Dudley, or Dud as he was known to his friends, was born in Armadale in Melbourne on the 10th April 1921. The early years of his childhood were spent around Hawthorn and Kew Victoria, where he attended the Peel Street School and was by all accounts an excellent scholar. After Peel Street, Dud gained early entry to Melbourne High School and was quick to reveal his academic credentials. With his education completed, Dud joined the Commonwealth Bank and planned to make this his career. However, soon after joining the Bank, WW2 erupted and Dud enlisted in Melbourne on the 21st June 1941. Apparently, when he first tried to join the Air Force, he was told he was too skinny to be a pilot, so he joined the gym for six months before he was finally accepted.
After joining the RAAF his initial training was at Victor Harbour. On the 13th November 1941, he sailed from Sydney to San Francisco. He celebrated his 21st Birthday in New York sharing a bottle of milk with his colleagues, having spent his few dollars on family gifts. He moved onto Canada and on the 1st May 1942, he was sent to the UK where he served onRAF stations at Uxbridge, Peterborough, Grungeneouth and finally at Ayr where he was with 222 Squadron flying Spitfires. At that time, 222 Squadron was being reformed after being involved in the disasterous Dieppe Raid, which was also known as Operation Jubilee.
At one stage, the RAF in its wisdom told him he was to do a Beam Course. Apparently, there were no aircraft in Britain equipped with beam at that time, nor could a Spitfire be equipped with one. But that’s what they did in their wisdom, so he finished his Beam course and was set to re-join the Squadron when he was told there were a draft of Australian spitfire pilots ordered home to replace casualties sustained by the Darwin Wing. (Web Master: During the War, the ILS (Instrument Landing Systems) had only just been invented. It is a ground based radio beam transmitter that gives pilots precision lateral and vertical guidance to a runway.)
Consequently, on the 2nd December 1942, he sailed from the UK to Australia. After a boat ride home and a little time in Mildura, it was discovered that Air Vice Marshal Kenny wanted a Spitfire squadron to protect his Beauforts being attacked over Rabaul by Japanese Zero’s from Lae. They were not going to break up the Darwin Wing as those squadrons had not received the casualties expected. So, in April 1943, the draft of Spitfire pilots with Dudley among them was told to go to Woolloomanatta (Laverton) at the foot of the You Yang Ranges east of Melbourne to form 79 Squadron.
On the 4th June 1943, he flew with the Squadron out of Wolloomanata to Goodenough Island in Papua New Guinea, where he flew countless missions. The identification photo was taken on Kiriwina Island in the Trobriand Islands in 1944 when he was a Flight sergeant.
While Dudley was in the Air Force, he survived three major accidents, including a rescue by the Royal Flying Doctor Service after ditching his aircraft, due to a glycol leak, on the Nullabor plain. His survival earned him the nick name “Houdini” by his comrades. One of his mates recounts the story:
“Towards the end of the war, Dudley was told to ferry a MKVIII from Darwin to down south. Over the Northern Territory he got an internal glycol leak, and the aircraft could explode at any time. He made ready to bail out and discovered he had had his parachute fitted when it was winter, and now didn’t fit because it was summer and he was just in overalls.
He could do himself mischief if he jumped. So he nursed the aircraft till he was over the Nullarbor Plains, (one of the barren wilds of the Australian outback, short scrub and not much else) and decided to put it down. He pulled the lever to jettison the 90 gallon belly tank, and of course it didn’t come away. So he had to land on his belly…on a belly tank. Travelling along, screeching and sliding, the run was going to be fine…till the belly tank tore away in the front, flipping the Spit onto its back and he finished the run upside down again. It buried itself in the earth, and Dudley had to dig his way out.
His hands were badly cut up due to this, and when he was rescued a day later he had to be taken to hospital due to his hands being in a bad way. He was grounded, and the war ended after he was released, and he had left the Air Force because he didn’t want to be a duty pilot, operating from the ground.”
Another accident was in a training accident when he was flying A58-120. The report was as follows: Training accident 1132 hrs LT on the 27th April 1943, when EE676, piloted by Sergeant Raymond Jack Blackie, Serv#403309, collided midair during a line astern attack with BS232, piloted by Sergeant Dudley Grinlington, Serv#408842, who survived and landed safely. Sergeant Blackie spun into the ground about three miles soutwest of Williamtown, NSW, and was killed.
The last one occured when he was flying A58-178, a Spitfire Mark Vc nicknamed “Tasmanian Devil.” An edited report of the accident report is as follows:
Accident 1215 hrs on the 12th January 1944 on a flapless landing during wet and gusty conditions when aircraft flipped on its back at Kiriwina. Pilot, Flight Sergeant D.A Grinlington, Ser#408842, was slightly injured.
Again, one of his mates has a bit more information on the story:
“In one case, Dudley saved the aircraft of 79 Squadron at the cost of himself and his own aircraft, UP-G. On patrol from their island base, the weather conditions had changed after he took off, and a torrential downpour had soaked the airfield, while he was away.
The wind had changed direction, so when he landed, he had a tail wind. The ground control had ordered him to land with no flaps due to water being all over the runway. This ws normal to save the flaps from being damaged. Tail wind, no flaps, landing a Spitfire on a wet runway. These are ingredients for disaster. He was floating down the runway at high speed and when his wheels touched down, the brakes failed to have any effect due to the aircraft aquaplaning. He was flying right at the dispersal area and an impact would have crippled several aircraft and damaged the Squadron’s airpower. Dudley decided to force the Spitfire into the drainage ditch at the cost of himself. The spitfire crashed into the ditch and flipped over onto its back. The cockpit ended up upside-down and under water due to the heavy rain. He escaped with a broken hand.
