Discovering Donald "Doc" Payne: A Living Link to My Nanny's Past on Remembrance Day

Discovering Donald "Doc" Payne: A Living Link to My Nanny's Past on Remembrance Day



 Introducing Donald M. Payne, affectionately known as Doc, a remarkable aviator and former Commanding Officer of 427 Squadron. Born on April 11, 1925, in Leamington, Ontario, Doc embarked on an extraordinary aviation career. In September 1943, he received his wings at Camp Borden, marking the beginning of his journey. Shortly thereafter, he was deployed overseas, swiftly progressing through various training units.

Joining No. 2 Squadron RAF, Doc initially flew Spitfires before transitioning to rocket-firing Typhoons. Engaging in exhilarating and perilous missions, he provided crucial support to ground forces in Northwest Europe. Remarkably, at the tender age of 19, Doc completed his tour on Typhoons. Instead of returning to Canada, he seized the opportunity to train on twin-engine aircraft.

Flying Oxfords and Wellingtons, Doc eventually converted to Lancasters and was posted to 428 Squadron in 6 Group. Now a seasoned Bomber Captain, he successfully completed his initial twelve operations. However, on an ill-fated Friday the 13th in April 1945, while target marking over Kiel, Doc's Lancaster was severely damaged. Despite being hit again by anti-aircraft fire over Heligoland, the crew valiantly tried to reach Sweden. Unfortunately, the aircraft disintegrated, and Doc was forced to ditch in the treacherous North Sea.

Stranded in a dinghy, exposed to the elements for an astonishing 12 days, the crew members faced a harrowing ordeal. Eventually, they drifted ashore at the mouth of the Elbe, where six emaciated airmen were rescued by a German naval vessel. Following extensive medical treatment and convalescence in Germany, Belgium, and British hospitals, Doc's exceptional skill, determination, and dedication to duty were recognized with the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Returning to Canada, Doc underwent a seven-week nutritional study based on their North Sea survival experience. In early 1946, he reenlisted in the RCAF as a Leading Aircraftman and eventually regained his commission. His contributions included assisting in the reopening of St. Hubert and later joining 426 Squadron in Lachine. By 1951, during the Korean War, Doc flew North Stars as part of the Thunderbird squadron involved in the Korean airlift. Notably, he skillfully landed a heavily laden North Star after losing an engine hundreds of miles from base, earning him the Air Force Cross.

Over the following years, Doc's roles encompassed aircrew selection, staff appointments, and pilot training, where he gained proficiency in flying Sabres. In 1959, he assumed command of 427 Squadron in Zweibrücken, Germany, serving in this esteemed position for over a year. As the last Squadron Leader to command a squadron, Doc witnessed the transition to a new era when the squadrons adopted the CF-104 Starfighter. In June 1960, he handed over command of 427 Squadron and subsequently served in operations at Air Division headquarters for four years. In June 1964, Doc concluded his European service.

Returning to Canada, Doc undertook diverse responsibilities at Air Force bases in Winnipeg, Comox, and Edmonton. During this period, he even learned to fly helicopters and completed an impressive 93 parachute jumps while stationed in Edmonton. Recognizing the importance of understanding the experience of those he supported as a Squadron CO, Doc retired from the Air Force in 1974 after 32 years of dedicated service.

In the post-service period, Doc operated a helicopter business for over a decade. Remarkably, even in the year 2000, he continued to fly Dakota aircraft (Daks) and DC-6Bs, a testament to his enduring passion for aviation. Currently residing on Vancouver Island, Doc makes it a priority to attend SPAADS reunions, cherishing the memories of the Sabre era and the camaraderie forged during his service.


As we observe Remembrance Day today, I have been unexpectedly reunited with a significant part of my family's history. Through a serendipitous internet search, I stumbled upon an article that shed light on the extraordinary experiences of Donald "Doc" Payne, a veteran of the Second World War. The discovery that Donald Payne, my nanny's brother, is not only alive but also residing in British Columbia while I am in Ontario, has left me in awe and filled with gratitude on this solemn day of remembrance.

Background information:

Donald "Doc" Payne's remarkable story as a bomber pilot during the war is a testament to the strength and resilience of those who served. Surviving a crash landing in the treacherous Baltic Sea, he and his crewmates endured ten days adrift before being rescued by a German fishing boat. His courage in the face of adversity serves as an inspiration to us all.

Filmmaker Eric Brunt and his project:

Through the dedication of filmmaker Eric Brunt, supported by the Canadian War Museum and Viveka Melki, the stories of Second World War veterans like Donald Payne are being captured and preserved. Brunt's project ensures that the voices and experiences of these heroes are not forgotten.

Personal connection and inspiration:

The significance of discovering Donald Payne's living presence in my life on this Remembrance Day cannot be understated. Today, as we honour the sacrifices made by countless individuals, it is a truly wonderful thing to come across a living link to my family's past. My nanny, who was orphaned at an early age, often spoke fondly of her brothers, and Donald held a special place in her heart. Although I have not had the opportunity to meet him since I was a child, the memories of that meeting and the stories my Nan shared about him remain vivid in my mind. The fact that he is still alive and residing in British Columbia while I am in Ontario fills me with a sense of wonder and gratitude.

Conclusion and call to action:

On this solemn Remembrance Day, as we remember the sacrifices made by countless individuals, let us also celebrate the living connections to our own family histories. My recent discovery of Donald "Doc" Payne's story on the internet has reignited my passion for preserving and cherishing the stories of our loved ones. Despite the physical distance between us, I am grateful for the opportunity to honour his service and share this remarkable connection.

I encourage you to delve into your own family's past, to listen to the tales of those who came before us, and to embrace the living links that connect us to our shared history. Together, let us honor the sacrifices and bravery of those who fought for our freedom. And as we remember the past, let us also create opportunities to connect with and learn from the living legacies that surround us on this Remembrance Day.

I can’t wait to find out more about my family history. Thank you to all who have sacrificed for our freedom.

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