Wing Commander Douggie Oxby DSO DFC DFM
Wing Commander Douggie Oxby. D.F.C. D.S.O. D.F.M.
Born: June 10th 1920. Cardiff. Died: April 10th 2009. Age 88.
Involved in the destruction of 22 enemy aircraft, making him the highest-scoring Allied night fighter navigator of the Second World War, an achievement that earned him four gallantry awards.
Oxby had already gained major successes over Malta and North Africa when, in the spring of 1944, he joined No 219 Squadron, which was equipped with the night fighter version of the Mosquito. In September he teamed up with the CO, Wing Commander Paddy Green, and over the next few months they were to become the RAF’s most successful night fighter crew operating over north-west Europe.
Based at an airfield near London, they opened their account on the night of September 23, when they were on an intruder sortie near Cologne and shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 110 night fighter.
Ten days later they had the unusual distinction of shooting down three enemy bombers in the space of a few minutes. Using his airborne intercept radar, Oxby picked up a small force of aircraft and “homed” Green on to the target.
Three Junkers 87 dive-bombers were preparing to attack the bridge at Nijmegan. Guided by Oxby, Green closed in and shot one down. Debris from the enemy aircraft hit the Mosquito, but the crew moved in and shot down the other two aircraft before heading for an airfield near Brussels, where they landed on one engine.
After moving to the former Luftwaffe airfield at Amiens, Green and Oxby soon had another success when they destroyed a Junkers 88 bomber.
Two months later they brought down a second – this attack was so precise that they fired only 71 rounds from their cannons before the enemy bomber caught fire and the crew were seen to bail out.
On the night of February 24 they achieved their ninth and final success when they shot down a Junkers 87. For their achievements, Green was awarded a DSO and Oxby a DFC.
The squadron had a “rogue” Mosquito, which all the pilots found very difficult to fly. On March 1 Green decided to air test this aircraft in an effort to identify the problem, electing to leave Oxby on the ground and fly alone. Shortly after take-off the aircraft crashed, and Green was killed.
Oxby was taken off operations and sent to be an instructor at a fighter training unit. Two weeks later it was announced that he had also been awarded a DSO.
Douglas Alfred Oxby was born on June 10 1920 in Cardiff and attended the city’s Canton High School before going to the Technical College. He worked as a barrister’s clerk before joining the RAF in June 1940 as a ground radar operator.
Bored with watching for enemy bombers off the coast of Wales, he volunteered for the new aircrew duty of radio operator (air) in June 1941. He trained on Blenheim night fighters at Prestwick, where he joined up with an Australian pilot, Mervyn Shipard. They were to fly together for the next two years and become one of the RAF’s outstanding night fighter crews.
After joining No 68 Squadron, equipped with the Beaufighter, they shot down a Heinkel bomber that was raiding Liverpool on November 1 1941, but the next six months were quiet. Threatened with an instructional tour, they volunteered to go to the Middle East to see some action. They took a Beaufighter to Egypt, via Gibraltar and Malta, arriving in a sandstorm. Assigned to No 89 Squadron near the Suez Canal, they found little enemy activity, and in June 1942 they transferred to a night fighter detachment in Malta, where they remained for four months. In July they scored three quick victories against German bombers.
During the Axis air forces’ final blitz against the island, Shipard and Oxby destroyed three Heinkel bombers (and probably a fourth) in rapid succession. On the night of October 14/15 Oxby carried out a successful interception at 22,000ft – he declined to use oxygen in order that his pilot could obtain the benefit of what little was left. They also flew five intruder sorties against enemy airfields in Sicily, as well as attacks on E-boats and convoys. Oxby was awarded a DFM for his “exceptional ability and determination”.
Returning to Egypt, they joined a detachment in the desert to provide support for the Tobruk offensive. On the night of December 12 they patrolled north of Tobruk, shooting down two Junkers 88 bombers in the space of only a few minutes. On January 8 1943 they accounted for two more bombers, and then another two a week later in the Gambut area.
In the Middle East, Oxby used his radar to intercept 21 enemy contacts, resulting in the shooting down of 13 aircraft and probably two others. He received a Bar to his DFM and a field commission. Shipard, meanwhile, had become the RAAF’s highest scoring night fighter pilot of the war.
In June 1943 the two men returned to Britain, where Oxby became an instructor at a training unit for radar operators. He remained in the RAF after the war, serving as an instructor at an air navigation school and at the Central Fighter Establishment and at Headquarters Fighter Command. In June 1962 he was appointed assistant air adviser to the British high commissioner in Ottawa. When he retired from the RAF in March 1969 in the rank of wing commander, he emigrated to Canada, where he worked as a civil servant until 1984.
Oxby was a quiet, private man who enjoyed reading and classical music. He was always conscious of the human losses for which he had been responsible. With the help of his son, he was putting the finishing touches to his wartime memoirs, which he was dedicating to the memory of the aircrew of the RAF and the Luftwaffe who failed to return.
Douggie Oxby died in Toronto on April 10. His second wife died in 2007, and he is survived by a son from his first marriage.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.