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Air Vice Marshal J A Gray (04029)

John Astley                   b: 23 Jul 1899                       r: 3 May 1954                    d: 6 Jun 1987

CB - 14 Jun 1945, CBE - 2 Jun 1943, DFC - 12 Jul 1920, MiD - 11 Jun 1942, MiD - 8 Jun 1944, GM - 9 Sep 1941.

(RNAS):- (T) PFO: xx xxx 1917, (T) Flt Sub-Lt: 12 Nov 1917.

(RAF):- 2 Lt.: 1 Apr 1918, (T) Capt: 26 May 1918, Fg Off: 1 Aug 1919?, Flt Lt: 1 Jul 1925, Sqn Ldr: 1 Oct 1934, Wg Cdr: 1 Jan 1938, (T) Gp Capt: 1 Sep 1940, Act A/Cdre: 1 Mar 1943, (T) A/Cdre: 1 Jun 1943, Gp Capt (WS): 1 Sep 1943, Gp Capt: 1 Dec 1943, Act AVM: 8 Feb 1944 - 14 Oct 1946, A/Cdre (WS): 8 Feb 1945, A/Cdre: 1 Jul 1947, Act AVM: 1 Jun 1949, AVM: 1 Jan 1950.

xx xxx 1917:          Pilot, RNAS

26 May 1918:         Flight Commander, No 211 Sqn.

27 Jun 1918:           Interned in Holland     

15 Jan 1919:           Re-embarked for France

xx xxx 1919:           Pilot, No 98 Sqn

27 Mar 1919:         Pilot, No 25 Sqn

29 Mar 1919:         Posted to Advanced HQ, 9th Brigade

 9 May 1919:          Pilot, No 206 Sqn

 1 Aug 1919:          Awarded Permanent Commission as a Lieutenant

xx xxx 1919:           Attached, 'Z' Force?

24 Apr 1920:          Pilot, No 47 Sqn.

24 Dec 1921:          Staff, Inland Area Aircraft Depot

xx xxx xxxx:            Pilot, No 8 Sqn.

10 Mar 1922:          Supernumerary, RAF Depot

15 Jun 1922:           Staff, A. & A.E.E.

24 Jul 1923:            Pilot, No 22 Sqn. (A & AEE)

13 Jul 1925:            Pilot, No 15 Sqn. (A & AEE)

30 Nov 1925:         Staff, Experimental Section, RAE.

11 Jan 1929:           Flight Commander, No 55 Sqn.

19 Sep 1930:          Supernumerary, RAF Depot.

20 Dec 1930:          Staff, M.A.E.E.

18 Jan 1932:           Attended RAF Staff College.

17 Dec 1932:          Personnel Staff, HQ Wessex Bombing/Western Area.

 1 Jan 1935:            CFI?, RAF College.

14 Mar 1937:          Air Staff, No 23 (Training) Group.

10 Feb 1939:          Air Staff, HQ AHQ British Forces in Iraq.

22 Oct 1940:          SASO, HQ No 1 Group.

 5 Dec 1940:           Officer Commanding, RAF Honington.

 1 Nov 1941:          SASO, HQ No 3 Group

xx xxx xxxx:            Officer Commanding, RAF Andover?

 1 Mar 1943:          Deputy SASO, HQ Bomber Command

 4 Dec 1943:          Base Commander, No 52 Base

22 Jan 1944:          Base Commander, No 54 Base

30 Jan 1944:          ?

 8 Feb 1944:          AOC, No 91 (Training) Group.

14 Dec 1946:          AOC, AHQ Greece

11 Jan 1947:          AOC, RAF Mission to Greece.

 1 Jun 1949:           SASO, HQ Transport Command.

 1 Jun 1951:           AOA, HQ Middle East Air Force.


DH 9 of No 211 Squadron as flown by Capt J A Gray in June 1918 when he and his observer were interned in Holland

DH 9 of No 211 Squadron as flown by Capt J A Gray in June 1918 when he and his observer were interned in Holland

On the night of 16/17 May 1941, Wellington R1267 (WS-Y) of No 9 Squadron crashed on its return from Boulogne at 02:45.  Gp Capt Gray and the Station Medical Officer, Sqn Ldr J A McCarty, raced to the scene of the crash and entered the blazing aircraft, managing to save two trapped members of the crew, the only fatality being the pilot, Sgt L B Mitchell.  For this act of heroism, the two officers were each awarded the George Medal.

He was compelled to make a forced landing in Zealand after being hit by flak following a raid on Bruges on 26 June 1918, both he and his observer were interned by the Dutch.

Recommendation for the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross

"GRAY, John Astley, F/O

For most excellent work in running his flight under difficult Active Service conditions, which brought about the complete demoralization of the Dervish Forces.  He carried out some splendid reconnaissance and bombing flights against the enemy.  By his invariable cheerfulness he has set a fine example to his flight."

(Source - Air 2/204/211473/20 drafted 26 February 1920)

Citation for the award of the George Medal

"Group Captain John Astley Gray, D.F.C.

Acting Squadron Leader Joseph Aidan MacCarthy, M.B., Ch.B., B.A.O. (23425).

One night in May, 1941, the pilot of an aircraft attempted to land with the undercarriage retracted. The aircraft crashed into the main bomb dump and then burst into flames. Group Captain Gray and Squadron Leader MacCarthy immediately went to the scene of the accident. Although there was some delay in getting the fire  tender to the spot, owing to wire entanglements at the bomb dump, Group Captain Gray and Squadron Leader MacCarthy entered the burning aircraft and between them succeeded in extricating two members of the crew who were trapped. By the time the first man had been extricated the fire had spread from the starboard tanks to the cabin and on to the port tanks. Ammunition, incendiaries and flares were burning in the wreckage, whilst numerous explosions erupted from the tanks.  In spite of this, an attempt was made to rescue the pilot who was still trapped at the bottom of the fuselage. He was dragged clear but his harness still held him to the burning aircraft. Before he could be released another petrol tank burst and flames spread to such an extent that any further attempts to rescue him became impossible. Group Captain Gray and Squadron Leader MacCarthy were assisted by two other officers who both displayed great courage in their efforts. Group Captain Gray received severe burns on the head and his uniform was destroyed but he continued his efforts until overcome by the fumes. Squadron Leader MacCarthy suffered minor facial injuries caused by burns but, despite this and the strain to which he had been exposed, he would not retire to his quarters until he was satisfied that everything possible had been done for the comfort of the injured. Both Group Captain Gray and Squadron Leader MacCarthy displayed great bravery in the most appalling circumstances."

(London Gazette 9 September 1941)

This page was last updated on 07/12/23

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