RAF Service Number: 28164
RAAF Service Number: 442
RAF and RAAF Trade: Pilot
Date of RAF Enlistment: 13th of September 1929
Date of RAF Demob:16th of January 1930
Date of RAAF Enlistment: 2nd of January 1940
Date of RAAF Demob: 19th of September 1941
Rank Achieved: Flying Officer
Date of Birth: 19th of February 1905
Personal Details: Douglas was the son of Benjamin and Eleanor Seabourn of King Street, Cambridge. He was educated at Cambridge District High School.
He had been a member of the Territorial Army, and in February 1925 he was badly injured while at Narrow Neck Camp in Auckland when a large gun was fired, startling him, and he stepped back to fall over a bank. The fall was around 15 metres and he suffered head injuries resulting in a stay in Auckland Hospital. However he recovered fine after this incident.
Douglas was married to Winifred Renalda Seabourn, and in the 1980's he'd settled in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. He lists here name on his A.N.A. application as Renalda Winifred Seabourne. They had at least two children, Peter Anthony born 30th of August 1941, and Derek Andrew born 2nd of April 1943.
Service Details: Douglas left Cambridge around the last week of June 1929 to sail aboard the Orvieto for London to take up a Short Service Commission with the Royal Air Force. He passed the necessary tests on arrival in London and was granted a Short Service Commission with the Royal Air Force on the 28th of September 1929. He was posted to No. 5 Flying Training School, at RAF Sealand, where he learned to fly. Two of the types he'd flown in the RAF were the Bristol Fighter and the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin.
His Short Service Commission was terminated early however, on the 16th of January 1930, following his father's suicide two months earlier, as he decided to return home to New Zealand.
Douglas was granted a New Zealand Pilot's 'A' Licence (No. 301) on the 9th of September 1931. He'd also become a member of the Western Federated Aero Club.
On Saturday the 19th of September 1931 Douglas was involved in an accident at the Wanganui Aerodrome when the Avro 504K he was flying, ZK-ACU, suffered an engine stall. He received only minor injuries, and the aircraft, which was owned by Frederick Charles Norton, was quickly rebuilt and flying again by November 1931,
In December 1931 however Douglas became the first New Zealander to be charged under the Aviation Act of 1918 with dangerous low flying. He was reported as flying dangerously low on Sunday the 13th of December 1931 over South Beach at Castlecliff, near Wanganui. He was flying Fred Norton's Avro 504K, ZK-ACU, once again, and Norton was also onboard as a passenger. Eyewitnesses estimated the aeroplane had flown at heights between 50 and 100 feet along the beach, but Seabourne and Norton argued that they'd never flown below 200ft according to the altimeter. Despite their testimony the Senior Magistrate, Mr. J.H. Salmon, deemed that regardless of the height the aeroplane had been flying low enough to endanger the public, and he imposed a fine of £3.
Apart from the Wanganui incidents mentioned above, little is known about what he did through the rest of the 1930's, but by 1939 he was living in Australia. When the Second World War began he applied to join the Royal Australian Air Force, now with a slightly altered name of Douglas George Seabourne (with his first and middle name switched, and an 'e' added to his surname.
On the 2nd of January 1940 he was commissioned as a Pilot Officer, and posted to No. 1 Flying Training School at RAAF Point Cook, where he undertook No. 2 Flying Instructor's Course.
On completing his course and becoming a Flying Instructor, Douglas was promoted on the 1st of March 1940 to Flying Officer, and on the 11th of March he was posted to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School at Parafield, where he'd be training new pilots.
Douglas was then posted to No. 4 Elementary Flying Training School at Kingsford Smith Aerodrome, Mascot, in New South Wales. While at Mascot, on the 27th of September 1940, Douglas was involved in an accident when he and student AC2 Bennett (believed to be AC2 Arthur Charles Bennett RAAF 402217) were landing in de Havilland DH82 Tiger Moth A17-591 when a hard landing was made and the aircraft turned over onto its back. Both pilots were uninjured. This Tiger Moth also survived and is now part of the collection at the Temora Aviation Museum in New South Wales, Australia,
His records state he was attached to No. 8 Elementary Flying Training School at Narrandera, NSW, for the period of 8th of January 1941 through till the 30th of March 1941, a time that he did not enjoy at all. Not least because he was charged with two offences under the Air Force Act, the first under Section 11 and the second under Section 40 for what they deemed as low flying when he flew a circuit of No. 3 Relief Landing Ground at Bundidgery on the 29th of January 1941. This charge apparently followed tension between himself and other instructors, who considered him moody, withdrawn and often exaggerated any problems or issues. They thought he resented being attached to No. 8 EFTS, and his superiors were carefully monitoring his flying and progress, resulting in this fairly petty-sounding charge.
He was found not guilty of the first charge but was found guilty of the second, and had his seniority adjusted as if he'd become a Flying Officer on the 1st of March 1941, effectively meaning he'd have another year in that rank before promotion was considered again.
He was also asked to write a statement explaining why he should not be released from the RAAF. In his statement he wrote about being accused by the Commanding Officer of No. 8 EFTS of being unpatriotic, which he sorely refuted. He wrote about his dedication to the Service, and how since finishing his instructors' course at Point Cook 14 months before he'd not had any leave, and he was "nerve racked" and had to put up with some "dreadfully stupid pupils". He also stated that the only blot on his record till this date was a slight dispute with an instructor at Point Cook over a year before, but he believed lies and rumours spread about him by a party involved there had been believed by his current leadership.
The fact was flying instructors did get stressed in that sort of work, it was dangerous teaching new airmen to fly and every few weeks the process started over with more newbies. Doing this over a prolonged period as Douglas had done can certainly lead to a burn out. But the need for new pilots meant the Air force hierarchy saw it differently.
However after considering his statement the RAAF decided not to terminate him, and he carried on instructing. And in April 1941 the RAF Headquarters, Central Area, actually began an investigation into the massive number of hours he'd been flying as an instructor, causing him to go on sick leave by that month.
His appointment with the RAAF was terminated abruptly on the 19th of September 1941 due to what is described as 'unsatisfactory service'. No explanation is yet known so whether it was a continuation of the earlier charge remains a mystery.
What he did next is also unknown, but by August 1943 he held a "B" Class Commercial Licence and a 3rd Class Aircraft Radio Licence, so he applied to join Australia National Airways.
A letter on his RAAF record file from the Director of Civil Aviation to A.N.A. warns that he (and three other pilots) had all been terminated from the RAAF for "unsatisfactory service" and that they should not be considered for flying anything other than regular airline flights. He said if they became engaged in war operational flights overseas and were wounded or killed, the department would do its utmost to ensure they received no assistance or pensions. Very harsh. But despite this Douglas stated himself in a letter on the file written in the 1980's, while seeking his service records so he could join the R.S.L., that he had indeed flown to Papua New Guinea and as far as Morotai carrying troops and goods for the US Forces, and they were attached to a US unit.
By October 1945 is seems Douglas was living back in New Zealand, at Otahuhu, Auckland, but he moved to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia in 1987.
Died: in Australia?
Connection with Cambridge: Lived in Cambridge up till 1929 when he left to join the RAF
Thanks To: Errol Martyn, and also PeteT, Col Bruggy, Jim Routledge, Paul McMillan, Terry, and Malcolm_RAF at the RAF Commands Forum.