Captain Oscar Greig (1889-1969)

Captain Oscar Greig put together an extraordinary collection of over 30,000 flints during the 1950s and 1960s. Captain Greig walked the fields around his house in South Zeal picking up and recording all the flint he found. His collection built up into one of the best records of prehistoric hunter-gather and early farmer activity on Dartmoor.

Flying experience in the First World War

Captain Greig was an interesting character. An experimental aviator during the First World War he flew in Squadron 25 Royal Flying Corps conducting photographic mosaic surveys of the battlefield.

On 24 January 1917 Captain Greig’s flew over Vimy ridge. The famous German air ace The Red Baron (Baron von Richthofen) shot down Greig’s Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b. Grieg was wounded in the encounter and the damage to his aircraft forced him to land. A shot from his observer, Lieutenant John E MacLennan, caused a crack in von Richthofen’s plane making him land nearby. It appears the Red Baron and his victims had a gentlemanly conversation after extracting themselves from their downed planes. A full account is in Bloody April: Slaughter in the Skies over Arras, 1917

Oscar Greig was held prisoner-of-war. Eventually he escaped from a POW camp in Silesia and made his way back to Britain on foot. His interest in flying continued after the war. He even delivered post Dartmoor by air. In 2022 RAMM acquired Greig’s flying jacket.

Other collecting and legacy

As well as collecting flints, Greig was a noted botanist and built up a major collection of Devon specimens. Greig seems to have been something of a loner. Farmers who remember him say that he used to follow their ploughs, dressed in his military greatcoat, picking up flints and putting them into his knap sack. His closely typed notes recording his archaeological and botanical finds are of invaluable use today. Some objects associated with him are available online.

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