Hector Fraser Dougall was born in Winnipeg in 1897 to William Dougall, a carriage builder, and his wife Isabel. He enlisted in the 221st Infantry Battalion in Winnipeg in March 1916 and served in Canada for 14 months. Unlike many of his contemporaries he did not go overseas with the CEF before transferring to the RFC, instead he enlisted as a trainee pilot in May 1917 in Toronto. Following basic pilot training he received his wings on August 19, 1917. Later that year he sailed to England where he was posted to 46 Squadron with effect from December 2. In mid-December he crashed and spent several weeks in hospital, but by late January 1918 he was back flying a Sopwith Camel in 54 Squadron, which was operating over the Somme sector of the Western Front. The records show him to have been an aggressive, determined pilot always ready to take on enemy fliers. While attacking a pair of German machines on February 26, 1918, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire, which caused head injuries and left Dougall with a piece of shrapnel in his leg. Passing in and out of consciousness he was able to land the plane, but on the wrong side of the lines and he was taken prisoner. After some rudimentary surgery, which included one of his fellow prisoners removing the shrapnel with a knife, he recovered sufficiently that he made several escape attempts as he and other RFC prisoners were being moved to a permanent camp in Germany. By April, his captors had had enough and he was imprisoned at Holzminden in Prussia, in a camp reserved for serious troublemakers and persistent escapers. Dougall did not give up and while there was caught preparing another escape attempt. When the armistice was signed, as a final nose-thumbing gesture to his captors. he climbed the flagpole and took down the camp flag. It was the state flag of Prussia, and destined to become a prized Dougall family heirloom.
Hector Dougall returned to Canada in January 1919. Following a period of bush flying in Northern Manitoba he moved to the Lakehead in 1927. There he continued his aviation activities, being a founding member and first President of the Fort William Aero Club, which operated out of Bishopsfield on Rosslyn Road, west of the city. During WWII he became the manager of the #2 Elementary Flying Training School, which operated at Fort William Municipal Airport, providing basic training for pilots destined for service in the RAF and RCAF.
Hector Fraser Dougall is perhaps best known in Thunder Bay for his part in the introduction of radio and television broadcasting to the city and region. He died as a result of a heart attack near Kenora in 1960, but his legacy lives on in DOUGALLMEDIA, the multimedia company that grew out of his original entry into the communications field in the 1930s.
(For more information on Hector Fraser Dougall’s WWI exploits see Dubé, Timothy (1996) “Hector Fraser Dougall, RFC: A Pilot’s Account of the Great War,” Canadian Military History: Vol. 5: Iss. 2, Article 13.)