Born in Cleethorpes Bob joined the RAF in March 1939 at the age of 23, after a spell on reserve he began his pilot training in May 1940. Successfully gaining his wings, Bob was posted to No.15 Operational Training Unit to refine his skills and collect a crew. In January 1941 he was posted to No.9 Squadron based at RAF Honington equipped with the Vickers Wellington. Bob, began his operations flying in the role of 2nd pilot to Sergeant Peach, it was customary for newly arrived pilots to fly with an experienced crew to gain first hand operational experience. On completion of half a dozen trips in the right hand seat he would, if he made the grade be given his own crew. In May 1941 Bob was posted overseas to join No.70 Squadron based in the Western Desert. The squadron had been stationed in the Middle East since the 1920’s and had recently re-equipped with the Vickers Wellington after service of the cumbersome Vickers Valentia. It would be with No.70 Squadron that Bob would complete his first operational tour carrying out both tactical and strategic bombing operations in support of the British 8th Army.
In January 1942, Bob returned to England, and the cold. Now screened, he was posted No.12 Operational Training Unit and then No.1665 Conversion Unit as an instructor. On completion of his “rest period”, (instructing was anything but) Bob found himself posted back to No.1665 for conversion to the Short Stirling. On completion, he and his recently acquired crew were posted on August 7th 1943 to No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron, based at RAF Downham Market. On arrival at 218 squadron Bob would have soon realised it was still feeling the significance of losing its highly respected and courageous commander, Wing Commander Don Saville, DFC. Australian Saville had FTR from Hamburg on July 24th, the loss of this dynamic commander had hit the squadron hard. To compound the loss of such a fine officer, the squadron also lost one of its most experienced flight commanders, S/Ldr Geoff Rothwell DFC, thankfully due to the completion of his second tour. Morale on the squadron had dipped, it was the efforts of the three flight commanders, S/Ldr Bunny Austin, Ian Ryall, and Canadian Howard Saunders that kept it from becoming a problem. The squadrons new C/O was Wing Commander William Oldbury, a fine officer but with little operational experience. This was Oldbury’s first command, he would over the coming weeks rely on his flight commanders for their support, advice and above all experience. A entry in the Operational Records Book records morale was holding.
On August 10th 1943, seven 218 Squadron crews were selected to form No.623 Squadron, they would join 218 at Downham Market.
The following photo’s are taken from Bobs Log Book for the period he was operational with No.218 Squadron. I have added details via the Operational Records Book AM Form 540/541 and additional details of interest.
No.1, August 10th 1943, 2nd Pilot to F/Sgt S.C Johnson. 22:20hrs 05:10hrs , Nuremburg MZ263 HA-Y: Aloft 6hrs 50mins
Comments: Attacked target from 15,500ft, Green TI’s seen and good fire developing as aircraft left target. 450x4lb IB + 40x30lb
No.2 August 17th 1943. 21:05hrs 04:30hrs, Peenemunde BK700 HA-L : Aloft 7hrs 25mins
Comments : Bombed from 9,000ft on Green TI markers. Good fires seen starting up around fires. 1x2000lb + 5x500lb HE (Target Photo)
No.3 August 22nd 1943 : 20:55hrs 00:35hrs, Mining (Nectarines II) EF448 HA-P : Aloft 3hrs 40mins
Comments : Dropped 4 x Veg from 4,500ft, Duty Carried Out.
No.4 August 23rd 1943 20:45hrs 05:05hrs, Berlin, EE903 HA-Q : Aloft 8hrs 20mins
Comments : Bombed from 14,000ft on Green TI Markers in good visibility. Well concentrated fires. 450x4lb + 56×30 IB.(Target Photo)
No.5 August 27th 1943 21:25hrs 05:40hrs, Nuremburg, EE903 HA-Q : Aloft 8hrs 15mins
Comments : Bombed from 15,000ft. Built up area seen, bombed on centre of Green TI Markers. Fires rather scattered. 540x4lb + 48x30lb IB.
No.6 September 8th 1943, 21:50hrs-23:45hrs, Boulogne, EE876 IC-J * Aloft 2hrs 5 mins (Target Photo)
Comments :Bombed from 14,000ft on Red TI Markers. No results seen. 6x1000lb + 6x500lb HE
* A Stirling of No.623 Squadron
No.7 September 15th 1943 20:45hrs- 02:50hrs : Aloft 6hrs 5mins, Montlucon Dunlop Rubber Plant. EH942 HA-M
Comments L Bombed target from 3,5000ft on Green TI Markers. Bombed on first Green, target obscured by dense smoke. 1080x4lb + 80x30lb I.B (Target Photo)
No.8 September 16th 1943 20:05hrs- 04:30hrs Modane Railway Yards, BF140 HA-M. Aloft 8 hrs 25mins.
Comments : Bombed from 14,000ft on Green TI Markers. Bombing very concentrated around TI’s. (Target Photo)
No.9 September 22nd 1943 19:05hrs-21:20hrs, Hannover, EF440 HA-I. Aloft 2hr 15mins.
Comments : Early Return ASI U/S.
No.10 September 23rd 1943, 19:30hrs-21:45hrs, Mannheim, EF449 HA-I, Aloft 1hr 15mins
Comments : Early Return ASI U/S.
No.11 September 27th 1943, 19:45hrs-22:10hrs, Hannover, EJ112 HA-Q, Aloft 2hrs 25mins
Comments : Early Return.
