Douglas Gilling's story

At the outbreak of World War II, the British Admiralty accepted the Australian Naval Board's offer to provide personnel to serve with the Royal Navy.

Douglas Gilling was one who signed on under the British Admiralty's Dominion Yachtsmen Scheme. This was essentially the 'loan' of 500 Australian reservists to the Royal Navy.

Enlisting in Sydney on 23 June 1941, Douglas was soon in England, where he was trained at RN Barracks, Portsmouth. His first posting was to HMS Berkeley, a Hunt class destroyer.

Passing the sailor he was replacing, on the gangplank, Douglas was surprised to see it was an old school mate from Sydney. Douglas said it took months to be accepted on board Berkeley because he was the only Australian, but a fonder memory of life in the Royal Navy was the daily rum issue. On his 21st birthday, Douglas was given an additional ration and passed out, to be stowed by his mates in a deck locker, out of sight of his superiors.

Berkeley was sunk during an air attack on 19 August 1942, while supporting the Dieppe landing. At the time, Douglas was an ammunition loader on a 4-inch gun. A bomb went off on the deck, and Douglas was blown into the scuppers, still with a 4-inch shell in his hands.

Later in the war, Douglas served in motor launches. He was discharged on 4 March 1946.

After the war, Douglas became an architect and was later a Life Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

Last updated: 4 September 2023

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2023), Douglas Gilling's story, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 23 September 2023,
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