Battle of Britain London Monument – F/O D H Grice

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Privacy Statement The Airmen’s Stories – F/O D H Grice

 

Douglas Hamilton Grice was born on 15th June 1919 in Wallasey Village, Cheshire. He was in the Artists Rifles (TA) before he joined the RAF on a short service commission.

He began his initial flying training at 8 E&RFTS Woodley on 29th November 1937. He went to No. 1 RAF Depot Uxbridge for a short induction course on 19th February 1938.

Grice was at 5 FTS Sealand for intermediate and advanced training on 3rd March 1938. Here he was given the nickname ‘Grubby‘, the original reason now lost. With this training completed, he was posted to 32 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 17th September 1938.

Grice was detached from 32 to RAF Northolt for an Air Fighting Instructors course on 23rd October 1939 rejoining 32 on 1st November.

 

32 Squadron

Above: P/O JP Pfeiffer, F/Lt. JBW Humpherson, F/Lt. PM Gardner, S/Ldr. MN Crossley, F/O DH Grice, P/O JF Pain, F/O AF Eckford, P/O K Pniak, P/O BA Wlasnowolski

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During the Battle of France the squadron used Abbeville as a forward base from 18th May 1940. On that day Grice probably destroyed a Me110, on the 19th he destroyed a Me109, probably another and damaged a third and on the 22nd he destroyed another.

He was shot down by return fire from He111’s on 8th June in Hurricane P3353. He glided 15 miles and landed near a small village 10 miles from Rouen. Finding no one in the village, he returned to his aircraft and met some British soldiers, who drove him to Rouen.

With another RAF pilot, he was given a car and driver and they drove from aerodrome to aerodrome until in a few days they had travelled 400 miles across France.

At Dreux, HQ of the Expeditionary Air Force, they were put into a DH Rapide, which was going to Hendon. On reaching Le Havre the aircraft was diverted to Jersey, from where they flew on next day to Hendon. Grice rejoined his squadron on 11th June. Awarded the DFC (gazetted 25th June 1940), he was decorated by the King on 27th June at Biggin Hill.

On 4th July Grice was shot down by Me109’s and made a forced-landing not far from Sandwich golf course. To his astonishment Grice was greeted by an Army officer who had served with him as a private in the Artists Rifles. On the 8th he claimed a Me109 probably destroyed and on 12th August he damaged a Do17.

On the afternoon of the 15th Grice was shot down east of Harwich in flames, having been attacked from behind as the squadron was about to engage hostile aircraft. Tracer bullets smashed the instrument panel and passed into the gravity tank. Grice was using oxygen which ignited, blowing off his goggles and burning his face and both wrists. The gravity tank exploded. He baled out, landed in the sea, had difficulty freeing himself and was almost drowned.

He was rescued by an MTB, landed at Fexlixstowe and admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital at Shotley.

Although Grice was unaware of it at the time, his prolonged dip in the sea was a boon, the salt water aided the healing process of the burns Grice had suffered to the face and the wrists.

His Hurricane, N2459, crashed into the sea at Pye Sands, Pennyhole Bay, south of Harwich.

On 14th October 1940 Grice reported to Biggin Hill for posting to 421 Flight. With 421 he flew a W/T test on the 14th, in Hurricane Z2327, and on the 15th he flew a spotting patrol in Hurricane Z2352. These were his only flights with 421 and he took up duty as a Controller at Biggin Hill very soon afterwards.

Grice was a Controller at Northolt from June 1941 until February 1942, Senior Controller at North Weald until December 1943, Senior Controller at Tangmere until August 1945, a Controller at 11 Group until February 1946 and a Staff Officer at HQ Fighter Command until he retired in April 1947 as a Wing Commander. He was made an MBE (gazetted 1st January 1946).

Grice served articles with the London firm of solicitors Gamlen, Bowerman & Forward. In 1951 he joined McKenna & Co, becoming a partner of the firm within a year.

Grice specialised in work for the construction industry and counted Taylor Woodrow among his clients. He retired in 1982.

Thereafter Grice devoted much time to his garden at Hunters Green, Chalfont St. Giles. He also bought an electric organ and taught himself to play it.

Grice died on 24th March 1998.

 

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