Tribute to WW11 veteran David Gray

David Gray.
David Gray.

Staunch RAF Association member, David Gray, passed away recently whilst in residence at Knockagh Lodge Residential Home, aged 97.

He was a devoted to his family, an active member of the RAF Association, he loved his church (Joymount) and was an upright member of the community in Carrickfergus.

David was a native of Culnady, Co Londonderry and was born in 1921, the middle child of a family of three, his elder brother the late Fred and younger sister Isabella, who sadly died in infancy.

David attended Culnady National School and upon leaving went to work in Clarks Mill in Co Londonderry. He wasn’t there long before he decided to join the RAF in 1938. He completed his basic training in Nov 1938 at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, near York, and then went to RAF Cranwell to join No.1 Electrical & Wireless School of Training and onwards to No. 106 Bomber Squadron at RAF Thornaby, near Thornaby-on-Sea in North Yorkshire, where he worked on auto pilot equipment.

In August 1939 David was posted, with his squadron, to RAF Evanton, 15 miles north of Inverness in Scotland to train for practice flights to France. However, in September 1939 war was declared.

David returned to Cranwell for more training before being posted to No. 46 Fighter Sqn. His squadron began the Second World War as a Hawker Hurricane Sqn, fighting in Norway, in the Battle of Britain and on the Island of Malta.  It then became a Beaufighter day and night fighter Sqn, operating around the Mediterranean, before in 1945, returning to Britain.

David’s squadron was part of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force to Norway, which ended in disaster, with the evacuation on HMS Walker. He was landed in Greenock in May 1940.

The squadron, and David, moved to Egypt, via Freetown Durban, and eventually to Malta, where his brother Fred was also stationed.

Fred was in the Army, but David often joked that he never held that against him. The brothers were granted a week’s leave whilst there and they spent time with each other. That was the last time they were together until the war ended; Fred was later shot, wounded and captured, and remained a POW until the end of the war.

In June 1943 David was promoted to corporal and spent that year with No. 252 Sqn in Sicily and then onwards to Sardinia, before ending up in Algeria.

In Nov 1945 the squadron moved back to the UK to RAF Tadcaster near York.

David later volunteered, and was accepted, to be a member of the RAF’s Kings Flight. He was part of that team that brought King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Northern Ireland, accompanied by the then Princess Elizabeth.

It was a great honour for David and the King flew into RAF Long Kesh when he was responsible for flag duty.

Following his service he used his instrument technicians skill to become a watchmaker, but he didn’t much like the work and went to work in the power industry.

This work took him to Hams Hall Power Station in the West Midlands. It was here in Birmingham that David was to meet his first wife Barbara, and in the passage of time they had three children, Lorraine, Earl and Lindsay.

The family moved to Carrickfergus when David found employment in Courtaulds and it was in Carrick Lindsay was born.

David returned to the power industry first of all working in Coolkeereagh Power Station in Londonderry as an instrument engineer and later transferred to Ballylumford.

While working in Ballylumford, David discovered golf and was a keen sportsman throughout his life. He played cricket for the Courtalds team and was an avid golfer, and later in life, a keen bowler. David loved sport and watched it a lot on TV in his later years.

Life was to change for David and his family when Barbara died in 1980 in her early 50s.

Time past and David met Margaret, a widow. Friendship developed into love and they were married on 2 April 1983 with the family growing overnight to seven, as Margaret had four children; Norma, Carol, Linda and Rolland.

They loved to travel and spent many holidays in the USA, indeed on one occasion they drove right across America, West to East, visiting family; David’s daughter Lorraine and Margaret’s daughters Carol and Linda on the way.

They lived life to the full and right to the end David Gray was polite and gracious saying thank you when help or a service was rendered to him.

David never forgot his time in the RAF and was a very active member of the RAF Association’s Carrickfergus Branch. He collected for the Wings Appeal each year and he would often be found on the RAF Association stalls with his welcoming smile and good humour, encouraging people to donate to that noble cause.

David loved the RAF Association, enjoyed its Battle of Britain parades and raising money for its welfare work. He is sadly missed by the community, his family and ex-service colleagues.