View Full Version : Doug Arnold

arthur harbrow
30th Jul 2002, 17:32
Any stories,anecdotes on the late Doug Arnold at Blackbushe?

4th Aug 2002, 15:00
Doug Arnold.

Well, after 4 days and 130 views and no replies, I think enough has been said.

Mr G.

4th Aug 2002, 22:48
I wasn't going to make any comment on this thread but I will.

Doug Arnold is not an anecdotal subject in my view. He was not a liked man. Arrogant, seriously private and did not suffer fools. He was also a bully.

I knew him for around 8 years before he died. He was a difficult man to get to know. Once he knew you he would still view you with suspicion. He hated anoraks, and he hated talking about what he was planning. He was also quite violent and would not think twice about punching someone's lights out. As he did the CFI at Three Counties Aero Club at B'bushe one time.

His contribution to aviation was vast however, but it was purely a money making venture. His attempt at re-building a Lancaster at Biggin Hill was a joy to watch. He somehow had access to enormous amounts of spares and engines. A case in point was that he 'found' 12 Merlin's - in India I believe - and reckoned that his Lanc would be good for a 100 years! He also had in the same hangar a very nice PBY. A really beautiful aircraft. Wonder what happened to that.

He not only collected aircraft, he collected tanks too and had a good selection at Biggin, which upset the council! But that would have made him feel dead chuffed.

His sons, David and Peter never really took after their father but they did inherit his wealth when he died. What happened to all the aircraft I cannot say. I believe the Lanc went to a hangar at Popham where Charles Church was going to get it fully airworthy - until he killed himelf in his Spitfire, and the Lanc suffered severe damage in a storm when the roof collapsed I understand.

Doug was an enigma. It was that which caused him to have few friends. He was adept at using people, and that perhaps, says more about him than anything else.

His mark in aviation will not be an everlasting one in my view.

arthur harbrow
5th Aug 2002, 09:03
Camel Pilot, thank you for your reply.
I only encountered him once but was none too impressed.
I posted because there was one particular story i had heard and
wondered if more details would emerge.Probably just an unfounded rumour.

Shaggy Sheep Driver
5th Aug 2002, 13:13
The 'Charles Church' Lancaster was at Woodford being worked on when some guys doing work on the hangar roof caused it to collapse onto the Lancaster. I don't know what happened to the damaged aeroplane after that; it was about the time that Charles Church was killed in his Spitfire, so I doubt the fate of the Lanc was very high on the agenda of the family or company at that time.

Anyone know where it went?


12th Aug 2002, 13:40
About a zillion years ago, myself and a friend, were plane-spotting at Blackbushe. We wondered round, trying to find something decent to pot, and happened across a hangar, with A Meteor inside. Wow we thought, fantastic. Unfortunately, there was nothing else really to see.

At that moment, a Rolls-Royce hove into view, with the licence plate DA32 (from memory)

The driver got out, and straight away said "Who the **** are you?" Rather timidly, (He was an intimidating character) we said we were Air Cadets, and really interested in the Meteor.

His reply? "**** off my airfield now". Off we trudged, a bit dejected, thinking we'd come all this way for that, when he pulled up beside us again."Oh Christ I thought......"

"How long have you 2 been Air Cadets? "3 years Mister"

"Ok, get in"

He then took us around the hangars while we got very excited, we'd no idea who he was, but on that day, he at least took the time. I can't really say anything untoward about him. Yes I've heard all sorts of stories, but I'll always remember, he changed his mind....

And if it wasn't for Doug, the warbird scene, would be a far far poorer place

Arthur, this story you're chasing doesn't centre around India does it?

12th Aug 2002, 16:22
Well its best to keep ones own counsel in these matters, is it not?
But generally we all understand what the expression "he does not suffer fools gladly" means.
However I seem to recall that it was the Great Storm of 1986 aka as Fish's nemisis which blew the roof in at Woodford,not the lads workingon the roof. And perhaps the wreckage went to Canada.
If you really want to know Dick Richardson at Popham. He will know.

arthur harbrow
12th Aug 2002, 18:40
Thanks again for replies.
Solotk, many years ago i owned a small haulage company in
Reading and we did some work for i think ,a company by the name
of Blackbushe Metals.The story revolves around some scrap my co
was sub contractad to move from the air field.
It was during the course of this work i met Doug Arnold and heard
the story.A very interesting man indeed although obviously not
universally liked.
Industries like aviation and to a lesser degree haulage attract
these type of characters.

12th Aug 2002, 19:20
Anyone know where it went?

Florida. See the Lancaster thread in this forum: http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?threadid=61706

12th Aug 2002, 19:50
Didn't Doug Arnold make his money in the scrap business? Or do I remember that wrong?

I know his avowed intent was to own a squadron of Spits...

Like Solotk, I managed to scrounge a tour round the hangar whilst a spotty teenager - no DA in sight, the engineer who kindly showed us round said something like "if I suddenly start shouting at you, the boss is coming - just grab your bikes and scarper"! Fortunately, he didn't appear.