Dudley said that a replacement aircraft came from Charters Towers in North Queensland, and that the ammunition bins of a Spitfire V could hold 48 bottles of whisky! There was no beer ration, but that’s not how they got by! (A bit of trivia for the Spitfire buffs.)”
Incidentaly, after the crash, A58-178 was converted to components and abandoned. The wreckage remained at the airfield on Kiriwina Island until 1973 when it was recovered from by Monty Armstrong. It was then restored and exported to New Zealand when it was sold to Don Subritzki in 1975. Subritzki started a composite restoration to flying condition using parts from Spitfire A58-149. It was registered as ZK-MKV and in 1999, it was sold to Karel Bos of Historical Flying Ltd and shipped to Duxford in the UK, where further restoration was completed. It has been flying since the 2nd November 2006 in desert colours, coded to represent JK879 T-B when it was with 249 Squadron RAF in Malta in 1943.
The aircraft, now registered G-LFVC, is now on display at Duxford and is owned by Tom Blair. It has its original RAF Serial number JG891. It is painted in the markings of TB/JK879 as flown by Flight Sergeant John G “Jack” Hughes, a RCAF pilot flying with 249 Squadron at Takali in Malta.
One of Dudley’s old mates, David Hopton, a Flight Lieutenant in 79 squadron, took the time to pen a few words about their times together in 79 Squadron.
“Dudley was a very popular fellow – he was very tall, a good talker and always happy and fitted well into our group. We did a great deal of standby duty in our large Alert Hut. I recall the putting up a second black board and teaching the young girls and boys (of the local village) our language, and we learnt their names and some words – one I remember is, “issi agna”. I wonder what it meant. They were lovely happy kids and often did dances for us.
Quite often, we would go north to a lovely coral island beach with only our officer caps on. One day, four of us were there on a walk around the island. There were always a couple of boys with us, and one of them dashed into the foliage and came out with flax leaves and indicated to us to tie them around our privates. Presently, four or five young lasses came around the island. We admired these maturing girls, and they giggled at our almost naked bodies. One of our blokes said, “Wouldn’t this be something on Bondi Beach?” It was a happy meeting and a photo was taken, alas, now lost.
A few years ago, we went to Melbourne and stayed with son, Peter, and family. I phoned Dudley and Jean and they came for tea at Black Rock, a happy occasion. One last memory, which you may be interested in. We all had nick names and one bright spark had come up with Dudley’s, which was ‘Green Long Thing’ and mine of course was ‘Hoppy’.
To end this brief story on Dudley, we quote his lovely bride Jean, “On the 2nd December 1944, Dudley and Jean married and settled down to suburban life.”
The photo is of Dudley in the Operations/Standby Room at Kiriwina Island playing a card game called Patience. It was taken in 1943. The other photo is a group portrait of the pilots of 79 squadron outside their Alert Hut, again at Kiriwina Island.
Front Row: Flying Officer P. Birch, Sydney; Flying Officer K. Slatyer, Perth; Flight Sergeant R. Rice, Glenelg, SA; Pilot Officer L. Mckellar, Gunnedah, NSW; Flight Swergeant A. Byrne, Sydney. Standing: Flying Officer W. Pickard, Sydney; Flying Officer R. Nathan, Singapore; Flight Sergeant D. Grinlington, Melbourne; Squadron Leader M. Bott, Sydney; Flying Officer P. Sebire, Brisbane; Flight Sergeant P. Turner, Murwillumbah, NSW; Flying Officer W. Wright, Samarai, Papua New Guinea; Flying Officer J. Barrie, Melton, Victoria; Flying Officer O. Morgan, Malvern, SA; Flying Officer W. Napier, Sydney; Flying Officer F. Binning, Sydney. It was taken on the 11th January 1944.
The final photo was taken at Goodenough Island, D’Entrecasteaux Islands, Papua New Guinea on the 20th July 1943. is an interesting look at the interior view of the Operations Room and Operations Board for 79 (Spitfire) Squadron RAAF on Vivigani airfield. Pilots’ names on the Operations Board and ranks at that date, are: 402719 Flying Officer A. H. (Peter) Birch; 408963 Sergeant I. H. “Ian” Callister; 421830 Sergeant C. J. “Clem” Schmitzer; 408842 Sergeant D.A. Grinlington; 260779 Flight Lieutenant M. S. “Max” Bott; 417398 Pilot Officer O.B. “Owen” Morgan; 411809 Flying Officer W.A. “Warren” Napier; 420930 Sergeantt N.S.I. “Neville” Faulkes; 404272 Flying Officer W.J. “Jeffrey” Wilkinson; 420898 Pilot Officer W.F. “Wal” Howard; 405026 Flying Officer P.E. “Paul” Sebire; 403558 Pilot Officer H.S. “Syd” Cormack; 412215 Flight Sergeant P.F. “Lew” Turner. Squadron strength: One Commanding Officer and 29 pilots.
Dudley was discharged on the 7th June 1945. He died on the 13th November 2006 aged 85 after a nasty fall at his Wye Ribb beach house. It was ironic that having survived many air experiences his last flight was by helicopter to the Alfred Hospital where he passed away.
Steve McGregor and Robert Hamilton
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association