Flying fatigue was common within Bomber Command, a good commanding officer and MO could often identify the early signs and deal with it before it affected a crew or even the squadron. Fatigue or simple nervous exhaustion was occasionally triggered by experiencing a “shakey do” or something relatively simple, there was no hard or fast rules. A understanding C/O or flight commander would often give the airman a friendly “pep-talk” or in some cases, leave. What W/Cdr Oldbury lacked in operational experience he made up in common sense, compassion and awareness. Bob’s three early returns could and did often result in the accusation of LMF, it did not on 218 Squadron, fatigue and nervous exhaustion was a part of operational life. Bob obviously felt he had reached a point where he could not go on. That realisation takes a brave man to acknowledge, he had after all, the lives of six others to consider. It takes braver man to accept and conquer that fear and continue to operate, Bob did exactly that. Click here to read Bobs account.
No.12 October 3rd 1943, 19:05hrs-01:00hrs Kassel, EH942 HA-M. Aloft 5hrs 55mins
Comments : Bombed from 14,000ft on Green TI’s. Large fires seen. 1 larger explosion seen from 10 miles away. 810x4lb + 72x30lb I.B (Target Photo)
No.13 October 4th 1943, 18:45hrs-00:55hrs, Frankfurt, EH942 HA-M. Aloft
Comments : Bombed from 12,000ft, visibility good. Many fires around markers. 810x4lb + 72x30lb I.B
No.14 October 7th 1943, 23:30hrs-03:10hrs Mining (Krauts), EH942 HA-M. Aloft 6hrs 40mins
Comments: Duty Carried Out. In good visibility veg planted in allotted garden. 3 x mines
Notes : What is not recorded is the encounter with a Me210 Night fighter. Click here to see the Combat Report
No.15 October 8th 1943 23:20hrs-03;55hrs Bremen, EH942 HA-M. Aloft 4hrs 35mins
Comments : Bombed on Green TI Markers from 11,000ft. Not many fires seen, markers scattered.
Notes : Again what is not recorded is the encounter with a BF110 Night fighter. Click here to see the Combat Report
No.16 November 4th 1943 16:00hrs-22:25hrs Mining (Krauts) EH942 HA-M : Aloft 6hrs 25mins
Comments: Duty Carried Out. Mines dropped in allocated garden, encountered little flak. 2 x mines.
No.17 November 18th 1943, 17:25hrs-23:45hrs Ludwigshaven (Mannheim) EH942 HA-M, Aloft 6hrs 20mins.
Comments : Bombed from 14,000ft on Green TI Markers. 1 yellow seen. 940x4lb + 30x30lb IB
No.18 November 22nd 1943, 17:00hrs-24:00hrs Berlin. EH942 HA-M. Aloft 7hrs.
Comments: Bombed main target on Sky Markers from 16,000ft. Very big explosion at 20:19hrs. 630x4lb + 24x30lb I.B
No.19 December 1st 1943 15:30hrs-23:10hrs, Mining (Silverthone) EH942 HA-M. Aloft 7hrs 40mins
Comments : Veg planted in allotted area, nothing to report. 3 x mines.
In December the announcement of Bobs well deserved DFC was published in the London Gazette :
Stephen Robert, Grant WO (745241) RAFVR No.218 (Gold Coast) Squadron.
London Gazette 31.12.1943
Warrant officer Grant has participated in numerous sorties throughout which he has displayed a high degree of skill, courage, and determination. In November 1943 whilst attacking participating in a sortie against Berlin very bad weather and icing conditions were encountered but owing to Warrant Officer Grants Initiative and skill the target was located and a successfully attack was delivered from low altitude. Warrant Officer Grant’s enthusiasm and devotion to duty have evoked the confidence of all with whom he has flown.
No.20 January 5th 1944 : 02:05hrs-05:40hrs Pas-de-Calais (V1 Crossbow target) EH942 HA-M. Aloft 3hrs 35mins.
Comments : Bombed from 13,000ft, bombs seen to burst amongst 3 red TI Markers. Searchlights at Dungerness seen at 03:45hrs. 24 x 500lb HE ( 1x hang-up)
No.21 January 6th 1944 16:30hrs-00:45hrs Mining Biarritz (Elderberry) EH942 HA-M. Aloft 8hrs 10mins
Comments : 6000lb of seeds planted in allotted area. Diverted to Predannack on return.
No.22 January 21st 1944 18:20hrs-21:30hrs. Hazebrook V1 Site (Blackbird “D”) EH942 HA-M. Aloft 3hrs 40mins.
Comments : Bombed from 8,000ft. Target identified. Bomb sight u/s. Reason for bombing on heading 35M I.A.S 150 bomb aimer gave corrections and at time nearly collided with another Stirling. 24x500lb HE.
No.23 January 26th 1944, 01:05hrs-04:10hrs V1 site south of Cherbourg (Blackbird “D”) EH942 HA-M Aloft 3hrs 8mins.
Comments : Bombed from 10,500ft, heading 311M I.A.S 175, bombed on clusters of Green TI Markers. 24x500lb HE.
In February 1944 with his 2nd tour completed, Bob, once again found himself instructing at No.1653 HCU, this was followed by a spell at 105 (Transport) Operational Training Unit before joining the Warwick equipped No.167 Squadron part of RAF Transport Command. Bob Grant DFC was demob in July 1946.
I would like to thank Stephen Grant son of Bob for allowing me to use the above photo’s and Log Book copies, and Colin Pomeroy for this help. THANK YOU gents.