The Royal New Zealand Air Force Band perform a World War II veteran’s song “I’ll Be Thinking Of You”, which he wrote for his fiancée while deployed in 1944.‬

A chance discovery has lead the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) band to re-connect with World War II veteran, and last surviving member of the wartime band 98-year-old, Leading Aircraftman (Rtd) Doug Kelly.

In 1944, while stationed with the band in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, Doug wrote a song ‘I’ll Be Thinking of You’ for his then fiancée Joy who was back in Christchurch.

Fast forward 75 years and RNZAF Band Director Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Dave Gallaher discovered the sheet music for ‘I’ll Be Thinking of You’ in some boxes in the band room.

“I made contact with Doug to enquire about the song and such a delightful story evolved. We wanted to be able to connect with him and play his song to him,” he said.

Doug was surprised to get the call “I never thought I’d hear it again, I was very fascinated to find out that they found my song”.

The RNZAF Band played a short concert to Doug and his family at the Air Force Museum in Wigram in early August, including his song. The RNZAF Band arranger Sergeant Andre Paris had rearranged Doug’s song for a vocalist and the Band, fittingly the vocalist was the arranger’s wife Leading Aircraftman Stephanie Paris.

FLTLT Gallaher said it was special to perform the song to Doug and members of his family.

“The legacy of Doug and his fellow musicians in the wartime RNZAF Band is significant.

“It was fitting to honour the RNZAF Band’s most senior alumni not only for his wartime service, but also for the wonderful contribution Doug has made to enrich the lives of thousands of children in the Canterbury area,” he said.

‘I’ll Be Thinking of You’ was being published by Charles Begg & Co, a piano and musical goods retailer in New Zealand and the band played the song on their tour of Australia in 1945, it became a regular tune of the band.

“It was played everywhere, especially on our tour of Australia, and broadcast on shortwave radio programmes which Joy and her family heard back in New Zealand.

“That was my start, and it was a real boost for me. It was a very important part of my life because it started my career of writing arrangements for various groups and radio programmes,” said Doug.

Doug said he has very fond memories of the band and the experiences he had while serving “They were all very fine musicians”.

Doug and Joy married in January 1946 following the war, and enjoyed 69 wonderful years together.

Following the war Doug left the band and went on to have a career in music which included being a music teacher and spending more than 20 years as the District Music Advisor for Canterbury schools, and to this day still plays his trumpet.

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