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Grant, Duncan Marshall (Bitsy), DFC - Flight Lieutenant - Pilot (1942)

posted 11 Mar 2013, 16:55 by Bill Bishop   [ updated 31 Oct 2016, 10:10 by Garry Alexander ]



Flight Lieutenant Grant (Serial # J5982) was from OttawaOntario and was killed 28 September 1943 at age 22.  

He is commemorated on Page 165 of the Second World War Book of Remembrance.   CLICK HERE TO VIEW PAGE


F/L Grant was carrying out a Rhubarb mission [type of combat mission] over Paris,France when his Mustang (#AG577) was hit by flak.  The aircraft went into a steep descent and exploded on impact.






From the book “THE DANGEROUS SKY” by Tom Coughlin (1968)

One of the Canadian pilots who established a name for himself as a Mustang pilot of the first order was F/L D.M. Grant, of Trenton (Ontario), a member of 400 Squadron, the first RCAF squadron to go overseas on active service.  “Bitsy” Grant, as he was known to all his squadron mates, joined the RCAF on 12 September 1940 and began his pilot training.

 

In June of the following year he graduated and in August he went overseas.  Advanced training and operational training were the next order of business, and then Grant reported to 400 Squadron.   At that time the squadron was flying in the Army Cooperation role, out of Odiham, England, with the Lysander aircraft.  In 1942 the Canadian Army had not yet come to grips with the enemy, so Army Cooperation consisted of flying endless recce missions and practice maneuvers.

 

The only recorded excitement for Grant during his Lysander days was the fact that he broke a tail-wheel one day while landing.  The squadron converted to Tomahawk aircraft, however, Grant was still far from any excitement except when he taxied into a fuel truck.  On another occasion, he landed in a heavy crosswind and badly damaged one of the squadron’s aircraft.  Then, late in 1942, the squadron converted to the Mustang and Grant’s luck took a change for the better.

 

Grant and F/O H.P. Peters were the first squadron pilots to try their hands at low-level night flying.  Low-level flying in daytime was hazardous enough but low-level flying at night near trees and wires was tempting fate.  Nevertheless, Grant and his companions flew deep into enemy-occupied territory looking for targets.  They were hard to find.  In wartime there were strict regulations about showing a light at night.  As the Mustang pilots prowled the skies over Europe it was like looking down into a black pit.

 

However, nothing could be done about railway boilers which spewed sparks and when the men shoveled coal; the open doors glowed in the darkness.  This was the signal that Grant and the other Mustang pilots were looking for and they would dive with guns firing.  One night, Grant saw eight ’glows’ and blew up four locomotives and damaged the other four.  “I swooped down on the moving locomotives, gave them a short burst and saw them steaming like geysers.  It was a simple as that.”  In fact, it was difficult and dangerous and many pilots did not return from theses types of sorties.

 

In May 1943, night operations were carried out in the Rheims area and on the night of 14 May, Grant damaged six locomotives.  Ten days later, both Grant and Peters were awarded the DFC.  The citation mentioned that in addition to destroying an enemy bomber (see emails below) Grant had damaged 18 locomotives and by his “fine fighting spirit and great determination had set a magnificent example to his squadron.”   In June, Grant added to his total by destroying six trains, four on the night of 16 June.

 

On 12 July, Grant destroyed two more trains in the Cobourg area and then spotted a twin-engine Dornier aircraft flying alone.  The enemy aircraft was at 1500 feet and as Grant curved in behind the target he fired a ten-second burst.  The port engine blew up and the five-man crew bailed out.  Later, just west  of Le Havre, Grant was attacked by an FW-190 but he and his wingman, F/O A.T. Carlson, managed to survive.  On their way back to base they managed to destroy another train.

 

A month later Grant tangled with another enemy aircraft while looking for ground targets.  Along with F/O A.S. Collins he flew across the English Channel and then inland to the Seine Valley area.  An enemy Junkers 88 aircraft attempted to attack the two Mustangs but Grant got behind the aircraft and set the port engine on fire.  As the aircraft began to disintegrate Grant’s guns jammed.  The last that Grant saw of the aircraft, it was in rain at treetop level and he was only able to claim a “probably” destroyed.

 

The date 28 September 1943 should have been just another eventful day in the career of F/L Grant.  He and F/O W.H. Jessiman took off on a rhubarb sortie near Ault, France.  They were flying a low-level and flew into the range of heavy and accurate flak.  They pulled up into the clouds but it was too late for Grant.  Moments later Grant’s Mustang reappeared, turning to port as it plunged in a steep dive.  It dove into a clump of trees and exploded.


