The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville


Douglas was born on the 17th February 1920, in his family home in Parham Road, Gosport. The only boy with an older half sister Jessie and three younger sisters Lily, Edith and Mary. His father was a Shipwright, before setting up his own business as a builder, and his mother a housewife.

His home was a three bedroom terrace house, with few amenities. When he was 5 years old, his father built him a rowing boat which he kept at the end of his road in Gosport creek, and when a little older, he and a friend would regularly row out into the Solent or across to the Isle of Wight. Being the only boy he tended to leave his pesky little sisters to play amongst themselves, and would set out on his bike or swim in the creek. He said, he must have given his mother nightmares.

Holidays were few and consisted mainly of day trips or on one rare occasion they had a week away in a rented house on the south coast.

At 11, his uncle paid for him to go to a private school in Portsmouth, Southsea Esplanade House school, known as ‘Chivers’ and he caught the Gosport Ferry each day. School was 5 days a week, plus a half day Saturday and two evenings a week, with homework each night.

At 16 years old, he sat his exams and after long chats with his father decided to join the RAF as an apprentice studying radio and electrical engineering. He was based at Cranwell in Lincolnshire for 3 years. On passing out in 1939 he was initially posted to Calshot with 201 Squadron on Flying Boats, such as Londons and Southamptons. On his first day there he was told to check the radio and electronics on board an aircraft, quite a responsibility for a young man who had never worked on one before. At the time the Second World War started, he was posted to Scotland and after a short while was promoted to corporal, then sergeant.

It was whilst on a training course with Marconi in Swindon that he and an Australian friend met two young girls who were firewatching, and on asking them out for the following night, he started a courtship with Vera, which lasted five years. During the war he had quite a few postings including South Africa, Nairobi, Mombassa, Egypt, India and Madagascar. During this time he was promoted to warrant officer, and then was sent to the Seychelles for two years, what a contrast from a life in England at that time. He readily admitted that he was fortunate and was lucky to have had a good war. Most of his work still involved the communications on Flying Boats as well as setting up and maintaining shore based communications.

With a couple of weeks leave, he and Vera were married on the 2nd June 1945 in Swindon. His mother in law having saved her rations for many months so that they could have a wedding cake made. They stayed with Vera’s parents for a few months until they were given some married quarters in Norfolk. Life was good and they bought a Standard Nine car allowing them to regularly visit the local speedway for a night out or for getting out and about. They befriended an older couple who lived near the airfield who supplied them with rabbits, chickens and eggs to supplement their rations.

On leaving the RAF, Doug took a job with EMI based in Hayes in Middlesex, and realising he had no civilian qualifications, promptly signed up for night classes at Southall College. After a year, and with no promotion in sight, he left EMI and joined the Admiralty at ASWE, based in Portsmouth.

After lodging in a flat in Southsea for a while, he and Vera bought a plot of land in Waterlooville and engaged a builder to have a bungalow built which he designed, finally moving in in August of 1953, with hardly any money left. During this time, he kept up his studies until 1958. Then in 1962 their hopes were realised and Mark was born. In the following years, the Orsmond family frequently enjoyed their get together’s with the Saunders, Taylors, Allens and Woodleys.

Using his knowledge from the war, and his qualifications, he was regularly travelling abroad for the Admiralty, in places like Bermuda setting up transmitting and receiving stations for the Navy, a job he really enjoyed.

In 1967 he joined the Freemasons which as he admitted gave him a wider perspective on life and in 1976 also became a governor at Elizabeth Road school in Waterlooville, quickly becoming Head Governor a post he held until 2001. As a result of this service and moving the school to new premises, as the old one was outgrown, a road was named after him in recognition ‘Orsmond Close’ in Waterlooville. He, with Mark maintained his love of the sea, sailing regularly in their own dinghy, and subsequently owning a half share in a Portsmouth Victory for a number of years, and when he sailed no more, he always  had a de-brief from Mark’s sailing exploits in recent years.

By this time Mark was married to Helen, and Doug and Vera enjoyed having an extended family as a result. Life was good and in 1998 he introduced Mark to the Freemasons, something which they have both enjoyed together over the years. Many here can testify to Doug’s luck on the raffle at their dinners!

He retired from the Admiralty in 1982, when cuts were made to the Civil Service and after a couple of years joined the Civil Service Retirement Fellowship, and became their Social Secretary. Both he and Vera loved this time in their lives. They organised monthly trips away and holidays once a year, all over the UK and also abroad.

In addition, he and Vera started cruising themselves, visiting Norway, Iceland and the Arctic circle, and also to Russia, as well as travelling with their friends Mollie and Amos, which gave them both a lot of pleasure.

Douglas’s world changed irrevocably in September 2002 when Vera died and although he kept himself busy, life for him was never the same.

Douglas had an amazing spirit, keeping active with the Retirement Fellowship, joining the ‘Over 55’s club’ regularly playing indoor bowls, darts and chess – Mark says he was a mean chess player that he never beat whenever they played.

Always active, Douglas took evening classes in computing at Highbury, took a balloon flight as recently as 2008, over the Sussex Downs and carried on driving until he was 90. He also enjoyed his day trips and short break holidays with Mark and Helen, maintaining an independent life until falling ill. Quite a few Sundays would see Douglas cook a meal for Helen and Mark, he always had a good appetite as many will recall. Helen and Mark believe it helped his long life.

Despite his ailments in recent years, Douglas kept fighting with his indomitable spirit. He was a regular at the 8am church service at St Georges, a church he and Vera had attended since moving to Waterlooville, and he took much solace from his religion and beliefs. Doug did not feel well for the last couple of years, but he never gave up, he made himself go out every day, shopped, cooked and cleaned and tried to keep busy. He continued to make the Christmas and Easter cakes and would bake a birthday cake for his friends at the 55 Club.

However just before Christmas he became very poorly and Mark stayed with him. During this time, he and Mark became even closer, and despite being admitted to hospital, Doug remained positive about the future and returning home.

Mark has said that his passing has changed his life forever, but that the memories of a loving, caring and selfless father and best friend, will give him the strength to carry on as Douglas would wish.

He always told Mark he could have the ‘top brick off the chimney’, and was proud of what he achieved. They enjoyed a closeness together that is so rare today.

Mark and Helen will miss him terribly, and it’s a tribute to the affection in which he was held by many family and friends, that they have received so many cards, flowers and condolences.

It is difficult to summarise a life of 93 years, but Mark & Helen are thankful for his long, happy and fulfilling life. Douglas is now at peace and has joined his beloved Vera, in the presence of God.

Easter Edition 2013

Douglas William Orsmond, 1920 - 2013