VALE Doug Bain

July 12, 2017

The SCG Trust is saddened to learn of the passing of former Trustee, and Honorary Life Member of the Sydney Lawn Tennis Club, Mr Doug Bain.

The following tribute, penned by his daughter Margaret, featured in the Obituary section of the Sydney Morning Herald on July 4, 2017.
http://www.smh.com.au/comment/obituaries/douglas-bain-raaf-armourer-one-of-the-mustard-gas-men-assigned-to-guard-deadly-chemical-stockpile-20170703-gx40v5

DOUGLAS BAIN 1924 - 2017

Douglas Bain, RAAF armourer one of the 'Mustard Gas Men' assigned to guard deadly chemical stockpile

Douglas Bain, a notable contributor to Sydney's business, sporting and service communities, has died in Coffs Harbour aged 92. He was part of a pioneering plumbing family. His top-secret work during the Second World War entailed guarding Australia's stockpile of chemical weapons intended for use against the Japanese.

Douglas Stuart (Doug) Bain was was born in Ashfield to Vera (nee Robertson) and master plumber Sydney Hastie Bain on December 31, 1924. His sister Nancye was born three years later. The family later moved to Croydon and to Dulwich Hill. Doug attended Croydon Preparatory School, Croydon Public School, Bundanoon Public School and Fort Street Boys' High School.

Doug was the fourth generation of Bain family plumbers in Sydney dating back to the 1850s. J. Bain and Sons did the plumbing on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and an eight-year-old Doug was part of the official party at the opening. Besides plumbers, his father and grandfather had both been mayors of Petersham. In 1938, Bain became a plumber's apprentice in the family business, then located in William Street, Darlinghurst. He attended Darlinghurst Technical College and attained plumbing, gas fitting and health inspector qualifications.

As soon as he turned 18 he enlisted in the RAAF and was trained as an armourer at Tocumwal, Adelaide, Hamilton and Marrangaroo. Bain signed the Official Secrets Act and was assigned to the RAAF Armourer Chemical Weapons Unit. The men were part of a secret unit formed to look after the deadly chemical weapon stockpile for use against Japanese troops – a fact the Defence Department refused to admit until the late 1980s.

Thousands of barrels filled with chemical weapons, including mustard gas and phosgene, were stored in secret locations around Australia during the Second World War, including Glenbrook, Marrangaroo, and Picton. Bain spent the majority of his war service alone in the disused Glenbrook railway tunnel where his duties involved protection and maintenance of the mustard gas drums stored in the tunnel. In August 1945 an officer appeared at the tunnel to inform Bain he was to be discharged. All records on the site were burnt.

The effects of the exposure to mustard gas plagued him throughout his life and led to ongoing health issues including severe skin cancers and internal cancers in his later years. Bain took the secrecy of his service so seriously that for 40 years he never participated in ANZAC Day services because he couldn't talk about his war work, never even discussing it with his family.

After the war, Bain established a small dairy and crop farm at Moss Vale. In 1946 he returned to Sydney to completee his plumbing apprenticeship and to take over management of J. Bain and Sons from his father who was suffering ill health. He married Jean Cronin in 1949 after they met at a charity dance in Petersham organised by his father. She was a singer in the big band and he was working as bouncer.

By 1952 he was involved in the development of the one-pipe plumbing system that was used in the first high-rise buildings in Sydney. In 1959, Bain was elected president of the Master Plumbers and Sanitary Engineers Association, the third generation of his family to hold this title. In the same year he established a branch of the plumbing business on the Gold Coast where civic water and sewerage infrastructure was virtually non-existent.

In the late 1960s Bain started to buy small farm holdings, firstly at Currumbin Creek, then in Tamworth and later at Barraba. He bred Hereford and Simmental cattle and Australian Merino sheep. He was the inaugural chairman of the Australian Simmental Breeders Association, NSW branch, and was elected to National Council. He served for 20 years as a steward for trotting at the Royal Agricultural Society Easter Show.

From 1963 to 1966 Bain was president of the NSW employer's federation. In 1988 he was appointed by the NSW government to the board of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust. He spent eight years as a trustee and more than seven years as deputy chair.

Tennis was also a lifetime love for Bain, both as a player and a spectator. He started playing tennis as a boy and by his early teens was in the top six in NSW under 16s. He still played into his 70s. In 2011 he was appointed honorary life membership of the Sydney Lawn Tennis Club.

Bain kept the government's secret until he became aware that David Bradbury, Lindsay Federal Labor MP, on June 24, 2008, gave a speech in Federal Parliament seeking recognition for the unacknowledged contribution made by the men in the chemical warfare unit during World War II. The service of the men of this secret RAAF unit was not properly recognised until historian Geoff Plunkett published his monumental book Chemical Warfare in Australia in 2007. The men in the chemical warfare unit had waited since the end of World War II for government recognition of their work. Very few of them were still alive by this time. On November 11, 2009, Bain was one of three survivors who attended the unveiling of the Mustard Gas Men monument at Glenbrook RSL.

After the commemoration Bain took family members down an overgrown four-wheel-drive track to show them the Glenbrook railway tunnel. He had not visited the site for more than 60 years. In August 2011 the NSW Heritage Council listed the former Glenbrook railway and World War II mustard gas storage tunnel.

Bain is survived by his wife, children Margaret, Julie and David, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

– Margaret Bain 

Back to news