Emails from Bill Norman (British Aviation Author)

1) Dear Bill Bishop,
I am currently working through the war diary of an ex-Luftwaffe wireless operator who flew with 3./KG2 during 1943-44.  I might just end up writing an article or two about him.  His  entry for 13 April 1943 deals with the shooting down of a Do217 over VIllaroche by a 'British' intruder.  I have since discovered that the intruder was D. M. Grant.  I have now obtained a copy of Grant's combat report for 13 April from the UK National Archives.  Would you be willing to send me a copy photograph of Grant - perhaps the one showing him standing in the cockpit?  If I do write the article and it goes to publication, I would of course acknowledge the source of the picture.
I do hope that you can help,
Kind regards,
Bill Norman. 

2) BIll,
Thank you for the excellent picture, which has now been added to my KG2 file.  I attach two pages from the war diary of Unteroffizier Hubert Wuggenig, a wireless operator flying with 3./KG2.  In April 1943 he  was at the Operational Conversion Unit IV KG2 and training on the Dornier 217 at Villaroche when he witnessed the shooting down of  Leutnant Walter Dorhn and crew  ( by Grant, it transpires) over the aerodrome.  As you will see, I have not got round to a full translation of the report.  When I do, I shall send you a copy.  I send the 'German' version now in case you have a German speaker on your team.
Best wishes,
Bill

Below is the documentation sent by Bill Norman. It includes:

Bitsy Grant's Intelligence Combat Report;

List of KG2 (German Squadron) losses. Note the April 13, 1943 entry;

Two pages from Unteroffizier Hubert Wuggenig's diary (still in German) relating to  this incident;

A translation of the April 13, 1943 entry (shown below the pages)

You can visit Bill Norman's site by clicking NORMAN.


Click on any picture below to view in full screen and use your brower's back button ' < ' return to this page.







TRANSLATION OF MAY 13, 1943 ENTRY

Hubert Wuggenig, Bordfunker,  3./KG2

The shooting down of Ltn Dorhn and crew at Villaroche.

13 April 1943

Fate is harsh and unfathomable.  The crew of Leutnant Dorhn was shot down during a night flight by an English nightfighter.  Their aircraft was shot down over our airfield (Villaroche) and before our eyes.  “Impudence wins!”  Thank God three of the crew managed to bail out and have been found alive, although some are badly wounded.  The wireless operator, Gefreiter Scharmendke has not yet been found.

 At 22.30 hrs we were standing on the flightline, watching with anticipation the night landings of our comrades.  We were next to go up in a returned Do.217 and take our turn in our aerodrome traffic circuit.  Leutnant Dorhn was coming to the end of his half-hour flight and was pushing the machine towards the airfield from some 1,000 meters as he thundered over us in an easterly direction.  No sooner had his engine noise died down a bit than we heard a new sound from a machine that was behind Dorn and was without navigation lights.   The identical thought flashed through all our minds: a nightfighter.  

  All eyes followed our own machine, which was beginning to turn: it seemed that the crew was unaware of the presence of the nightfighter.  Then the nightfighter opened fire and within seconds Dorn’s aircraft was burning.  The ‘torch’  held the curve for a few moments and then dropped down quickly  before crashing to earth away from the airfield. 

 For some moments we were speechless: all of this had happened in just a few seconds and it made us so very obviously aware of the realities of war and of the losses of aircrew.  The crew was considered lost and we saw each other again in spirit in four coffins in the cemetery in Paris.  Our flying was over for the night because the second machine, with the crew of Stabfeldwebel Wolk, immediately left the area and, after shaking off some nightfighters, was able to land safely at Romilly.

 Several cars immediately drove to the crash site, where the occupants learned to their surprise and joy,  that three members of the crew had bailed out and were alive.  They did not quite believe it when they saw the Observer, who had received grazing shots, coming to meet them.  He was leading the Leutnant, who had been seriously wounded in the head.  They were immediately treated and transferred to the Field Hospital in Paris.  Initially, the wireless operator was not found and it was assumed that he had failed to bail out.  The next day his body was found 500 meters away from the crash site:  apparently he had been late getting away from the aircraft.   The one who came out of it best was the mechanic, who was completely unharmed.  He had bailed out immediately when the fuselage fuel tank burst into flames.  He went out just behind the observer and the pilot, who was wounded as he left the aircraft.  According to the crew, the nightfighter took them completely by surprise.

 The moral of the story is:  if you are not to be surprised, the (backward facing - BN ?) wireless operator must always be vigilant and scour the sky behind in accordance with the principle: “Better be careful”. 


 

 




















                                    










  The current 400 Squadron hangar at CFB Borden was named the Grant Building in his memory.