Douglas Baker (1943-1949) T he early years of Douglas’s life were cosmopolitan, as he spent his first few months in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands before moving to Alexandria, Egypt. Douglas very much enjoyed these early experiences but formal education of Convent and The British Boys’ School was considered insufficient by his parents and

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This was an exchange with a teacher from Cranbrook School in Sydney and the experiences he had, from sailing in the harbour, holidaying in the early days of Port Douglas and Cairns, travelling to Ayers Rock through the sandhills to the witnessing of “the six o’clock swill”, which was still in vogue in the early 60s, stayed with him. It was not too long after his return to Oundle that he decided that Australia was the place to be and in 1966 emigrated to Adelaide to take a position at Scotch College, whose Head Master was Charles Fisher, one of the sons of the then Archbishop of Canterbury. Douglas worked there for 25 years before retiring. In his retirement, Douglas maintained his interest in geography by working for local tour operators around the environs of Adelaide, taking visitors to the vine growing areas of the Barossa Valley, the Southern Vales and the Clare Valley. His hobbies of lapidary and stained glass also meant numerous trips to the Outback, collecting rocks and minerals. Maps always fascinated him, so he also worked in the map room as a volunteer in addition to his community work for the local council. Douglas was a cultured and perceptive man and was described by his nephew, Toby, as a man at ease with life and the world – who like his father – could hold a conversation with anyone. Possessed of a natural sense of adventure, a passion he passed on to his children, Douglas built friendships wherever he lived. This is taken from a summary of Douglas’s life written in the third person by Douglas on his appointment as President of the OMT Society in 1999

Leaving School in 1948, with a place secured at Lincoln College, Oxford, Douglas’s intentions of doing his National Service were thwarted by the failure of his medical examination. So a year in the City of London as a cable clerk filled in the time until university. At Oxford, Douglas’s sporting commitments on the rugby and cricket fields tended to distract from his academic studies, but he did eventually finish up with an honours degree in Geography! Part of his rugby experiences did help towards his understanding of his degree, as he was lucky enough to travel to France on several occasions with his college team, to Germany with the “Greyhounds” and to Japan with the university in 1952. After finishing his degree he entered the world of commerce in the City with a fuel supplier and spent four years with them, but with limited success. Douglas was grateful to the company for allowing him to travel to South Africa with the 1955 British Lions team for three months, and a visit to Canada with the Barbarians two years later. Douglas’s rugby tours also included Japan, Jamaica and much of Europe; his daughter, Caroline, recalls being given a doll after his tours to represent each place. Having left the City, Douglas moved into the field of education and took up an appointment at High Wycombe Grammar School, before joining Frank Spragg at Oundle in Northamptonshire. Being in close proximity to Northampton, he played one or two games for the town before being persuaded to come to Durrants to continue to play for the Old Boys until 1962, when an opportunity arose to teach in Australia for two years.

so cabin trunks and cases were packed and he was sent to the isolated, but very successful, Hillgrove Preparatory School in Bangor, North Wales. There his Classical education and love of rugby was born as he was able to witness the skills of Wilf Wooller and Hayden Tanner in their early days on Bangor University’s rugby ground which was next to the school. In 1943 secondary school beckoned, and his Head Master entered Douglas for a scholarship to Trent College, which he was duly awarded. However, Douglas’s father, having been at Merchant Taylors’ during the First World War, had other ideas and insisted that he should go to Sandy Lodge. So telegrams, letters and other communications crossed the Mediterranean at the height of the Africa campaign and Douglas was welcomed by Head Master Norman Birley in September that year. However, no place was available at such short notice in The Manor so his first term at MTS saw him boarding at a house in Moor Park next to Ernie Melly’s. Douglas recalled a long walk every day (except Sunday) down Main Avenue, under the railway bridge and down the length of the School drive, dressed in grey suit, black shoes and school cap. “D.D.” and Teddy Rider presided over The Manor and “firewatching” and “Doodlebugs” were distractions from good nights’ sleep in the latter part of the war. Douglas had vivid recollections of his years at Taylors’ including the Sunday morning (after Chapel) potato dig in the field between the road to the back gate and The Manor, the news of the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Japan whilst on a scout camp in Hertfordshire, the visits of Group Captain Douglas Bader and Field Marshal Montgomery to cadet parades, the vicious winter of 1947-48 when no heating was available at school because of the lack of coal, overcoats being worn in class and a number of half holidays being declared enabling many boys the opportunity of learning to ice skate on the frozen water meadows and gravel pits.



Douglas Baker (second row from top, first right) on the Lions tour of South Africa

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