Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Douglas Leonard Rayment, the son of Leonard Rayment (a clerk in the tobacco trade) and Elsie Rayment née Kirk, was born in North London, England on 17th December 1912. He was the eldest of three children, his birth being followed in 1916 by that of a sister named Jean Elsie Rayment and in 1921 by a brother named Kenneth Gordon Rayment.
After leaving school Douglas worked as a commercial clerk and learned to fly, gaining his pilots certificate at the Cinque Ports Flying Club on 11th August 1934. He joined the RAF and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 20th January 1936. He served in Bomber Command from December 1936 until June 1938 at which time he became involved with experimental flying by the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment. He flew from RAF Martlesham Heath near Ipswich in Suffolk and later with the SDF (Special Duties Flight) at RAF Christchurch in Hampshire.
The Battle of Britain was on-going while they were at Christchurch and, initially, all SDF aircraft were grounded during an alert to avoid distracting the defenders. This order was rescinded on 16th August 1940: “Fighter aircraft of non-operational units are authorised to mount airborne patrols in the vicinity of their airfields in order to harass the enemy”. Although not a fighter specialist, Douglas did not hesitate to play an active and aggressive role whenever he could, and kept Hurricane L1562 (and later L1592, now preserved in the Science Museum, South Kensington) fuelled, armed and ready to go, outside his office. Making numerous scrambles, he was finally rewarded with the kill of a Ju 88 on 19 September, having previously damaged a Ju 88 when flying Blenheim P4832 on 12th September during the course of an airborne radar trial. Unfortunately, he was badly shot up on the 19th and the Hurricane was categorised as damaged beyond repair.
The work of the SDF began to bear fruit in 1941 when the nightfighter force, now equipped with AI, began to obtain significant results against German bomber formations. On 1st July 1941, Douglas was awarded an Air Force Cross for his work in the development of radar, but disaster struck on 17th July. Having completed his paperwork in the morning, he elected to fly a calibration sortie after lunch against a new lightweight radar set under development. He and his wireless operator/air gunner, Sgt Raymond Sadler, took off from Christchurch at around 1400hr in Blenheim IV P4832. At about 1500hr Douglas reported that he had observed a barrage balloon adrift on the sea 35 miles south of St Albans Head, Dorset, and that he was going to investigate. Simultaneously R/T and radar contact with the aircraft was lost. At about 1505hr, Red Section, consisting of two 118 Sqn Spitfires based at Ibsley, which had been scrambled to patrol the English Channel north of Cherbourg, sighted a smoke trail from an aircraft which appeared to descend on to the water after bursting into flames. On investigation, the section identified a Blenheim on the water with two persons sitting on it (the Blenheim carried two lifejackets but no dinghy); the balloon was floating nearby. The position of the downed aircraft was reported to sector control at Middle Wallop and rescue action put in hand. However, despite an intensive air/sea rescue operation, nothing further of the wreckage or the crew was ever seen again.
Flight Lieutenant Douglas Leonard Rayment AFC is commemorated on panel 29 of the Runnymede Memorial (sometimes known as the Air Forces Memorial) overlooking the River Thames at Cooper’s Hill in Runnymede, Surrey, England and should his fate ever become known, his name will be chiselled out.
The Rayment Society has carried out much research into Douglas Rayment’s life and holds a large collection of records (including a number of photographs and a transcription of the very rare book about his mysterious disappearance). It is extremely sad that the Air Force Cross awarded to Douglas was stolen from his only son Timothy (a magistrate) some years ago and has never been recovered.
Flying must have been in the blood of this part of the Rayment family because his younger brother Kenneth Gordon Rayment was the pilot who died on 15th March 1958 in the Munich air disaster, and Kenneth’s only son Stephen Grenville Rayment was for many years a pilot in the service of the Dubai Royal Flight.
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