GRAY, Colin Falkland  
Name:  Gray, Colin Falkland
Date of birth: November 9th, 1914 (Christchurch/Wellington, New Zealand)
Date of death:  August 1st, 1995 (Porirua/South Island, New Zealand)
Nationality:  New Zealander
Service number 81844.

Colin Gray was born at Papanui, Christchurch, on 9 November 1914, the elder of twin sons of Margaret Langford and her husband, Robert Leonard Gray, an electrical engineer. He was educated at Huntley School in Marton, Wellesley College, Wellington, Christ’s College, Christchurch, and Napier Boys’ High School. Between 1933 and 1938 he worked as a clerk for the stock and station agents Dalgety and Company. With his twin brother Kenneth he applied to join the Royal Air Force in 1937, but was rejected on medical grounds; Kenneth was accepted for a short-service commission. After failing a second medical, Colin worked as a sheep musterer to improve his fitness. He passed his third medical examination and took up a short-service commission in January 1939.
After training at the de Havilland flying school at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, Gray was posted to No 11 Flying Training School at Shawbury, Shropshire. He graduated as a pilot officer in October 1939 and the following month joined No 54 Squadron, based at Hornchurch, Essex. Between December 1939 and May 1940 he flew Supermarine Spitfire fighters on operational patrols over England and the English Channel. He was deeply affected when Kenneth was killed in an aircraft accident on 1 May.
Colin Gray’s first encounter with German aircraft was on 24 May 1940, while patrolling over Calais–Dunkirk. His first confirmed success in combat came the following day, when he shared in the destruction of a Messerschmitt Bf109 fighter; his aircraft was damaged, however, and he had to land without the use of his flaps and brakes. On 13 July he achieved his first solo victory, downing a Bf109 over the English Channel. During the Battle of Britain, No 54 Squadron was constantly in action defending the approaches to London, until withdrawn from operations in early September, by which time Gray and his fellow pilots were utterly fatigued. He had claimed 15½ enemy aircraft destroyed.
Gray was promoted to Flying Officer in October 1940 and subsequently served with No 43 and No 1 fighter squadrons. Later that month he took command of No 616 Squadron. By the end of his first operational tour in February 1942 he had flown about 300 operational hours since the war began. After a spell as a staff officer at Headquarters No 9 (Fighter) Group, Gray joined No 64 Squadron in late September 1942, operating over the English Channel and coastal France. Promoted to squadron leader, he took command of No 81 Squadron at Tingley airfield, Algeria, in January 1943. A keen leader, he personally led the squadron on many strikes against the enemy, and shot down at least eight aircraft during the Tunisian campaign.
On 1 June he was promoted to wing commander and given command of No 322 Wing, based at Malta. Two more victories quickly followed, and on 10 July he downed a Messerschmitt over the invasion beaches of Sicily. His last successes were two Junkers Ju52 transports on 25 July. Gray’s final tally was 27 enemy aircraft destroyed, plus one shared, and about 22 probably destroyed or damaged, the highest for a New Zealand fighter pilot in the Second World War.
He was rested from operations and returned to England. In August 1944 he took command of the Lympne Wing, Kent, flying Spitfires over France and the Low Countries until January 1945. In April he was granted a permanent commission in the RAF.
Colin Gray’s post-war RAF career included service as an air liaison officer in Washington DC (1950–52), command of a jet-fighter squadron at Church Fenton, Yorkshire (1954–56), and a posting to HQ Far East Air Force in Singapore (1956–59). He retired at his own request in 1961. Gray then returned to New Zealand, where he took up an appointment as personnel director with Unilever New Zealand in Petone. After his retirement in November 1979 he settled in Waikanae. In 1990 he published an account of his wartime experiences. He died in Kenepuru Hospital, Porirua, on 1 August 1995, survived by his wife and children.

October 23th, 1939: Pilot Officer (Probation)
January 23th, 1940: Pilot Officer
October 23th, 1940: Flying Officer
October 23th, 1941: Flight Lieutenant (war sub)
September 1st, 1943: Squadron Leader (temp)
July 1st, 1947: Wing Commander
Rank: Pilot Officer
Awarded on: August 27th, 1940
Action: Citation:
"Since May, 1940, Pilot Officer Gray has flown continuously with his squadron on offensive patrols. He took part in numerous engagements against the enemy throughout the Dunkirk operations, and subsequently throughout intensive air operations over the Kentish coast and in protection of shipping in the Channel. He has shot down four Messerschmitt 109's and, it is believed destroyed a further four. He also assisted in destroying one Messerschmitt 109 and one Dormer 215. His example, courage and determination in action have contributed materially in maintaining the high morale of his squadron."
Rank: Acting Flight Lieutenant
Unit: No. 1 Squadron
Awarded on: September 30th, 1941
Action: Citation:
"This officer has destroyed a further eight enemy aircraft bringing his total victories to seventeen. In addition he has probably destroyed a further nine enemy aircraft. Flight Lieutenant Gray has always shown the greatest keenness and enthusiasm and has been of great assistance to his squadron commander."
Details: Second DFC awarded as a bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.
Rank: Acting Squadron Leader
Unit: No. 81 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Awarded on: June 1st, 1943
Action: Citation:
"Squadron Leader Gray is a first class fighter, whose personal example has fostered a fine fighting spirit in the squadron. He has taken part in many sorties in operations in North Africa and has destroyed 5 enemy aircraft, bringing his total victories to at least 21. His gallant leadership has been inspiring."
Rank: Acting Wing Commander
Unit: Reserve of Air Force Officers
Awarded on: November 12th, 1943
Details: Third DFC awarded as second bar for on the ribbon of the first DFC.
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Information source(s):   - The London Gazette Issue 34932 published on the 27 August 1940
- Third Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 35291 published on the 26 September 1941
- Fourth Supplement to The London Gazette Issue 36036 published on the 28 May 1943
- Supplement tot The London Gazette Issue 36245 published on the 9 November 1943
- Shores Ch., Aces High - A tribute to the most notable fighter pilots of the British and Commonwealth Air Force in WWII
- the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum
- Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
- The Independent
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