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The Airmen's Stories - P/O R C Graves


Richard Courtney Graves was born on 3rd April 1921 in London. His father, Arnold Graves, was of Irish descent and his mother, Marie Antoinette Hinot, was French. His father had served in the RFC and subsequently the RAF in WW1 and had been with 30 Squadron in the Middle East.

Graves was educated in England and France, attending a Roman Catholic boarding school in France when his mother returned there together with his younger sister after her husband walked out of the matrimonial home.



He joined De Havilland as an apprentice at Hatfield in 1939, also joining the RAFVR as an Airman u/t Pilot. Called up on 1st September 1939, he completed his flying training at 9 FTS Hullavington, was commissioned and arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 17th August 1940.

After converting to Hurricanes Graves was posted to 253 Squadron at Kenley on 8th September. He moved to 85 Squadron on the 15th but then rejoined 253 on the 25th.

In combat with Me109s over Weybridge on the 29th, Graves' aircraft was set alight in an attack by another Hurricane. He baled out, burned, and was admitted to Brockley Park Hospital, Haywards Heath. His Hurricane, V6621, crashed and burned out on Longridge Farm, Chailey (below).



Graves was flying one of twenty-four Hurricanes which flew off HMS Ark Royal to reinforce Malta on 27th April 1941. He joined 261 Squadron and went to the Middle East when the squadron was disbanded in May. He then joined 30 Squadron and served with it in Egypt, the Western Desert and later in Ceylon in 1942. Graves was released from the RAF in 1947 as a Squadron Leader.




He then held various short-term jobs with French Radio, UNESCO and others until he went to Morocco to visit his mother who had re-married a French General who was the last Military Governor at the time.

He joined Mobil Oil and met his wife-to-be when posted to Casablanca. His next posting was Dakar, Senegal in 1954 as the depot manager for Mobil Oil at the airport. He remained with Mobil Oil in Aviation Sales and Marketing for the whole of ex-French West Africa until the early 1970’s when he took early retirement, having moved to Paris in the early 1960’s.

He moved away from the Paris area to the east of France to Epinal. While driving back home one evening in July 1978 he suffered either a diabetic coma or heart attack. His body was only found in the early hours of the next day as his car had left the road and come to rest in a small stream.

He had four children, two boys and two girls and would have had six grand children had he lived.




His son Michael Graves has kindly put together the following timeline of his service based on his logbooks:


No. 1 Elementary and Reserve Flying Training School, De Havilland School of Flying, Hatfield.

12th June 1939        1st flight in de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth.

30th June 1939        1st Solo flight in de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth.

20th August 1939     Last entry in log book at No 1 E&RFTS. Total hours: 53’ 50” Rated: Average.


No. 4 Initial Training Wing, Bexhill on Sea.

12th December to 7th March 1940.


No. 6 Elementary Flying Training School, Sywell, Northamptonshire.

8th March 1940         Flight training on de Havilland DH 82 Tiger Moth.

9th May 1940            Last entry in log at No 6 EFTS. Total hours: 115’ 30” Rated: Average


No. 9 Flying Training School, Hallavington, Wiltshire

13th May 1940          Started training on Hawker Hart.

29th June 1940         Qualified for award of Flying Badge

4th July 1940            Flew the Hawker Audax

8th August 1940        Last entry in log at No 9 FTS Total hours: 224’ 50” Rated: Above average

(Note: the CO of 9 FTS was Group Captain C H Elliot-Smith who had been posted to 30 Squadron in November 1915 in Mesopotamia and was a flight commander in June 1916. He was probably there at the same time as Arnold Graves).

17th August 1940     Promoted from Flight Sergeant to Pilot Officer


No. 6 Operational Training Unit, Sutton-Bridge, Lincolnshire.

19th August 1940      Flew in Harvard and Hawker Hurricane.

6th September 1940  Last entry in log at No 6 OTU Total hours: 260’ 35”


253 Squadron, Kenley

8th September 1940 to 15th September 1940.


85 Squadron, Church-Fenton, North Yorkshire

15th September to 25th September 1940.


253 Squadron, Kenley

25th September 1940  Rejoined 253 Squadron from 85 Squadron.

29th September 1940  Intercepted 20+ Me109/110 over Sevenoaks.

                                 Claimed 1 confirmed 109 and 1 damaged 109.

