Brig. Douglas Henchley OBE
Douglas Victor Henchley was born in Coolgardie, Western Australia on 5th November 1911 and died peacefully on 28th October 2010 just a week short of his 99th birthday.
Douglas recounted one of his earliest memories as standing as a very small boy on the dockside at Freemantle watching a very large ship festooned with streamers departing with AIF troops for Gallipoli. His father was a doctor and decided to return to England to help with the war effort. Douglas had a life-long interest in cricket and was probably the last person alive to have seen Warwick Armstrong’s famous 1921 Australian side which he saw play Kent in that year. Douglas attended Battersea Grammar School from 1924 to 1930 when he went up to Keble College from where he graduated with an honours degree in Engineering in 1933. Whilst at Oxford, he met Persis Davies who was attending Lady Margaret Hall. They began more than 60 years of married life in 1934 and in due course had three sons: John, Richard and David. Douglas started his working life in 1933 with the English Steel Corporation in Sheffield followed by a spell with the Austin Motor Co. Douglas took a Commission in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in the spring of 1937 as an ordnance mechanical engineer and attended the Military College of Science at Woolwich. In those days, being already a married man, he considered himself fortunate to have been granted a commission. Shortly after the outbreak of war he was promoted Major.
In 1940 he was sent to France with the BEF and was evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. He was promoted Lt Colonel in 1942 and was one of the officers appointed to set up a new army unit: the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). In January 1944 he became a full Colonel and found himself on General Montgomery’s staff assisting with the planning of the D-Day landings.
After the war Douglas saw further overseas service including postings to Kenya during the MauMau uprising and in Malaya during the communist insurgency. In 1958 he received his final promotion as Brigadier and was appointed ADC to the Queen in 1962 shortly before retiring from the army. Following this Douglas spent three years lecturing in management studies at City University where he was also Warden of the Hall of Residence. Douglas then became bursar of Henley Management College and spent seven years living nearby in the hamlet of Pheasants Hill in the idyllic setting of the Hambledon Valley.
In 1973 he moved to Boars Hill to help manage the centenary appeal of his old college: Keble. Lastly in 1979 he became Secretary of the Oxford Literary and Debating Union Trust. He continued in that role until 1996 and during this time was able to use his considerable influence to obtain funds for a major refurbishment of the Oxford Union library. Both Douglas and Persis became actively involved in the Boars Hill Association and, after the death of his wife in 1999, Douglas continued to devote much time to BHA activities finally being appointed Life President of the BHA. Douglas was a fount of knowledge on an amazingly wide range of topics and remained a close follower of current affairs. Apart from his three sons he also left numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The Engineering School in the 1930s by Brigadier Douglas Henchley OBE (Keble 1930)