On Craigdootie Hill, just north of Dairsie in Fife, Bristol Beaufort L9834 crashed at 2.12 am on 30 August 1941, killing all the four crew.
Squadron Leader Gerald Sebastian Patrick Rooney DFC, RAF (39245), pilot, age unknown
Flying Officer Charles Grant, RAFVR (78749), air gunner, age 29
Sergeant Lloyd Colley Mansell, RCAF (R/51633), air observer, age 32
Flight Sergeant Ronald Sidney Knott, RAF, (551646), wireless operator/air gunner, age 20
Grant was the only son of Henry and Isabella Grant of 59 North Methven Street, Perth. He had just returned to his squadron at RAF Leuchars after a short period of leave. Grant had just attended a friend’s wedding the previous Wednesday, left to return to Leuchars on the Thursday and his father was notified of his death the following Saturday.
Grant attended Perth Academy and went on to Dundee College where he graduated. A series of scholarship successes enabled him to study on the Continent. Grant was the head of the textile department at the Glasgow College of Art and had been entrusted to design and decorate the tourist sitting rooms of the liner RMS Queen Mary.
Three days before the outbreak of war, Grant qualified as an RAFVR pilot at RAF No 11 EFRTS, RAF Perth. He was gazetted as acting pilot officer on 12 April 1940 and flying officer on 25 June 1940. He instead chose to enlist as a rear-gunner, giving up his career as an RAF pilot.
If Squadron Leader Rooney’s crew was unchanged, then flying in Bristol Beaufort L4514, they took part in a famous strike against the German Heavy Cruiser Lützow (ex-pocket battleship Deutschland) on 13 June 1941. The Deutschland had been heavily damaged by Norwegian coastal batteries during the German invasion of Norway on 8 April 1940. The British submarine HMS Spearfish attacked her on 11 April 1941, nearly destroying her stern. After about a year of repairs, the stern had been rebuilt and she was ready to sail on 10 June 1941 in order to commence commerce raiding in the Atlantic. ‘Ultra’ decrypts of German Enigma signals from the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park were sent to the Admiralty indicating that the Deutschland, now renamed the Lützow, was about to break-out into the Atlantic. On 12 June 1941, the battleship King George V and cruisers and destroyers of the home fleet set sail from Scapa Flow to intercept the Lützow and protect allied convoys. A force of five Bristol Beaufort Mk 1 torpedo bombers of RAF 22 Squadron at Wick and nine Bristol Beaufort Mk 1 torpedo bombers of RAF 42 Squadron at Leuchars took off just before midnight on 12 June 1941 to also attack the Lützow.
At 00.15 am, a patrolling Bristol Blenheim from RAF 114 Squadron sighted the Lützow and called in the Beauforts. At 2.25 am, off the coast of Norway at Egersund, the Beauforts attacked. One torpedo hit the Lützow on the port side, rendering her motionless and she took on a severe list to port. The German Destroyer, Friedrich Eckodt took the Lützow in tow whilst other destroyers screened her withdrawal to the south. The Lützow returned to Kiel for another six months of repairs. The Friedrich Eckodt was sunk by HMS Sheffield on 31 December 1942. The Lützow was sunk by the RAF in the Piast Canal in April of 1945 and raised by the Soviet navy in 1947. Eventually she was sunk as a target in the Baltic.
Rooney was from Gibraltar.
Grant is buried in Wellshill Cemetery, Perth.
The Queen Mary is now a tourist attraction, permanently moored at Long Beach, California, USA.
From RAF No 42 Squadron Operations Record Book, 12.6.41 entry:
S/LDR. ROONEY and crew in BEAUFORT L4514, led BEAUFORTS X8929, on a strike against enemy shipping, with torpedoes. Course was set for LISTER (Lista, Norway), and at 01.25 hrs, a correct landfall was made, and light Flax was experienced. A search was made in the SKAGERRAK without result; at 02.18 hrs course was set northerly, coastwise, still accompanied by BEAUFORT L9938. BEAUFORT X8929 had broken formation in dense low cloud. At 02.22 hrs, an enemy force consisting of 1 CR (Cruiser) and 4 DR’s (Destroyers) was sighted in position ZNEF 2145. They appeared to be stationery, and two torpedo attacks were made from the Port Beam at a range of 400 yards. The torpedo failed to drop. Moderate flak was experienced from the DR’s, and smoke was seen coming from the CR, forward of the funnel – presumably the result of an earlier attack. At 02.40 hrs the aircraft set course for base, and landed at 05.20 hrs.
Later that year – 11 December 1941 – Flying Officer Oliver Philpot, MC, DFC and his Beaufort crew from RAF 42 Squadron at Leuchars were shot down by German anti-aircraft fire and ditched their aircraft in the North Sea. After two days, they were picked up by a German naval vessel and interned as prisoners of war. Philpot was one of three who successfully escaped from Stalag Luft III made famous by the book and later film The Wooden Horse. He made his way to Danzig and managed to smuggle himself onto a neutral Swedish ship. Philpot returned to Britain by the Christmas of that year.
Stalag Luft III also housed Sub-Lieutenant Peter William Shorrocks Butterworth RNAS (and Sandy Gunn from Auchterarder). Peter was involved in the ‘Wooden Horse’ escape at Stalag Luft III. Butterworth is better known for his appearances as an actor on television and in most of the Carry On films. He applied but did not get the part in the Wooden Horse movie. They did it is said, name the main character Peter in homage to him. Butterworth was shot down by Messerschmitt BF109s on 21 June 1940 when he tried to attack an airfield at Den Helder in The Netherlands. He had to force-land on Texel Island, just to the north and was taken into captivity. Amazingly and very bravely he was flying a three-man, well-outclassed Fairy Albacore biplane. The Fairy Albacore was popularly known as the ‘Applecore’. They were built at Fairey’s Hayes factory and test flown at what is now Heathrow Airport.
Charles Grant, Perthshire Advertiser 3 September 1941
THE QUEEN MARY ON WAR SERVICE. 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, GREENOCK. THE 84000 TON CUNARD LINER QUEEN MARY IN HER GREY WHITE WAR PAINT AS SHE PREPARED TO MAKE ANOTHER ATLANTIC CROSSING TAKING WOUNDED US TROOPS BACK TO AMERICA. (A 25913) Port bow view of the QUEEN MARY at anchor. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205157572
THE QUEEN MARY ON WAR SERVICE. 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, GREENOCK. THE 84000 TON CUNARD LINER QUEEN MARY IN HER GREY WHITE WAR PAINT AS SHE PREPARED TO MAKE ANOTHER ATLANTIC CROSSING TAKING WOUNDED US TROOPS BACK TO AMERICA. (A 25923) In the main mess hall (formerly the First Class dining saloon) where more than 2,000 troops can be fed at one sitting. In peacetime it used to take 800 First Class passengers but now sittings go on from 6 a.m. till 9 p.m. The wall map at the end used to be illuminated to show diners the course and position of the ship. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205157582