417954 Flight Sergeant Robert Archer GROSVENOR – Killed in a flying accident on 29 March 1944
Robert Archer GROSVENOR was born at Victor Harbor on 15 August 1923, the second of four children of Clifford Ivo GROSVENOR and Lillian GROSVENOR (nee ARCHER). Cliff GROSVENOR was a veteran of the First World War and had served with the 50th Infatry Battalion and fought in the major battles of 1918. Robert was educated at Inman Valley Primary School and Victor Harbor High School and after leaving school in 1937, he gained employment as a dry cleaner in Victor Harbor.
Bob, as he was known, applied to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force in March 1941 but was considered too young. One of his referees was Herbert (Peter) MILNES, owner and publisher of the Victor Harbor Times and brother-in-law of Bob’s father, Cliff.
On 15 August 1942, the day of his 19th birthday, he was accepted by the RAAF and undertook his basic training at No. 4 Initial Training School (ITS) at Mt. Breckan, Victor Harbor. On completion of his training he was mustered for pilot training and posted to No. 11 Elementary Flying School (EFTS) at Benalla, Victoria where he trained on Tiger Moths. After the completion of this training he was drafted for training on twin-engine planes and sent to No. 7 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) at Deniliquin, NSW. Not all pilot trainees were successful and on 31 May 1943, Bob was re-mustered and posted to No. 2 Bombers and Air Gunners School at Port Pirie, South Australia. He qualified for his air-gunner’s badge on 24 June 1943 and was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
On 4 August 1943, Sgt GROSVENOR embarked from Adelaide with other RAAF airmen and sailed via Wellington, New Zealand, to the United States, where they disembarked at San Francisco. They entrained to Boston on the east coast of the U.S. and then up to Halifax, Nova Scotia and then sailed to the United Kingdom. The airmen disembarked at Liverpool on 10 September 1943 and entrained to Brighton where they were processed at the 11th Personnel Depot & Receiving Centre (PDRC). After two weeks leave he was posted to No. 27 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Lichfield. This OTU had been specified by the Air Board as the unit backing Australian squadrons. The OTU was where the airmen formed crews; they simply chose each other on the belief they were good pilots, or gunners, navigators and bombers and would be compatible and develop into an efficient bomber crew that could work together.
On completion of their training at 27 OTU, on 30 November 1943, Bob and his fellow crewmembers were sent to 1652 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) at Marston Moor in Yorkshire. 1652 HCU had been formed on 2 January 1942 to train aircrews for conversion to heavy bomber aircraft, principally Halifax’s.
The training course ran for three months and during this time Bob was promoted to Flight Sergeant. Poor weather conditions throughout this time restricted how much flying training could be undertaken, and by late March 1944, the airmen were approaching the end of their training conversion course.
On 29 March 1944, Halifax II numbered DT736 was detailed for a training flight and took off from RAF Marston Moor at 1935 hours. The Halifax was piloted by Flight Sergeant Keith CALADINE, of Sydney, and its crew members were Flt Sgt Eric Lascelles REAY, Flt Sgt Peter Sinclair, Flt Sgt Ronald Walker, Flt Sgt Geoffrey Gooderham and Flt Sgt Robert GROSVENOR. All were RAAF airmen and had trained together from 27 OTU. The Halifax was reported to have crashed at map reference (sheet 78) 920635, in Ayrshire, Scotland, at 2215 hours, some two hours and 50 minutes into its flight. The crash site was at Southeraig, about one mile north of the town of Kilmarnock. The initial report advised there were no witnesses to the crash. All the crew were killed and were later buried in the Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery, Yorkshire. The accident enquiry later revealed that a blade had broken away from the outer starboard engine causing the pilot to lose control of the aircraft.
Flt Sgt Robert Archer GROSVENOR is commemorated on Victor Harbor’s war memorial.
Robert’s brother Peter (b. 17 October 1921) enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 23 July 1942 and served as ground crew (cipher, signals) in the RAAF’s Northern Command. He was discharged on 8 May 1945 under the regulations that allowed men to resume farming occupations.
Service file for 417954 Robert Archer GROSVENOR purchased from the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ).
CHORLEY, W.R., Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 8, Midland Publishing UK (2003).
Researched and compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team. August 2010.