The story of an Observer
Stan during Training at Stormy Down
Stan was born Stanley Charles Grant on the 7th September 1912 at Woolwich in the district of Plumstead, Kent. His parents were Charles and Ada Lily Grant, of Seaford, Sussex. Much later he met and married Hilda. Stan’s family of wife Hilda, son Anthony and a daughter lived in Plumstead, Kent.
Stan had joined the Royal Air Force on the 31st May, 1939 and reported to No 2 TC (Training Command) Centre, London on the 2nd of September 1939. As 751434 A.C 2. Grant, S.C. he volunteered for Aircrew duties. The selection process took him to No 1 ITW (Initial Training Wing) at Scarborough, North Yorkshire, where candidates were streamed for their future roles. He may well have been selected as a possible pilot, but the needs of the Service dictated that he was finally accepted as an Air Observer and transferred to the holding pool of Reserve Command. Observers were initially trained at Air Observer Schools, where they learnt the skills of Bombing and Navigation, sometimes mixing this with Air Gunnery as well. This meant a wait of nearly five months before he was posted No 5 Air Observer’s course, at No 7 Bombing and Gunnery School, Newton Down, Pyle, Glamorgan, South Wales, there to learn his new role. He arrived at his new posting on the 15th April 1940.
Stormy Down from the Air, 1940
Stormy Down Hangars, 1992
As evinced in the name, the weather provided a “moan” point, as did the course requirement to achieve a standard of six words per minute in Morse code. In a letter home he commented, “…We’re all in our rooms muttering dit dah dit dit at every opportunity.” He would also have studied in detail the skills required for bomb aiming and navigation. Those skills were a vital part of being a member of a bomber crew. He successfully graduated from this class and advanced to become a Sergeant Air Observer.
Later in the War, Observers roles were redefined and changed from Air Observers to two separate ‘trades’, Air Bombers and Navigators as the demands on the Observer’s multi-skilled role were considered too onerous.
The Observers badge was a "O" half-winged brevet, the Air Bombers badge a "B" half-winged brevet and the navigator’s badge an "N" half-winged brevet. These ‘trade’ changes were slow to happen and the new "N" badge was not at all popular with the Observers who held the initial “O” wing.
149 (East India) Squadron. 1940 – source, IWM
P/O Leeds Pilot
Pilot’s FAM (familiarisation) flights were used whenever a new crew arrived on the Squadron. The objective was to give the Pilot a look at Operations before they took their own Rookie crew out.
P/O Leeds did his first Familiarisation flight on 23/7/40 with Squadron Leader Thwaites in command of Wellington P9245. Later, again with this crew, he went to Bremen to attack the oil refineries and workshops. Both these trips gave the new crew “Skipper” a lead-in to what he would be taking his crew into.
The first Op for P/O Leeds’ crew was an attack by 149 Sqn on Gelsenkirchen on the 11th August 1940. One Wellington bomber, flown by Pilot Officer Miller, was lost when it hit a radio mast and crashed when landing back at Mildenhall at 03.48 in the morning.
Stan’s first Operation.
Sgt Grant’s first Op with P/O Leeds was on the 25th August 1940, when the full crew went to Hamm, to destroy the railway marshalling yards. All the squadron aircraft returned safely. The aircraft was Wellington 1c, OJ-V, serial No R3175, which was to be ‘their’ aircraft during their Ops.
28/29th August. Their next Op was to be to the heart of Germany – Berlin! Eight of 149 Sqn’s Wellingtons took part in this raid “to attack and destroy industrial targets and cause the maximum disturbance”. Again, all the aircraft returned safely, including Sgt Grant’s OJ-V, R3175.
2nd Sep ’40. This trip was in their Wellington OJ-V, with the Black Forest Industrial Plants and Ammunition Dumps as their target. A long trip, successfully carried out.
Was on the 5th Sep ’40, and was a return trip to the Black Forest, this time with a specific aiming point of Area “L” ammunition Dump. The Op was a success but the squadron lost one aircraft.
On the 8th Sep ’40, was to bomb the Harbour at Bolougne. During the course of this Op Wellington OJ-V and all her crew were lost. They took off from Mildenhall and were not heard from again. Their aircraft, Wellington 1c, OJ-V, serial No R3175 was reported as , “Aircraft failed to return to base”. Nothing has ever been discovered about the fate of OJ-V, it is presumed it was lost in the North Sea due to Enemy Action, weather or mechanical failure. No bodies were ever recovered, so the crew are all remembered on the Runnymede Memorial.
Sgt Grant was 28 years old when he died.
The Runnymede Memorial.
Over the War years, many aircraft were despatched on Operations, never to be heard from again. The losses were attributed to many causes, some discovered after the War and others unsolved to this day. Many relatives have tried in vain to find out what happened to their loved ones. Others have found their peace.
The Runnymede Memorial, below, is a tribute to all who have been lost and have no known resting place.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Research has ruled out the downing of this aircraft by night fighters. My thanks to Historian Marcus Hogenhuis for the following:
“I am afraid that the loss of Wellington R3175 cannot be linked to any night fighter claim for the following reasons: