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Colin Gray - high scoring fighter ace

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. Gray joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on 20th November 1939. 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's achievements throughout the Battle of Britain were impressive. He started strongly in July by destroying an Me109 on 13th July; two Me109s on the 24th; a probable Me109 on the 25th; two Me109s on 12th August; and two Me109s on the 15th July. For these Gray was awarded the DFC (gazetted 15th August 1940).

On 18th August -m known as 'the hardest day', Gray destroyed a Me110, shared another, damaged two more and damaged a Do17. He shot down a Me110 on the 24th, and Me109s 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.

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.

Photos and text courtesy of Battle of Britain Monument website

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