Was in turn shot down by what he thought was another Hurricane. His Hurricane, V6621, crashed and burned out on Longridge Farm, Chailey. Sustained shrapnel wound in shoulder and burnt face. Was admitted to Brockley Park Hospital, Haywards Heath. Subsequently treated at St. Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, Surrey.

5th November 1940   Rejoined Squadron.

14th November 1940 Claimed 1 damaged 109 over Dover.

2nd December 1940  Claimed 2 probables and 1 damaged 109 over Maidstone.

January 1941            253 move to Leconfield, Yorkshire.

February 1941          253 move to Skeabrae, Orkneys.

12th April 1941         253 moved to Hendon then Northolt

14th April 1941         Last flight with 253 Squadron Total hours: 383’ 25” Rated: Above Average.


Above: 253 Squadron at some time after Graves 5th November 1940 return to the squadron.

He is seated second from left on the wing, his face seems to still show signs of his injuries.


HMS Argus

15th April 1941 to 24th April 1941      At sea on HMS Argus.

24th April 1941 to 26th April 1941      At sea on HMS Ark Royal. Flew off to Malta.


261 Squadron, Ta-Kali, Malta.

3rd May 1941    Claimed 1 damaged 109.

14th May 1941   Shared a JU88 with P/O Dredge

27th May 1941   Flew from Malta to Mersa Matruh with 261 Squadron.


261 Squadron

27th May 1941 to 10th August 1941      In Egypt with 261 Squadron


30 Squadron, Edku, Egypt

10th August 1941           Joined 30 Squadron

17th August 1941           Promoted from Pilot Officer to Flying Officer

30th August 1941           1st solo in Bristol Blenheim

15th September 1941     Crash landed in Lake Edku on finals.

25th October 1941          Moved to LG 102 Sidi Hannish

27th November 1941       Moved to LG06 Sidi Barrani

19th February 1942         Last flight in Middle East


SS Princess Kathleen

21st February 1942 to 24th February 1942

                                 30 Squadron on board SS Princess Kathleen.


HMS Indomitable

29th February 1942 to 6th March 1942

                                 30 Squadron on board HMS Indomitable. Flew to Ratmalana in Ceylon.



5th April 1942             Japanese raid on Ratmalana and Colombo.

                                 Claimed 1 confirmed, 1 probable and 1 damaged.                                                                                     

6th August 1942          Assumed command of “B” Flight.

5th May 1943              Last entry in log with 30 Squadron Total hours: 698’ 50”


273 Squadron, China Bay, Ceylon

12th May 1943            Assumed command of “A” Flight

7th June 1943             Promoted to Acing Squadron Leader and assumed command of 273 Squadron.

13th December 1943   Last flight with 273 Squadron. Total hours: 734’ 45”

18th December 1943   Posted to HQ 222 Group in Colombo


At sea

19th January 1944 to 26th January 1944

                                 Sailed on SS Surada (5,427 Tons). Torpedoed by U188.

                                 (commander Lieutenant-Commander Ziegfried Luedden) during the night

                                 25/26th January 1944.

26th January 1944 to 27th January 1944 - At sea in lifeboats.

27th January 1944                                  Picked up by SS Darrow.

29th January 1944                                  Dropped off by SS Darrow in Aden.

2nd February 1944 to 11th February 1944

                                                            Returned to UK by various air transport via Asmara, Port                                                             Sudan, Helwua-Cairo, Piccadilly, Biskra, Castel Benito,                                                             Rabat, Gibraltar and Whitchurch.

22nd March 1944 to 10th September 1944

                                                            Posted to HQ Air Defence of Great Britain at Stanmore.

10th September 1944 to 10th January 1945

                                                            Posted to Air Information, Brussels.

1st February 1945 to 10th May 1945

                                                            Posted as instructor to GCII/18 Vendee Squadron, French                                                              Air Force, Bordeaux.

12th May 1945 to 12th December 1945

                                                            Posted SHAEF Mission in France.

12th December 1945 to 10th March 1946

                                                            Posted as Assistant Air Attaché, Paris

22nd March 1946 to 20th June 1946

                                                            Posted with RAF Delegation, France

20th June 1946 to 12th July 1947

                                                            Posted as PSO to Air Attaché, Paris

12th February 1948                                Last entry in RAF log book Total hours: 816’ 30”





The above portrait was drawn by the Intelligence Officer of 30 Squadron.


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