As members of the Nanton Lancaster Society were learning about the career of S/L Ian Bazalgette VC (known in the RAF as “Baz”) prior to the dedication of the Nanton Lancaster in his memory, they became aware of F/L Douglas Cameron DFM, Baz’s rear gunner, and contacted him. Doug provided valuable information regarding his pilot.
F/L Cameron had a most impressive career of his own as a rear-gunner, completing four tours of operations totaling 122 flights over enemy territory. As well, he had the distinction of baling out of two aircraft whose pilots were both awarded the Victoria Cross.
A native of Perthshire, Scotland, Douglas Cameron had been a gamekeeper prior to joining the Royal Air Force in September,1939. On completion of his training he was posted to No. 58 Squadron based at York and flew two tours in Whitley bombers. It was with this squadron that he first experienced combat and shot down an enemy FW190 fighter.
After a period of time with Coastal Command, he was posted to No. 149 Squadron based at Lakenheath where he joined the crew of F/Sgt. R.H. Middleton of the Royal Australian Air Force. The crew was then briefly assigned to No. 7 Squadron PFF but then posted back again to No. 149.
On the night of 27/28 November, 1942 they flew to Turin, Italy to attack the Fiat Works. Their Stirling aircraft was hit by flak and severely damaged while returning from the target. The co-pilot was completely incapacitated and Middleton lost an eye and had half his jaw blown away. However he was somehow able to fly the aircraft back to the English coast where four of the crew, including Douglas Cameron, baled out before the aircraft crashed into the sea killing Middleton and two other crewmembers. Middleton was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his efforts and Douglas Cameron the DFM.
Cameron was then assigned to No. 20 O.T.U. at Lossiemouth as Gunnery Leader. He recalled, “One day Baz came into my office and asked if I was quite happy at the O.T.U. I told Baz that I would like to go back on ops but that the Airforce had told me that I had done enough and to let some others operate against the Germans. Baz told me that he had friends in high places and if I would like to come he would like to have an experienced crew.” Through the efforts of Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie, both Baz and Cameron were assigned to the Pathfinder Force and began operating with No. 635 Squadron.
On August 4, 1944 their aircraft was struck by flak. Bazalgette attempted to return on two engines but when a third failed he ordered the crew, including Cameron, to abandon the aircraft. S/L Bazalgette was killed as he landed the flaming Lancaster on a single engine in an attempt to save the lives of two injured crewmembers who were unable to jump. Bazalgette was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his action.
Following his successful parachute jump, Cameron escaped into a forest with Nazi soldiers spraying machine gun fire in his direction and tracking dogs baying behind him. Perhaps his experience as a gamekeeper contributed to his success in evading his pursuers. Emerging from the trees early the next morning, he avoided the French civilians, finally making contact with the Maquis (the French underground organization). He then became involved with their sabotaging operations. Dressed in civilian clothing, capture by the Nazis would mean certain execution and Doug was given a deadly pill for use so that he would not be taken alive.
Following the war Doug Cameron settled in his native Scotland to continue his career as a gamekeeper. He named his only daughter Margaret Middleton Bazalgette Cameron as his lasting tribute to the pilots he had flown with on Victoria Cross flights.