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Memorable Manitobans: Roy Stanley “Bill” Grandy (1894-1965)

Pilot, administrator.

Born at Bay L'Argent, Newfoundland on 5 March 1894, he was an adventuresome youth and, by the age of 16, had reportedly circumnavigated the globe by sea. His time on the ocean, as well as accent, led to the moniker “Sailor Bill.” He joined the Lake Superior Regiment (Military Reserve Unit 96) in 1912, and enlisted with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the First World War, seeing duty as a Signals Officer in France and Gallipoli until 1916, when he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). After earning his RFC Certificate from the Central Flying School at Uphaven, Wiltshire, he was posted to the Western Front as a fighter pilot with the 43rd Squadron. Later in the war, he was reassigned to Gosport, England.

He left the Royal Air Force (formerly RFC) in 1919 and settled in Canada, enlisting with the newly-formed Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). He resigned in 1923 to pursue a career in civil aviation. He worked for three years for Laurentide Air Services undertaking aerial surveying, mapping, fire surveillance, and air mail in Ontario and Quebec. In 1924, he brought his AVRO float biplane aboard the SS Eagle, a sealing vessel, and introduced aerial spotting as a tactic for locating herds in the North Atlantic in place of generational reliance on intuition and navigation prowess. That same year, another aeronautic feat was claimed when he piloted a flying boat 900 miles in 12 days to deliver Treaty payments to reserves across northern Ontario.

He rejoining the RCAF in 1925 and served as the Commanding Officer (CO) at Rockliffe Station near Ottawa. In 1935, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (1935), the first RCAF officer to be awarded the distinction during peacetime. From 1935 to 1937, he was located in Manitoba as the Commanding Officer of the RCAF Winnipeg Station at Stevenson Field in St. James as well as the new Equipment Depot No. 2 in Winnipeg. He and his wife resided at the Fort Osborne Barracks. Shortly after his departure from Manitoba, he was promoted to Group Captain and enjoyed successive postings at RCAF Trenton Station (Seaplane Training and Navigation School), RCAF Dartmouth Station, and Camp Borden (Service Flying Training School No. 1). He was based at Thorbay, Newfoundland from 1942 to 1945. For his endeavours during both World Wars, he earned multiple mentions in dispatches and other honours. He retired from military life in 1946 and returned to civilian aviation at Halifax where he worked as a flight instructor and pilot mentor. He and his wife, Lillias, had three daughters, Joan Grandy Watson, Hope Grandy Glenn, and Shirley Grandy Vacheresse, and a son, George Edward Grandy, who died at birth.

He died at Toronto, Ontario on 8 April 1965 following a lengthy illness. He was posthumously inducted to Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988 and was named a hometown hero in his native Newfoundland in 2015.


“2 government planes on way to help search [Major R. S. Grandy in charge of detachment],” Winnipeg Tribune, 15 October 1929, page 1.

“Rescue airmen eager to start arctic search,” Winnipeg Tribune, 17 October 1929, page 28.

“Flying Club prepares for active season,” Manitoba Free Press, 29 Mar 1930, page 24.

“Along the air lines,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 January 1935, page 11.

“Society [Mrs. R.S. Grandy],” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 August 1935, page 6.

“Two globe-girdling fliers fight winds to reach Manitoba,” Winnipeg Tribune, 28 August 1935, page 3.

[Among new residents [Squadron Leader and Mrs. Grandy], Winnipeg Tribune, 21 December 1935, page 14.

“Winter supplies to aid in search for fliers ready,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 September 1936, page 10.

“To new post,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 June 1937, page 3.

”New Commanding Officer of R.C.A.F. here arrives Friday,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 June 1937, page 3.

“Engagements [Mrs. and Mrs. James Lawrence],” Winnipeg Tribune, 27 April 1946, page 14.

“R. S. B. Grandy - A Canadian pilot goes down in history,” Ottawa Journal, 24 April 1965, page 44.

Obituary, Brandon Sun, 12 April 1965, page 13.

“Remembering Laurentide Air Service Limited - The Pilot,” by Don MacDonald, The Canadian Aerophilatelist, June 1999, page 15.

We thank Deirdre Clark for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 19 May 2018

Memorable Manitobans

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