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The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. J Grandy


John Grandy was born at Northwood, Middlesex on 8th February 1913 and educated at Northwood Preparatory School and University College School, London. He joined the RAF on a short service commission in September 1931 and was posted on the 26th to 5 FTS Sealand.

With his training completed, Grandy joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on 29th August 1932. He was posted to 604 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force at Hendon on 15th April 1935 as Flying Instructor. On 13th January 1936 he went on a course to CFS Upavon, after which he instructed at 9 FTS Thornaby. He was granted a permanent commission on 11th September 1936.





He joined the Station Flight at Northolt on 2nd November 1936 but early in 1937 was posted to the London University Air Squadron as Adjutant and Flying Instructor. In February 1939 Grandy became CFI at 13 FTS Drem and on 6th November 1939 he was given command of CGS.

On 14th April 1940 Grandy was given command of 219 Squadron at Catterick and on 16th May he took command of 249 Squadron, when it was reformed at Church Fenton. On 2nd September he damaged a Do17.

He was shot down in combat over Maidstone on 6th September in Hurricane R4229, baled out slightly wounded and was admitted to Maidstone Hospital. He was discharged next day but unhealed leg wounds prevented him from flying between 7th September and 31st October. The squadron was led in the air by F/Lt. RA Barton, who was OC 'B' Flight.

Grandy left the squadron in December 1940 and went to HQ Fighter Command, on staff duties.

In March 1941 Grandy was made OC Training Wing at 52 OTU Debden.

He was Wing Commander Flying at Coltishall later in the year and led the airfield's Spitfires at low level to intercept the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in their Channel Dash. Poor visibility, low cloud and rain meant they were unable to make contact.

Grandy received a call that evening telling him to leave for Duxford, he wondered if he was being relieved of his command but it was a normal transfer, he went on to be Station Commander at Duxford.

Grandy found himself responsible for the introduction of the Typhoon, which had already resulted in the loss of several pilots but he set about improving morale, not least by inviting the catering officer to provide fare superior to the normal rations. He participated in the test flying himself, and later flew a Typhoon on the Dieppe Raid, an operation which gave him considerable insight into the limitations of the aircraft, which afterwards became a useful fighter bomber.

Grandy was posted to HQ 210 Group in the Middle East in early 1943 and commanded 73 OTU at Abu Sueir from 19th September 1943. He went to South East Asia Command in 1944 and commanded 341 Wing operating Dakotas.

When the Japanese evacuated Rangoon he dropped a Union Jack and a Stars and Stripes over Government House there on 2nd May 1945, before landing at Mingaladon in a Dakota. He supervised the repair of the airfield to receive the supply aircraft due to arrive.

Grandy was awarded the DSO (gazetted 19th October 1945) and received two Mentions in Despatches (gazetted 1st January 1943 and 1st January 1945).

After the war he was heavily involved in the evacuation of civilians during the bloody fighting in the Dutch East Indies, then attended the Army staff college course. He had a two-year spell as Air Attaché in Brussels before returning to Fighter Command, where he rose to become Commandant of the Central Fighter Establishment. Here he was much concerned with developing the tactics of the new Hunter and Javelin fighters.

He started a course at the Imperial Defence College in 1957 but was withdrawn to take over command of the second phase of Operation Grapple, the hydrogen bomb tests on Christmas Island.

By the end of 1958 he was Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) in the Air Ministry where he was required to oversee the draconian cuts ordered by the 1957 Defence Review. As Commander-in-Chief of RAF Germany and Commander of NATO's 2nd TAF, Grandy had to deal with the tensions caused by the building of the Berlin Wall while at the same time running down the RAF's strength in Germany.

When he took charge of Bomber Command in 1963 Grandy found himself involved in the cancellation of the Skybolt missile and in changing tactics to enable the RAF's V-bombers avoid the increasingly effective air defence radar of the Warsaw Pact.

Grandy took office as Chief of the Air Staff on 1st April 1967, the 49th anniversary of the formation of the RAF. He had to oversee the transfer of the strategic nuclear role to the Navy and the cancellation of the order for the F-111, which itself was the replacement for the cancelled TSR 2. But he also had charge of the introduction of the Harrier and development of the Tornado.

After retiring in 1971 Grandy served, from 1973 to 1978, as the Governor of Gibraltar, the first RAF officer to fill the post. He was then Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle for 10 years. He served as chairman of the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum from 1978 to 1989.

John Grandy was a keen golfer, and enjoyed sailing his ketch Astra Volante at Cowes, where he was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

Grandy was invested with the CB (gazetted 31st May 1956), the KBE (gazetted 10th June 1961), the KCB (gazetted 13th June 1964), the GCB (gazetted 1st January 1967) and the GCVO (gazetted 1st January 1988).

Grandy died on 2nd January 2004 at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough following a stroke.

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