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Dick Douglas-Boyd




Dick Douglas-Boyd (died 2011, aged 88) began to work in publishing after the second world war. It was a world he loved and in which he flourished. He joined Hodder and Stoughton in 1949 as a sales representative, then moved in 1962 to Michael Joseph, where he was in charge of UK and European sales.

Dick had an innate sense of what would and would not sell. He worked for Penguin and was later appointed sales director of Pelham Books. On his retirement, he was employed by Transworld as a consultant and was responsible for establishing Partridge Press. He formed D-B Books, reprinting titles including The Forgotten Fleet by John Winton. Over his career, he worked with authors including HE Bates, Dick Francis, Sophia Loren, Stan Barstow, Arthur Hailey and Spike Milligan (whom he allowed to call him "Dougie Dickless-Boyd").

Born in London and raised in Houghton on the Hill, in Leicestershire, Dick joined the Royal Navy in 1942 and started his training as a pilot in Elmdon, Birmingham, going solo in a Tiger Moth after 11 hours of tuition. His training continued in Kingston, in Ontario, Canada, and he learned to fly Harvards, Swordfish, Proctors, Lysanders and Barracudas. In 1944 he joined 820 Naval Air Squadron on the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable.

He took part in the attack on the German battleship the Tirpitz. Later, as part of the British Pacific Fleet, and flying an Avenger, he dropped his four 500lb bombs on an oil refinery at Palembang, Sumatra, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Given his love of music, it is unsurprising that during his time with 820 Squadron, he was instrumental in co-writing the Fleet Air Arm Songbook.

In retirement, Dick lost none of his zest, humour, intellect and enthusiasm. When he moved from East Sussex to Moretonhampstead in Devon, he embraced his fresh surroundings and forged new and close friendships. He read voraciously, loved sport and occasionally sang with a jazz band who called him the "Vocal Local".

Dick is survived by June, his wife of 60 years, and by his daughters, Sally (McAnespie) and Judy.

He is buried in Ladywell Cemetery, South East London. [Unverified - A ceremony to celebrate his life was held at St Peter's Crematorium, Topsham Road, Exeter on Monday 27th June.]

His wife, June, a potter and an artist, died aged 85 in October 2016.

The family home, The Great House, sold for around £500,000 in 2017.


From the Daily Telegraph, 12 Jul 2011

Douglas-Boyd volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm in May 1941, but it was not until the following February that he was called to Lee-on-Solent and then Gosport for initial training. Only in January 1944 did he join 820 Naval Air Squadron, embarking in the carrier Indefatigable, then the newest and largest fleet carrier, to fly the American Barracuda.

He took part in two dive-bombing raids on the German battleship Tirpitz, which was hiding in the Norwegian fjords. He recalled flying so low, to avoid enemy radar, that the slipstream caused ripples on the sea, before climbing to 6,000ft and diving through the thick smokescreen. He saw gun flashes all the way down the sides of the steep fjord, dropped his armour-piercing bombs and flew off at low-level towards the entrance of the fjord.

By October 1944 he had converted to flying the American-built Avenger torpedo-bomber and sailed for the war in the Pacific, taking part in January 1945 in the raid on the oil refineries at Palembang on the eastern side of Sumatra, which was the biggest ever Fleet Air Arm raid, mounted from four fleet carriers.

During the next few weeks the biggest threat to operations was attack by Japanese suicide pilots, and on April 1 Indefatigable received a direct hit from a kamikaze which dived from 6,000ft, hitting the island and killing 14 people and injuring 16. Repairs were made to the wrecked barriers, and Indefatigable, thanks to her steel flight deck, was operational again just one hour later.

On May 16 Douglas-Boyd was scarred by a tragedy during a raid on a munitions dump at Ishigaki. His bomb failed to release and, after talking to his crew, "Tanky" James and Ben Pearce, he decided to make a second attack in which James was hit in the leg by a shell. Though 20 or more ships turned into wind to allow Douglas-Boyd to land on Indefatigable without delay, James died and was buried at sea that night. Pearce was sent home and never flew again. Douglas-Boyd was awarded the DSC for gallantry, skill and devotion to duty in the Far East.


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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024