Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (11 & 12 December 2019)

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Date of Auction: 11th & 12th December 2019

Sold for £3,000

Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000

Family Group:

A scarce Great War 1918 ‘Western Front’ D.F.M. pair awarded to D.H. 4 ‘Gunner Ace’ Sergeant Mechanic J. Grant, Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force, who aged only 18, managed to shoot down 8 enemy aircraft whilst serving with 57 Squadron, June - September 1918
Distinguished Flying Medal, G.V.R. (100425 Sergt.-Mech. Grant, J., R.A.F.); British War Medal 1914-20 (1004425. Sgt. J. Grant. R.A.F.) Victory Medal 1914-19 mounted for display, last erased, generally very fine or better

1914-15 Star (1291. L-Cpl. J. Grant. A. & S. Highrs.) very fine (4) £3,000-£4,000


D.F.M. London Gazette 3 December 1918:

‘A gallant and capable non-commissioned officer who has accounted for six enemy aeroplanes. On 1st September, whilst on a bomb raid his formation was attacked by fifteen Fokker biplanes and five triplanes. In the severe fighting that ensued Sergt. Grant served his gun with exceptional skill, crashing one enemy machine, and it was largely due to his good shooting that the enemy were eventually driven off.’

James Grant was the son of Simon and Agnes Grant of Sandbank, Argyll, Scotland. He enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in October 1917, and advanced to Sergeant Mechanic. Grant re-mustered as an Observer in the Royal Air Force in April 1918. He was posted for operational flying as a Gunner/Observer to 57 Squadron (D.H.4’s) at Le Quesnoy, France in May 1918. The Squadron were engaged in long distance reconnaissance, bombing and photography operations. Initially crewed with Lieutenant C. W. Peckham, Grant spent the end of May and the beginning of June flying reconnaissance operations over Bapaume Dump.

Grant recorded his first two victories whilst flying with Peckham near Grevillers-Vimy, 10 June 1918:

‘During a bomb raid on Bapaume dump, Lt. C. W. Peckham and Sergeant J. Grant, 57 Squadron, were attacked by eight Fokker triplanes at the first of which Sergeant Grant fired, sending it down in flames. The remaining E.A. then headed off the D.H. 4, compelling it to fly north. A little later another opened fire from below; Lt. Peckham dived on it, and after firing 80 rounds saw it crash to the ground. The D.H. 4 then returned home.’ (R.A.F. Communiqués refer)

Another success followed nine days later, when Grant was crewed with Lieutenant J. T. Kirkland. They engaged six Pfalz Scouts over the Bapaume area, resulting in Grant sharing a forced down out of control with another D.H. 4 piloted by Captain C. H. Stokes. Grant managed to add another two enemy aircraft destroyed to his total, whilst flying with Lieutenant E. M. Coles:

‘14.8.1918 - A formation of 57 Squadron was attacked on returning from a bomb raid. One E.A. which got on the tail of Capt. A. MacGregor, was shot down by his observer (Lt. I. F. D. Tanqueray), the pilot being seen to jump out in a parachute just before the machine caught fire.

Sergeant J. Grant (observer) with Lt. E. M. Coles also shot down a hostile machine which was on his tail, the pilot again descending in a parachute.

1.9.1918 - during the course of bomb raids carried out by 57 Squadron enemy scouts, which attacked their formations, were successfully engaged. Sgt. D. E. Edgley and Sgt. N. Sandison brought one hostile machine down in flames and drove another out of control. Lt. E. M. Coles and Sergeant J. Grant, and Lt. F. O. Thornton and 2 Lt. F. C. Craig, destroyed two more hostile machines.’ (Ibid)

The first week of September saw Grant flying with Captain A. MacGregor as his pilot, and this combination worked to good effect when forcing down out of control another Fokker over Bourlon Wood on 4 September. The pair bagged another brace of enemy aircraft destroyed the following day, west of Marcoing and west of Avesnes-le-Sec. Despite the earlier success of 5 September, Grant and MacGregor were forced down themselves by the machine guns of a Fokker DVII. MacGregor managed to land the aircraft without serious injury to himself of his observer. Grant carried on flying with the Squadron until his return to the UK in October 1918. He transferred to the R.A.F. Reserve, 28 February 1919.

John Grant was the brother of the above. He served during the Great War with the 1/8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the French theatre of war, and was killed in action, 13 November 1916. On the latter date the Battalion were in action on the Somme, and attacked Beaumont-Hamel, ‘with 1/5th Seaforth led 152nd Brigade’s assault - advancing morth of Auchonvillers-Beaumont Road sustained heavy casualties from machine gun fire before first objective was taken - deep mud then hindered advance on to second line - all objectives taken and held. Casualties - 266. Relieved and to Mailly-Maillet Wood.’ (British Battalions on the Somme, by R. Westlake refers)

Lance Corporal Grant is buried in Mailly Wood Cemetery, Somme.

Sold with the following related documents: 4 photographs of James Grant in uniform; 2 letters from the R.A.F. Records Central Registry addressed to James Grant concerning the dispatch of his D.F.M., dated 20 November and 26 November 1919; 2 letters from the recipients’ sister written to a collector, dated in the 1970s; and extensive copied research.