5th July 1918 – 28th July 1988

Douglas was born to his parents, Lawson and Sarah Ann (her preferred name) on Friday, 5th July 1918 and was baptised on 28th July 1918 at Kingswinford Methodist Church. At that time they were living at 49, Lower Potter Street, Brierley Hill. This road no longer shows on current maps as the area has been completely re-developed, although there is still a road called Little Potter Street.

Lawson and Annie

As far as I know, Douglas ( always known as Doug) had a normal childhood and when he was 4, his brother, Norman, was born. According to Norman’s baptism certificate, they were then living at the Bulls Head Inn, Bull Street, Brierley Hill. Unfortunately, this pub closed its doors in 2015.

Young Doug c. 1922
Doug and Norman c. 1925

One of Doug’s keen interests was in The Boy Scouts, an interest he continued long after he left school, later becoming a scout leader while in the Midlands and a cub leader (Akela) when he moved to Kent. In fact it was through Scouting that he met my mother (Josephine Mullett) , introduced to him by his good friend, Jim Compson.

In July 1939, Doug enlisted in the Army, two months before WWII started. At that time, Doug’s war record says that he was a milk roundsman. He had an active war and was attached to a Heavy Anti Aircraft battery. On his record, he was described as being 5′ 10″ with light brown hair and grey eyes.

He was deployed to France in November 1939 and was evacuated, along with 338,000 others, at Dunkirk. He remembered being in the water for 8 hours before being rescued. In 1941, he was part of the force that was stationed in Iceland. In July 1944, he went to France, ending up in Germany at the end of the war. He had picked up German and French languages and did some interpreting. He was finally discharged in 1946. He remained a member of the Dunkirk Veterans Association until his death.

Doug in 1939

Of course, time didn’t stand still for Doug during the war and he married his fiancee, Josephine, on 31st July 1943 at Dudley Parish Church, St Thomas & St Lukes (the Top Church as it was known).

From the left: Sarah Ann Butler, Lawson Butler, Connie Cook, Norman Butler, Douglas Butler, Josephine Butler, Joseph Mullett, Mabel Hollins, Beatrice Mullett

When Doug returned from the war he applied for and won a place at Alsager College to become a teacher, starting in February 1947. The subjects he was trained in, other than the ‘Principles and Practice of Education’ were, Health Education, English Usage, General Science and English Literature.

His first posting, in 1948, was to Tividale County Secondary School where he taught General Science and Gardening. From references written at the time, he was ‘undoubtedly a distinct success’, ‘popular with the staff and children, and at all times courteous and obliging’. One of his keen interests was in running the school boxing club.

He left Tividale School in 1952 to take up a teaching role at Napier Road School, Gillingham in Kent.

Doug c.1950

Obviously, to take up this new post, the house in Oakham Road had to be sold and another one bought closer to his the new school. This was to be 7, Arthur Road, Rainham in Kent which was about 3 miles from the school in Gillingham. The name of the house was “Oaklands”. As we didn’t have a car at that time, I can only assume that Dad either used a bus or got lifts from other teachers to get to school. Although Doug had not had extensive training for his subjects, English and Science, he was a natural teacher and his pupils got good results in their national exams. He always liked discipline in his classes and always had one or two canes by his desk. I don’t know if he used them but it seems the threat was good enough.

In 1960, Doug applied for and achieved a teaching post in Benghazi, Libya at the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation School. This was a school set up to teach the children of the soldiers stationed there. He left for Benghazi in December 1960 to take up the post and we followed on in March 1961. During this time he made many friends, some of whom he stayed friends with until his death in 1988. He was given the courtesy rank of Captain and so enjoyed many of the privileges of that rank, such as housing and the use of the Officers Beach. One of the features that he introduced at the school was a small collection of animals that included a scorpion. We were told that the scorpion had had its sting removed but…….

While he was in Benghazi, he took up another role as well as teaching. He became the English editor of the ‘Cyrenaica Weekly News’, a local newspaper that was published in English and Arabic.

Doug came back to England in December 1962 and took up the role of science master back at Napier Road School. He stayed here until he retired eventually becoming head of the science department. One of his successful projects was the implementation of the Nuffield science programme. As before at his old school, he took an active part in school sports activities, This included as well, out of school ones such as field trips, holidays and visits, such as going to see the Harlem Globetrotters. I was lucky enough to be invited to go along to the Harlem Globetrotters and saw the famous Meadowlark Lemon.

One thing springs to mind from his days in Benghazi. He bought a car shortly after he arrived there, a Morris Minor Traveller. Now this car had been adapted for Libya in that it seemed to have additional air vents and no heater. This proved to be an issue when he brought it back to the UK just in time for the difficult winter of 1962/63. I remember on one trip up to the Midlands during that winter, we used hot water bottles to keep the windscreen clear and wearing coats and scarves when travelling. Of course, we also had travel blankets.

In 1965, we were living at 21A Durham Road, Wigmore, Kent. In Cambridge Road, a road running parallel to Durham Road, a murder took place. The victim was a widow, Mrs Florence Lewis. As there were very few clues as to who committed the murder, everyone in the area was fingerprinted, presumably for elimination. My friends and I believed we knew who the murderer was, a local lad who was in the army, and the murder is still unsolved to this day.

Doug’s Fingerprints

Doug retired in 1983 at the age of 65 and spent his retirement in the garden, meeting up with friends and often collected his grandchildren from school. Towards the end of his life, he became affected by dementia and died of lung cancer on Thursday 28th July 1988. Like many people of his generation, Doug smoked for much of his life and gave it up in his 60s. His funeral took place at Medway Crematorium and he would have loved the ceremony. The hearse was piped down the drive to the crematorium by an ex soldier in full Scottish regalia and once in the chapel, there was a guard of honour either side of his coffin with flags lowered . The ‘Last Post’ was played at the end of the service.

What was he like?

(My opinion, of course). He was very well spoken and well mannered. He hardly ever swore and even then it was only mild words. He liked most types of music with the exception of pop music, which he tolerated. He had a good sense of humour and was generally a patient man. He enjoyed sea fishing from the beach, piers and sometimes off a boat, usually out of Whitstable. He enjoyed a pint and was often seen in the Cricketers in Sturdee Avenue or in the Sturdee Avenue Social Club. He was also a member of the Smallholders Club in Wigmore. He enjoyed the garden and was very knowledgeable about wild flowers. One of his talents, presumably picked up in the war, was the harmonica which he used to play at family gatherings. He taught both Mike and me to play (I have to say, not always appreciated by others around us).

He had a wide circle of friends, including many of those made in Libya. He was also fondly remembered by his ex pupils.