Gray, Wing Commander Gerry

Gray, Wing Commander Gerry

The following obituary appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 30 May 1997:

“Wing Commander Gerry Gray, who has died aged 80, commanded No. 182 Squadron during the Allies advance into North-west Europe after D-Day. The squadron flew Hawker Typhoon ground-attack fighters and had suffered exceptionally heavy losses before Gray took charge in early August 1944. He restored its morale and fighting effectiveness.
Gray displayed dash and courage in repeated sorties over the next eight months. One of the few Typhoon squadron commanders to survive a tour, he experienced his share of bail-outs and forced landings. The Luftwaffe, conscious of the Typhoon’s capacity for havoc, directed Operation Baseplate at their airfields. Once, Gray recalled: “They blew up two of my squadron’s aircraft and shot the propeller off my Typhoon, causing it to rear up uncontrollably and to seize. My fitter did a splendid spring into the nearest slit trench.”

The Typhoon wing lost 113 pilots in 10 months. Many were victims of increasingly accurate German anti-aircraft fire. However, morale at the French airfields was sustained in part by the success of one Hurricane in evading the flak. Known as the squadron hack, it made regular runs across the Channel to Tangmere, returning with its long range tanks filled with English beer.

Gerald John Gray was born in Clapham on August 24th, 1916. He was a chorister at Westminster Abbey Choir School before going to Hurstpierpoint College, Sussex. He volunteered for the RAF and was commissioned in 1940 from No. 5 Operational Training Unit. He was still wearing his sergeant pilot’s stripes when he went to collect his new uniform from Moss Bros. As he returned to his motor car dressed as an officer, a civilian accused him of trying to steal the ‘sergeant’s car’. After a month with a hurricane fighter squadron, Gray was posted to No. 264 Squadron, operating with the obsolescent Boulton Paul Defiant fighter. Its power-operated gun turret was useless for day fighting and Gray and his gunner, Steve Hill, had the task of hunting night raiders over London during the winter of 1940. They also conducted night intruder operations over France and Holland.

In June 1942 Gray was posted as a flight commander to No. 247, a Hurricane squadron engaged on night operations and daylight sweeps over Northern France. Gray received command of No. 182 squadron at the beginning of August 1944. In May 1945 he was posted to HQ Fighter Command and in 1946 to Denmark as assistant air attaché. In May 1951 Gray returned as its commander to 247, which had become a De Havilland Vampire jet fighter-bomber squadron.

Following a variety of staff appointments he retired to Cornwall in 1963. He won the DFC in 1943 and a Bar in 1945. In 1946 he received the Air Efficiency Award and the next year the Netherlands Flying Cross.

Gray married, in 1941, Wendy Matthews. They had three daughters.”

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