An extraordinary collection of over 30,000 flints was put together by Captain Oscar Greig during the 1950s and 1960s. Capt 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 a flight over Vimy ridge on 24 January 1917 Captain Greig’s Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b was shot down by the famous German air ace The Red Baron, Baron von Richthofen.

Grieg was wounded in the encounter and his aircraft damaged forcing hime to land. A shot from his observer, Lieuteant 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 themseleves from their downed planes. A full account is in Bloody April: Slaughter in the Skies over Arras, 1917

Grieg was held prisoner-of-war, eventually escaping from a POW camp in Silesia and making his way back to Britain on foot. He continued his interest in flying after the war and was even known to deliver post on Dartmoor by air.

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.

Exhibitions and online

Captain Oscar Greig’s finds featured in our Home Dartmoor exhibition in 2012 and his collecting on Dartmoor is mentioned on our Moor Stories website project in 2012 to 2013

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