douglas & Elsie's 1955 Road Trip, Photos, Sepia Saturday | 13 Comments

#Sepia Saturday 112 : Saturday 11 February 2012

This week’s idea for Sepia Saturday, inspired by Linda, the Paper Collector, is a photo of a  man with an impressive ‘tache reading a book – in fact, he looks like he’s been interrupted and is possibly slightly grumpy.

The only photo I could find of a man with a ‘tache and a book is of my maternal Grandfather’s brother, Norman, sharing a very large book with his delightful Granddaughter, Rose, and both look far from grumpy.

I wonder what it was that made Rose laugh so much?  Perhaps he stashed something funny inside the book.  To me, this looks like a professional photo taken in a studio – Rose’s posh frock and the background make me think so.  Norman died in 1995 aged 81, and I don’t remember ever meeting him – he had moved from Scotland to the south west of England.  I don’t have any early photos of Norman, just older ones, when “the Porter brothers” had the time to get together for family reunions, after they had all retired.  Subsequently our families have lost touch.  More “living relative” research required – Rose probably is on Facebook :-)

Jo :-)

Posted in Photos, Sepia Saturday | 18 Comments