Wing Commander Reginald Joseph Cowan Grant, DFC and Bar, DFM, Royal New Zealand Air Force, was aged 29. He had flown for a total of 673 hours, this was his 205th operation and had 5 confirmed "kills" to his credit.
However on Monday the 28th of February 1944, Mustang fighter aircraft from 65 Squadron RAF (Gravesend, Kent -122 Airfield HQ, 83rd Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force) were detailed to take off as escort to a raid on a "Noball" (V1) target in the Poix / Amiens area of France.
One of these aircraft Mustang Mk 111 No FX996 (similar to the above illustration) piloted by Wing Commander Grant took off at 1235 hrs, but 15 minutes later at 2,500 feet the pilot reported he was experiencing engine trouble and broke away.
Gliding down to 1000 - 1500 feet, he then rolled and was seen to abandon his aircraft at about 400 feet, the fighter crashing near Barrington's Farm, Orsett, Essex. The pilot died when he struck the ground, having failed to pull his ripcord, and is buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Woking, Surrey.
Investigators concluded that oil thrown out of the engine may have obscured the windscreen, and that prior to baling out the pilot may have been overcome with fumes.
Reginald Grant was born in Woodville, New Zealand on the 3rd June 1914. He joined the RNZAF in November 1939. On completion of Flight training he was posted to join 145 Squadron based at Tangmere in the UK with the rank of Sergeant in March 1941. He later joined 485 Squadron of the RNZAF.
In November 1942 his younger brother Flying Officer Ian Allan Charles Grant, RNZAF died on the 13th Feb 1943, having been shot down flying a Supermarine Spitfire near Calais, France. They were flying together on an operation with 485 Sqn, RNZAF. Their elder brother, William Edward Grant, died of illness on 2nd Feb 1932 whilst serving in the pre war RAF.
On the 28th of February 2004 at Orsett Fire Station, a brass plaque recording the incident was placed on a grassed area in the grounds of the fire station very close to where Reginald Grant lost his life.
Roger Pickett who organised the event is a local fire fighter serving with the Essex County Fire And Rescue Service and arranged for the event to be officiated by a Royal Air Force minister, witnessed by the local branch of the Royal Air Forces Association.
Two nieces of Grant's sister Veronique, who live in London will be there representing the family and a close friend from Whitney in Oxfordshire will be there to pay his respects. Senior Fire Service officers will be present as will the on-duty watch at Orsett to take part in a minute's silence during the ceremony. A bugler from the fire service band will play the last post and it is hoped that a "fly past" by a preserved P51 Mustang will occur at the same time.
The plaque event has been organised by the Thameside Aviation Museum, based at Coalhouse Fort and the event is in partnership with Thurrock Museum.
- Thameside Aviation Museum website
- Thurrock Goes To War, by Roger Reynolds & Jonathan Catton