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Doug Reich

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by GRW, Jun 3, 2021.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    From FB.
    "Doug Reich obituary
    Second World War RAF reconnaissance pilot and prisoner of war who had many a scrape, including two crash landings
    Tuesday April 20 2021, 1.02am, The Times
    After volunteering for the RAF in 1941, 19-year-old Doug Reich was sent to Canada by troopship to train as a pilot. In one training flight the engine of his Harvard caught fire and he was ordered by his instructor to bale out. Reich clambered out of the cockpit on to the wing only to realise that his parachute harness had not been correctly adjusted and that to jump would mean that he and his chute would part company before reaching the ground.
    The fire had by now gone out, so he clambered back into the aircraft and they crash-landed safely in a corn field.
    He returned to England in 1942 as a commissioned pilot officer and was sent to RAF Hawarden near Chester to make the conversion to the American P51 Mustang, a fighter equipped with machine-guns.
    On his first flight in the Mustang, Reich was forced to make another crash landing. A sudden change in wind direction flipped the plane on to its wing tip. His cool handling of the situation impressed and not long after this he was promoted to flight lieutenant and posted to No 2 (AC) Squadron RAF (known as the Shiny Two) specialising as a reconnaissance pilot sometimes flying at such low altitudes he was almost brushing the tops of trees.
    He continued in the role until May 1944 when, in the weeks before D-Day, he was posted to Aston Down as a reserve combat pilot. Worried that he would miss out on the action, he requested a transfer to frontline duties and rejoined No 2 (AC) Squadron on June 13. He was then given a reconnaissance mission with a strange twist.
    “I had actually been tasked to locate and confirm the whereabouts of a particular German armoured column,” he recalled. “The squadron army liaison officer, a Captain Wilson, knowing the area where I was tasked to fly asked if I could do him ‘a little favour’. He told me that the Sappers who were constructing an Advanced Landing Field had not enjoyed any fresh bread since the invasion and as I was passing by could I drop off a few loaves before I continued with my mission. They would refuel me for my trouble.”
    A few days after completing this somewhat unorthodox mission, he was given another, this time to attack two ferry boats which were taking enemy troops across the River Seine at Caudebec, near Rouen.
    He successfully attacked the first boat with cannon fire then turned his attention to the second. “I gave him a squirt then pulled up into a tight turn across the river and that’s the last thing I remember. The plane smashed into the river at 300mph with me strapped into the cockpit”. Reich was rescued by the crew of a French fishing boat. He was pulled unconscious from the water having been kept afloat by his “Mae West” life vest (thus becoming a member of the Goldfish Club). He remembered waking up in a comfortable bed and seeing a pair of white gates outside a French window. He then saw a German sentry walking past the gates with a rifle.
    Reich had suffered severe concussion, burst blood vessels in his eyes, and an undetected broken ankle. After a few weeks he was sent to Stalag Luft I near the German town of Barth on the Baltic coast, a prisoner-of-war camp designated for RAF officers. There he met officers who had been transferred from Stalag Luft III, where “the great escape” had taken place a few months earlier. Reich was given the job of camp barber. He also underwent an appendectomy by candlelight when the power was interrupted by Allied bombing. He remained there as a prisoner of war until liberated by the Russian advance on May 1, 1945.
    Douglas Gordon Reich was born in Salford in 1922, the third of four children, to Annie Lethbridge and Wallace Reich, the general manager of Odhams Press Ltd. Doug went to Monsal Green school and left at 16.
    He met his future wife Sheila during the war and they married in 1948, shortly after he left the RAF to begin his second career as a printer. The couple lived in Cheshire for many years before retiring to north Wales and had two children, Sally, a retired manager, and Douglas, a scientist. Sheila died in 2018.
    Their shared passion was fast cars and they were the chairman and secretary respectively of the Austin Healey Club. At various times Reich had also owned an MG, an Aston Martin, and a Jensen C-V8. As a pilot in the year after the war he had been allowed a generous petrol ration and had bought a Ford 10 which he had stripped and rebuilt with spare Mustang aircraft parts. It went, he said, “like the clappers”.
    Doug Reich, airman, was born on May 28, 1922. He died on April 5, 2021, aged 98."
  2. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

    May 5, 2013
    Likes Received:
    ...like they said about Iwo = Uncommon Valor was a common virtue......
    1. his plane is on fire!!!!!
    2. he gets out on the wing!!! this is like Six Million Dollar Man stuff !!!!!!!! it's like the movies--only it's real life
    3. he gets back in and crash lands
    ..all in a days work ...'although not battle, it's still phenomenal ''common'' valor

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