Squadron Leader Frank Edward "Bitsy" Grant

September 1942 - Flight Lieutenant Grant in the cockpit of Spitfire IX, BS317, YO-K, prior to his first operational sortie with 401 Squadron.
Francois Oxeant

On 4th September 1943, Squadron Leader Frank Edward “Bitsy” Grant brought down his first FW190 after taking command of 403 squadron, but following that engagement, failed to rejoin his squadron. He was posted as “missing” and subsequently found to have been killed in action.

Frank Grant served with 401 squadron RCAF at Kenley over the Winter months of 1942. However, his time as 403’s Squadron Leader was so brief that he was killed before they came back to Kenley from Headcorn/Lashenden.

FRANK EDWARD GRANT, born February 1915, was the son of Wallace and Mabel Grant, of Brockville, Ontario. He was a keen and successful sportsman; a member of the Queen’s University Boxing and Wrestling Team and the Canadian Small Bore Championship Team.

He learnt to fly before the War at Hamilton Aero Club and continued his training there, under the National Defence Scheme in the early months of 1940, before earning his ‘wings’ at SFTS Borden on the 13th July. On the completion of his training, he was retained as an instructor in Canada, and wasn’t posted overseas until May 1942, when he ferried a bomber to the U.K. He was described as a ‘boyish, happy-go-lucky fellow’ in a newspaper article of the time. ‘Bitsy’ was a nickname given to anyone with the surname Grant, after a well known tennis player of the time.

Arthur Bishop, who joined 401 Squadron, in February 1943, remembered Grant, his Flight Commander, in his book, “Winged Combat:”

Bitsy, who had been an outstanding instructor before going overseas, was one of the finest, most accomplished pilots ever to fly a Spitfire. He could practically make it talk.

Frank joined 401 squadron at Kenley, sometime during the Autumn of 1942 and was credited with one FW190 damaged on the 17th January, 1943. On the 19th June, he was sent to 416 squadron, where he added a ME109, ‘probable’ to his tally. Grant was sent to 403 squadron as their new Squadron Leader on the 23rd August, but first appears in the Operations Record Book on the 27th, reporting for duty. (Walter Conrad was meant to take over but had been posted ‘missing’ the day his promotion to Squadron Leader came through, on the 17th.) On the 28th, Grant went up for a look around the sector and then, only nine days after taking charge, he was credited with a FW190 destroyed and posted missing on the 4th September.

On his final sortie, Ramrod S31, Grant was flying Spitfire IX, MA838, in the Roubaix area. None of his fellow pilots saw what happened to him, but he was still in his aircraft when it crashed at a farm belonging to M. Pierre Wille, in Herseaux. Frank’s body was taken to the undertaker and then to the local hospital, where it stayed overnight and locals noted the identity discs and the Canada badges on his uniform. In the morning the body was taken away by the Germans for burial.

Frank Grant was buried in Wevelgem Communal Cemetery, in West Vlaanderen, Belgium. Grave E.440.

The inscription on his CWGC stone reads:

“He soared the sky near to God in the service he loved.”

Rest in peace, Sir and thank you for your service.

Sources:
Many thanks to Francois Oxeant, author of “Crash in Bayeux”, for the photograph of Squadron Leader Grant.
Canadian Service files and Operations Record Books.
High Blue Battle by Dave McIntosh.
Winged Combat by Arthur Bishop.

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