Tributes to RAF airman who joined the Guinea Pig Club

Doug Vince

Doug Vince aged 16 as part of the Home Guard. Picture: DOUG VINCE - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to an RAF veteran who was one of the last surviving members of the so-called Guinea Pig Club of airmen who were badly burned during the Second World War. 

Doug Vince, who lived at Thirlmere Court in Felixstowe, has died aged 98. He became known for his involvement with the club, which had 630 members who had received pioneering surgery from New Zealand medic Sir Archibald McIndoe in East Grinstead. 

The flight engineer suffered burns to his face and hands after his bomber was attacked by a German fighter plane in the skies over Suffolk in 1944, causing a raging fire on board. 

Mr Vince grabbed a red hot fire extinguisher in an effort to put out the flames and suffered burns injuries to his hand.  

The pilot of the aircraft was able to land after spotting the lights of Kersey church beneath them, which was illuminated by search lights. 

Sadly, the bomber’s rear gunner Mick McGovern died during the incident, despite Mr Vince’s best efforts to save him, although the rest of the crew members were able to escape alive. 

Stirling bomber

Doug Vince's Stirling bomber that landed at Shepherds Grove airfield. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: CONTRIBUTED

He joined the Guinea Pig Club after being treated by the famous surgeon in Sussex. 

Most Read

In November 2020, the grandfather spoke to the EADT about his service. 

He said: “You had to be brave to fly in a Stirling. As a flight engineer, you were there for six hours on a flight, sitting behind the wireless operator seat.  

“We were shot at as we were coming in to land, in the funnel as we called it.”

Doug Vince at Kersey church

Doug Vince (right) pictured with his cousin Elizabeth King and Rev Jackson Crompton-Battersby, of Kersey church - Credit: PROMINENT

Paying tribute, his son Brian, 68, who lives in Norfolk, said: “He was very outgoing, a bit of a joker. He was very popular with the ladies.” 

He added that he wore a glove for most of his life, but coped well with his injuries, putting it down to the ‘war spirit’ of his generation. 

As well as Brian, he is survived by daughter Hazel, who lives in the Netherlands and sister Naomi, who lives in Kersey. He also has two grandchildren. 

His funeral will be held at Trinity Methodist Church in Felixstowe on 21 February at 1pm.