A decorated Spitfire pilot who served during the Second World War is being remembered as a gentleman and a role model after passing away this weekend.
Douglas (Duke) Warren, who flew a Spitfire fighter as part of No.165 Squadron at Dieppe with his twin brother Bruce — also nicknamed Duke — passed away Saturday in Comox at the age of 89.
Born in Nanton, Alta., in 1922, the Warren twins joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) at the age of 18.
The twins loved aviation from an early age and in late 1940 joined the RCAF, training in Canada until proceeding to England in January 1942, according to Warren’s obituary.
After advanced training, the Warren twins flew two tours of operations with Royal Air Force Spitfire squadrons, it noted.
In 1945, they were both awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses by King George VI at Buckingham Palace.
After returning to Canada in May 1945, Warren married Melba Bennett.
The Warren twins joined the permanent RCAF in October 1946.
Bruce was killed in 1951, as a test pilot for the CF-100 jet fighter.
Duke became Commanding Officer of the F-86 Sabre-equipped 410 Squadron in 1952. The following year, he was attached to the United States Air Force and flew Sabres in Korea.
He became chief flight instructor at the RCAF’s Operational Training Unit at Chatham, N.B., and then served in a similar role in Germany, assisting the post-war Luftwaffe in forming their Sabre Operational Training Unit at Oldenber as part of a Chief Canadian Aid Team, says Veterans Affairs Canada.
In 1970, Warren came to CFB Comox, accepting his final posting as operations officer.
Warren served a total of 37 years with the Canadian Forces, including his time in the RCAF Reserve.
He retired in 1973, and he volunteered in the community with various organizations for many years.
Active with Royal Canadian Legion Branch 160 in Comox, Warren served as Branch Padre for 24 years, and he served in the same capacity with 888 Wing of the Air Force Association of Canada and the Korean Veterans Association.
Retired colonel Jon Ambler first met Warren when Ambler was wing commander at 19 Wing Comox.
“His story is like so many Canadians during the Second World War,” said Ambler, who is now the volunteer co-ordinator/program manager of the Comox Air Force Museum. “Kids from the Prairies joined the Air Force, became Spitfire pilots.
“What made Duke’s story unique from hundreds of other Canadians was that he did it with his twin brother. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this — they flew together, and when he was flying with his twin, they were naturally called the Gemini Flight.”
Ambler speaks highly of Warren.
“He was one of those guys that if you asked him to come around and talk to people about being in the Air Force and his experiences, he would always come and talk to people, and he was always happy and proud of it,” he said. “He was a lovely man, very engaging.”
Ambler saw Warren a lot at the Comox Air Force Museum.
“He was always a very affable and chatty person,” he said. “He’d come to the museum and hang out and look at pictures of the Spitfires. He was always happy to be with people. He was a gentleman.
“He was very much part of the Air Force fabric of the Valley. We’ll miss him for sure.”
Bud Wilds, immediate past president of 888 (Komox) RCAF Wing of the Air Force Association of Canada, knew Warren socially, as he believes Warren was a member of 888 Wing for at least 25 years.
“He was a fine gentleman who did many things for other people,” he said. “He was quite involved in Legion events and the Air Force Association and doing things for cadets and children in school.
“He loved to go to schools and speak to young people, not about his exploits, but about World War Two and about why it happened and why they should go out of their way to remember it and make sure it didn’t happen again.”
James Francis (Stocky) Edwards, who also flew Spitfires in the Second World War, considers Warren a role model for young people.
“He was a good pilot,” he said. “He was a good husband and father and a very good officer, an example to all the young people. He was always a gentleman.
“He was a good-living man, and particularly, he was an example to the young officers and young people and the cadets.”
Warren received many honours in recognition of his accomplishments and his service to his country and his community.
He was recognized for his community work when he was awarded the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award in 2002.
In 2006, he was awarded the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation and was accorded the Freedom of the Town of Comox. Warren was also awarded the Legion of Honour by the president of France.
Warren’s funeral service will be held this Friday at 2 p.m. at St. Michael and All Angels Protestant Chapel. Following the service, there will be a reception at 888 Wing at 1298 Military Row in Comox.