The joy of that particular visit were various crates containing the bones of 4 or 5 Spitfire XIVs and XVIIIs... one of which is now the delightful G-SPIT, another G-WWII, and a third the more elusive G-BRAF. Presumably Arnold brought them from the estate of Ormond Haydon-Bailey?

Another visit, there was a Sea Fury outside running up prior to delivery to the States, other visits Heinkels, Ju-52s and DC-3s aplenty, plus once, a peer through a hangar door revealed a large fuselage which turned out to be a B-24! Now with the Collings Foundation...

Biggin Hill, I managed an official tour, the Lightning, more Spits (including an airworthy G-BRAF, Corsairs, the late P-63, a Mustang.)

And later the Cat parked outside (now in a hangar at North Weald) plus a pile of Lanc bits outside - the Charles Church machine? Incidently, I'm torn between the workman story and the Great Storm...

Love him or hate him, he certainly had some great aircraft... Oooh, Oooh, the Lysander! Think Darryl Stinton performed the first of many forced landing in that machine when DA owned it, before ARCO found and corrected the problem!



Shaggy Sheep Driver
13th Aug 2002, 13:04
It was definately the workmen, not the storm. According to the thread pointed to by papertiger, the Charles Church Lanc was ex-Starthallen, got squashed at Woodford in the roof collapse, and the remains went to Kermit Weeks, who still has them.

Anyone confirm???


14th Aug 2002, 13:25
I thought the ex-strathallan one was now in bits at Sandtoft, or is that yet another one!?

14th Aug 2002, 13:57

The hangar roof collapse at Woodford was caused by a botched roof extension to accomadate the AEW Nimrod. When the extension was added all the load was being carried by the asbestos roof panels. HSE rules dictated that the asbestos panels had to come out and BAe took the opportunity to insulate the roof at the same time. A combination of the additional weight of the scaffolding in the roof and the lack of rigidity from the roof panels caused the roof to collapse.

In the hangar at the time was the Lanc, two unsold 748's and a fire damaged Nimrod (damaged on take off from St. Mawgan IIRC, and eventually scrapped, but thats another story). The roof collapse missed the Nimrod and both 748's and virually cut the Lanc in two. Several of the roofers where seriously injured and a BAe inspector was killed, scallded by a broken steam pipe.

If the roof collapse had happened twenty minutes earlier, then the injury list would have been much higher, it collapsed during the lunch break.

Not one of my best memories of Woodford.

15th Aug 2002, 07:37
I lived in the vicinity of EGLK as a youth (70's, early 80's) and well remember the man, and his reputation - often saw him careering around the airfield in the afore-mentioned Gold "Roller", always suited, but never looking anything other than extremely intimidating.

Heard similar stories of people being threatened (once with a shotgun!) for even looking at his aeroplanes.

However, he did bring an awful lot of interesting types to the airfield, in addition to those mentioned I remember the B25's, the ex-IGN B17, the "Neil Williams" He111 and the ex-Dan-Air Comet (that sat by the tower for years, starred in a "Madness" video in the early 80's, and was sadly scrapped when BCA took over the airfield)

Oh, and a Spanish Learjet used to visit quite a lot in his time aswell, though this was veiled in much secrecy :confused:

15th Aug 2002, 19:11
Not much of a secret really. Their visits were mainly to talk about some crated Merlins they had. Then, of course, the large number of T28's they wanted to get sold.

DA was a hot contender for all the above, and that is where his Merlins came from - as well as from India. Where there are probably many many more. Buying 12 crated and unused, as he did, must have set him back a few mil too!


Yes he did originally make his money out of scrap. Mountains of it. That is where he got his self defence arrogance from I expect.

Wonder where the Merlins are? No shortage of buyers after he died I dare say.

18th Aug 2002, 19:28
The "India Story" lives in infamy, as does the "Spitfires in a mine shaft near Darwin" one

However, I have heard it from various people, that Doug, errrr "Put out of immediate reach" several Tempests, in addition to the ones he bought......

26th Aug 2002, 09:49
I think you will find Doug made his fortune initially by dredging for building materials just after the War. His business interests were varied but he was extremely well informed on anything that took his interest. I believe he was one of a group on which the Air Force used to check training techniques.He was an experienced and competant pilot on many aircraft including the Spitfire. He was undoubtedly a gruff character but he had a host of amusing stories he would share once he got to know you. Neil Williams did not suffer fools lightly either and he had a good working relationship with Doug. I spent a week at Quatro Vientos with Doug, Neil and engineers before Neil`s tragic accident in the Heinkel. I can honestly say it was one of my best memories in a very long aviation career. Love him or loathe him, nobody can deny his immense contribution to the preservation of historical aircraft.

27th Aug 2002, 08:12
Preservation of historical aircraft, yes - but for what purpose, as the machines have been all but invisible for decades?

29th Aug 2002, 19:12
Camel Pilot,

The Merlins didn't cost that much, and most went to the US, along with another load of boxed sets from the North of UK, however DA was known by a very good friend of mine and was renowned for being very hard, both physical and in business!:eek: