My father’s younger brother, Flight Lieutenant Frank Grosvenor, was a veteran of flying operations.
Born in Sydney's inner-west suburb of Marrickville and later living in harbourside Manly, Frank enlisted in the Australian Defence Force aged 18 years and 7 months.
He was posted in 1941 to Canada, where he participated in the Empire Air Training Scheme.
In September that year he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 118 Squadron in the United Kingdom, flying the Spitfire in support of anti-shipping raids over the English Channel and conducting bombing raids over occupied France.
Frank joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No.76 Squadron under the command of Squadron Leader Keith (Bluey) Truscott at Milne Bay from June 1942 to September 1943.
While flying a Kittyhawk, he was shot down over Milne Bay, surviving to be repatriated to Darwin where, upon recovery, he then took up an instructing role.
Frank was somewhat of a daredevil and earned the nickname H.O. (Hooke number) - this having something to do with the amount of G forces he could take when putting his plane into dangerous dives.
At that time, it was a common occurrence for pilots to black out in these tail-chasing manoeuvres - but Frank never did.
He flew several types of planes – Wirraways, the Tiger Moth, Hurricanes and Howards – clocking up 118 hours in Spitfires and 236 hours in Kittyhawks.
A senior officer referred to Frank as a bit of a larrikin and he was the subject of the last entry in Jack Lusby’s War: Book 3.
Just before he was due for leave in August 1943, Frank was testing a P40 Kittyhawk at RAAF Base Amberley.
He put the plane into a steep dive, pushing it above 11G. As he pulled out of the dive, the wings were suddenly ripped off.
Frank tried to eject but when he stood up, he was tragically decapitated by the cockpit hood slamming forward. The plane exploded on impact and burst into flames.
Flight Lieutenant Frank Grosvenor was just 22 years old.
Our family trusts that Frank's death was not entirely in vain.
Following this test run, other P40s were tested and were also found to have rippling wings, highlighting a flaw that was ultimately corrected, so Frank inadvertently saved the lives of other pilots.
Author Jack Lusby’s published last words come to mind when we remember Frank. Simply, he was a bloody nice bloke.
To commemorate Frank’s service to Australia, a Last Post Ceremony was held for him at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on August 11, 2019.