Real lives: Douglas kept the Tattoo shining

THE family and friends of a wartime Ack Ack gunner who would later rise to the rank of Colonel and become a director at the Edinburgh Tattoo have paid tribute to his dedication to the military and to a life of achievement.

Colonel Douglas Spratt followed his father, a Royal Engineer, into the army and as a young TA soldier he was one of the first to be called up at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Col Spratt trained initially as an anti-aircraft gunner serving at High Wycombe and manned a defensive position just outside the bunker where Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur (Bomber) Harris planned the offensive against Nazi Germany.

From there he was posted to northern India, where he was commissioned and later returned to serve as the Adjutant of 519 Ack Ack Regiment based at Camp Pilton in Edinburgh, where he manned a searchlight position near the Forth Bridge.

Leaving the army in 1948, Col Spratt would become a sales manager for Unilever, but missed army life and re-joined the Territorials.

When the first Edinburgh Military Tattoo was performed in 1950, there was a need to illuminate the castle but no-one had any suitable spotlights.

Col Spratt, who was something of a collector, found two heavy duty aircraft searchlights at the back of his garage and he was immediately offered a job with the Tattoo team, eventually holding the post of lighting director for 40 years.

As he became an experienced "leading light" in the production of military Tattoos, Col Spratt toured the world.

Now married to Margaret, he helped produce Tattoos ten times in Australia and 11 times in South Africa. He also ran Tattoos in Italy and in Denmark.

He was appointed a High Constable of Edinburgh 40 years ago, a position he held until the end of his life, and he was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the City in the early 1980s. He also founded the Nato Shoot, a military shooting competition for all services and nations.

Col Spratt also founded the Volunteers Officers' Ball. Three years ago he was honoured when the Princess Royal attended, and this year, still recovering from a stroke, he organised the annual ball, taking time to speak to nearly all of his 200 guests.

In uniform, he will always be remembered as a leader who "got things done". Never unpleasant, always the gentleman and when asked to help or to do something beyond the norm, his response was always: "Just leave it with me."

He was awarded an OBE for his impressive voluntary work, and later elevated to the position of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen.

His friends and family have described him as a dedicated, committed and enthusiastic soldier and a man of considerable vision who never took no for an answer.

Douglas Spratt, active to the end, died after a short illness in this, his 90th year.

He was pre-deceased by his daughter Gillian in 1997 and is survived by his wife Margaret, to whom he was married for 53 years.