Fleet Air Arm mark veteran’s 100th birthday

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm

Once Navy, always Navy. And once Fleet Air Arm, always Fleet Air Arm.

Today’s aviators helped former wartime Telegraphist Air Gunner Dougie Hudson celebrate his 100th birthday at his retirement home in Cosham, Portsmouth.

Command Warrant Officer Christopher Boucher and Merlin helicopter observer/executive assistant to the head of the Fleet Air Arm Lieutenant Commander Amy Gaunt made the short trip from HMS Excellent to recognise Dougie’s milestone.

The centenarian was presented with a crest, coin and card on behalf of today’s naval aviators and their head Rear Admiral Martin Connell.

They were joined by soldiers and airmen plus stuff at Eliza Mackenzie Court where Dougie enjoys his retirement in a home run by naval housing association Agamemnon.

Born in March 1920, Dougie joined HMS St Vincent in 1936 and went on to train as one of the 3,000 TAGs to serve in the branch during its 28-year lifespan.

They suffered heavy losses – one in six died either as a result of enemy action or flying accidents, while 69 fell into enemy hands as PoWs between 1939 and 1945.

Not Dougie, who was assigned to a Walrus seaplane – launched via catapult on cruisers and battleships to act as reconnaissance and spotter planes – flying from HMS Birmingham (sister of HMS Belfast) which served in Norway, the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean.

Later in WW2, he switched to the surface fleet, spent a couple of years at Scapa Flow and then was sent to the USA to bring back Lend-Lease minesweeper HMS Pylades.

After crossing the Atlantic she was dispatched to Normandy as part of the armada supporting the liberation of France.

It was there she was sunk on July 8 1944 by German human torpedoes off Juno Beach.

Dougie was badly injured in the attack and subsequently invalided out of the Navy. After briefly working as a carpenter, the lifelong Pompey fan joined British Telecom and worked as a draughtsman until he retired in 1982.

“It was a great event to attend, attended by guests of every flavour – RAF, Army and Navy – and Dougie seemed to be delighted and pleased to see us all,” said Lieutenant Commander Gaunt.

Born in March 1920, Dougie joined HMS St Vincent in 1936 and went on to train as one of the 3,000 TAGs to serve in the branch during its 28-year lifespan.

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