GRANT, Robert Allan
(Service number 72216)
|First Rank||Cadet||Last Rank||Second Lieutenant|
|Date||17 September 1890||Place of Birth||Timaru, New Zealand|
|Date||20 June 1917||Age||27|
|Address at Enlistment||"Strathconon" Fairlie, New Zealand|
|Previous Military Experience||South Canterbury Regiment|
|Next of Kin||Mrs Elizabeth Grant (mother), Elloughton Grange, Timaru|
|Medical Information||5 foot 7 inches in height, weight 147 pounds (67 kgs), chest 32-34 inches, fair complexion, blue eyes, fair hair, ring finger on left hand crushed 22 years ago|
|Served with||UK Armed Forces||Served in||RFC & RAF|
|Body on Embarkation||Attached to New Zealand Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Royal Flying Corps|
|Date||31 December 1917|
|Transport||HMNZT 99 Athenic|
|Embarked From||Wellington, New Zealand||Destination||Glasgow, Scotland|
|Other Units Served With||RAF|
|Last Unit Served With||No 1 Training Depot RAF Wittering, England|
|Service Medals||Not known but possibly the British War Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
|Date||Mid 1919||Reason||End of engagement|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||22 December 1942||Age||52|
|Place of Death||Timaru, New Zealand|
|Notices||Press 23 December 1942|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Timaru Cemetery, New Zealand|
|Memorial Reference||General Section, Row 34, Plot 355|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Robert was born at Timaru on September 17, 1890, the second son of William (1845-1910) and Elizabeth Helen (1843-1942 nee Allan) Grant. William was born on Kirkan farm, Contin, Ross-shire, Scotland on September 23, 1843, and had come out to New Zealand on the “Eastern Empire” with his brother Donald, arriving at Lyttelton in January 1865. Both men first worked as shepherds for Charles Tripp at Orari George, but William soon became a stock dealer in his own right, and a successful farm owner. In 1881 he bought the 1,010 acre Elloughton Grange farm on the outskirts of Timaru. On April 30, 1884, he married Elizabeth Helen Allan, daughter of Robert Allan, a Timaru contractor, and went on to have three sons and two daughters. He was well respected and liked, and became New Zealand’s most successful meat buyer and shipper. When William died of a heart attack on November 5, 1910, his estate was valued at £208,000.
Robert was educated at Waimataitai School, and later at Christ’s College, Christchurch, where he attended “Morlands” 1904-1905. His name is on the Christ College Grammar School Honours List as “Son of William Grant, Timaru, Lieutenant RAF in Great War Farmer Timaru.” Robert was farming at “Strathconon” Fairlie, and was on the 1916-1917 South Canterbury Reserve Roll for the 1st Division, Regimental Number 72216. Having served with the Territorial South Canterbury Regiment, he was called up for service and medically examined on June 20, 1917. He was described as being single, aged 27 years, Presbyterian, 5 foot 7 inches tall, weighing 147 pounds (67 kgs), chest measuring 32-34 inches, of a fair complexion, blue eyes, fair hair, and the ring finger of his left hand had been crushed 22 years ago. His mother Elizabeth of Elloughton Grange, Timaru, was nominated as his next of kin. He appealed this decision on October 9, which was granted sine die on November 6, as he had volunteered for service with the Royal Flying Corps, and had won a place on the RFC 11th Ballot. New Zealand did not have a air force of its own at this time and he was accepted as a student at the Canterbury Aviation School at Sockburn.
Before beginning flight training he changed his birth date to 1893. This dropped his age down to 24 as one had to be under the age of 25 to undertake flying duties. The Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Company at Sockburn (ex Wigram) aerodrome near Christchurch, had been established by the aviation visionary Henry Wigram in 1916. Training took place on Caudron biplanes from August 1917 and 170 pilots had graduated by the Armistice in 1918. 150 of these Sockburn pilots sailed for Britain as cadets temporarily attached to the NZEF, but only a handful got to fly operationally. On November 14, 1917, Robert passed his flying training and was presented with Royal Area Clubs Flying Certificate Number 5622. The Timaru Herald November 19, 1917, reported:
“The thirteenth pupil of the Canterbury Aviation Company has taken his pilot’s certificate, the distinction going to R.A. Grant, of Fairlie (says the Lyttelton Times). He flew very well, and showed good judgement, and his landings were good, although the morning was rather windy and the bright sunshine meant a loss of buoyancy. The fact that Grant was the thirteenth candidate to fly occasioned no superstitious forebodings, since he professed to regard thirteen as his lucky number, and was anxious to be examined on Tuesday, the thirteenth day of the month.”
On December 31, 1917, Cadet R.A. Grant sailed from Wellington on HMNZT 99 “Athenic” arriving at Glasgow, Scotland on February 25, 1918. On board with him was the 25th Reinforcements Maori Contingent. Immediately on arrival he was posted to Number 1 Cadet Wing at Shorncliffe where he would have received basic military training during a two month course. This course included drill, physical training, military law, map reading and signalling using Morse code. During this period on April 1, 1918, the RFC and the Royal Naval Air Service combined to form the Royal Air Force (RAF). On April 26 he moved to the School of Military Aeronautics at Reading where he began a more in-depth three month course on aviation theory, navigation, map reading, wireless signalling, photography and artillery and infantry co-operation. This course also covered the working of aero engines, instruments and basic rigging.
On July 23, 1918, Cadet Grant was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, and the next day reported to Number 1 Training Depot Station at RAF Wittering. Here he received dual and solo training over the next three months on Avro 504 aircraft, gaining his student pilot “A” grading. His file recorded that he had previously gained his Royal Aero Clubs Aviators Certificate in New Zealand. Following this he continued his second phase of training which lasted a further two months. This included at least 35 hours flying time with a minimum of 5 hours on a modern front line type of aircraft and covered cross country and formation flying, reconnaissance work and gunnery.
By the time Robert had finished at the Training Depot the war was over, and on January 31, 1919, he was sent to the Crystal Palace Disposal Centre awaiting shipment back to New Zealand. On February 1, he was transferred to the Unemployed list. Robert boarded the RMS “Ionic” at Plymouth on March 14, 1919, sailing 1st Class for Lyttelton where he arrived on May 24, 1919.
Robert was to spend the remainder of his life farming at “Strathconan” Fairlie, and was a keen member and exhibitor at the Mackenzie Shows, being elected to office of President in 1924. Over the years he had many entries in the stock and produce sections. Robert died at the age of 52 at Timaru on December 22, 1942. He was buried in the family plot in the Timaru.
Robert’s brother 10815 Private Andrew Grant (1895-1954), also served overseas for 4 years with C Squadron, NZ Cycle Corps, in Egypt and Western Europe. Another brother, Donald (1885-1950), was balloted for service with the 31st Reinforcements but did not serve as he was downgraded to Class C2, fit for home service only.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [January 2018]; Assorted records at Ancestry.com [January 2018]; "Personal itmes" in the Timaru Herald 19 November 1917 p5 and "Deaths" in the Press 23 December 1942 p1, courtesy of Papers Past at https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/; "Index' on the Royal Flying Corps website at http://www.airhistory.org.uk/rfc/people_indexG.html; "New Zealanders in the Royal Flying Corps" on Te Ara at https://teara.govt.nz/en/1966/wars-first-world-war-1914-18/page-8; Timaru District Council cemetery records at https://www.timaru.govt.nz/services/community-and-culture/cemeteries/cemetery-search
No documents available.
Researched and Written by
Tony Rippin, South Canterbruy Museum, Ted Hansen, SC branch NZSG
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