The Airmen's Stories - F/O C F Gray
Colin Falkland Gray was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on 9th November 1914. Gray and his twin brother, Kenneth, applied for short service commissions in the RAF in April 1937. His brother was accepted but Gray failed for medical reasons.
In January 1938 he failed again but passed the following September. On 16th December he left for the UK in the RMS Rangitata.
Gray began his training at 1 E&RFTS Hatfield on 24th January 1939, moving to 11 FTS Shawbury on 18th April. After two weeks at AGS Penrhos he was posted to 11 Group Pool at St. Athan, where he converted to Hurricanes.
On 20th November 1939 Gray joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch. He shared in the destruction of a Me109 on 24th May 1940 and returned to Kenley badly damaged without brakes, flaps, airspeed indicator or guns.
Gray destroyed a Me109 on 13th July, two Me109's on the 24th, a probable Me109 on the 25th, two Me109's on 12th August and two Me109's on the 15th.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 15th August 1940).
On 18th August Gray destroyed a Me110, shared another, damaged two more and damaged a Do17. He shot down a Me110 on the 24th, and Me109's on the 25th and 31st, another Me109 and a probable He111 on 1st September, a Me109 and a Me110 on the 2nd and a Me109 and a shared Me110 on the 3rd.
In December 1940 Gray was posted to 43 Squadron as 'B' Flight Commander but returned to 54 Squadron on 16th January 1941 to be 'A' Flight Commander. He went to No. 1 Squadron at Redhill on 12th June as 'B' Flight Commander and shared a He59 on the 16th. Flying with 41 Squadron on 2nd August 1941, he shot down a Me109, which crashed on its own airfield at Le Havre.
He was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 20th September 1941).
Posted to Debden on 28th September to command 403 Squadron, Gray was recalled to Tangmere three days later to take command of 616 Squadron at Westhampnett. At the end of this tour Gray was posted to HQ 9 Group, Preston as Squadron Leader Tactics on 25th February 1942.
He went to 64 Squadron at Fairlop as a supernumerary on 28th September and took command of the squadron on 1st November.
Gray was posted overseas in late December and reported to HQ 333 Group at Algiers on 19th January 1943. He joined 81 Squadron at Gibraltar as CO on the 24th and on the 27th flew across to Tingley airfield, south-west of Bone. On 22nd February Gray probably destroyed a Me109, on 2nd March shared in the probable destruction of another, on the 23rd destroyed a Mc202, on the 25th and 27th two Me109's, on 3rd April a Me109, on the 18th a probable Me109, on the 20th a Me109 and another shared and two more Me109's on the 23rd and the 28th.
He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 15th May 1943).
On 1st June 1943 Gray was made Wing Commander Flying 322 Wing at Ta Kali, Malta. He shot down a Me109 on 14th June, a Mc202 on the 17th and a Me109 on 10th July, the day the invasion of Sicily took place.
The Wing moved to Lentini airfield on 19th July. On the 25th Gray led the Wing to attack a large force of Ju52's that were landing supplies on beaches near Milazzo. 21 were destroyed, two by Gray, and four enemy fighters were shot down.
On 7th September 1943 Gray went to HQ MEF Cairo and returned to the UK in October. He was given command of 2 CTW Balado Bridge on the 30th, received his DSO from the King on 9th November and was awarded a second Bar to the DFC (gazetted 15th November 1943).
He was posted to 61 OTU on 4th December as OC Training Wing. He went to the Fighter Leaders School at Milfield on 8th June 1944 as OC Spitfire Wing and on 27th July was made Wing Leader at Detling, moving two weeks later to the Lympne Wing.
Gray led the Wing until January 1945, when he was posted to Cranwell for a Senior Commanders Course, after which he became Station Commander at RAF Skeabrae. Granted a permanent commission in April 1945, Gray stayed on in the RAF and held a series of appointments and commands before retiring at his own request on 31st March 1961 as a Group Captain.
He returned to New Zealand and worked for the Unilever Company, retiring as Personnel Director on 9th November 1979.
Gray died in 1995.