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David Gray, one of 'The Few', who became RAF Association stalwart

 

Staunch RAF Association member David Gray passed away recently at a care home in Carrickfergus.

He was 97. Mr Gray was devoted to his family, and was an active member of the association.

He loved his church (Joymount) and was a well-thought-of member of the community in Carrickfergus.

Mr Gray, a native of Culnady, Co Londonderry, was born in 1921, the middle child of three.

His elder brother Fred predeceased him. Younger sister Isabella sadly died in infancy.

He attended Culnady National School and upon leaving went to work in Clarks Mill.

He wasn't there long before deciding to join the RAF in 1938.

He completed his basic training in November 1938 at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, near York, and then went to RAF Cranwell to join No.1 Electrical & Wireless School of Training.

Then it was 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 Mr Gray's squadron was posted to Scotland to train for practice flights to France.

Ater the declaration on war in September 1939, he returned to Cranwell for more training before being posted to No.46 Fighter Squadron.

It began the Second World War as a Hawker Hurricane squadron, fighting in Norway, in the Battle of Britain and on the Island of Malta.

It then became a Beaufighter day and night fighter squadron, operating around the Mediterranean, before returning to Britain in 1945.

Mr Gray's squadron was part of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force to Norway, and was evacuated on HMS Walker, docking in Greenock in May 1940.

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

Fred was in the Army, but Mr Gray often joked that he never held that against him.

The brothers were granted a week's leave while there, which was the last time they were together until war's end.

Fred was later wounded and captured, remaining a POW until the Nazi surrender.

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

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

Mr Gray later volunteered to be a member of the RAF's King's 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 Mr Gray, and the King flew into RAF Long Kesh when he was responsible for flag duty.

Following his service, Mr Gray used his technical skills 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 in Birmingham that Mr Gray met his first wife Barbara and they had three children - Lorraine, Earl and Lindsay.

The family moved to Carrickfergus when Mr Gray found employment in Courtalds. It was in the town that Lindsay was born.

Mr Gray returned to the power industry, first working in Coolkeereagh Power Station as an instrument engineer before transferring to Ballylumford in Co Antrim.

While working in Ballylumford he discovered a love for golf, and was a keen sportsman throughout his life.

As well as golf, he played cricket for the Courtalds team, and later in life became a keen player of bowls.

Life was to change for Mr Gray and his family when his wife died in 1980, in her early 50s.

He later met Margaret, a widow.

They were married on April 2, 1983, with the family growing overnight to seven, as Margaret had four children: Norma, Carol, Linda and Rolland.

They enjoyed life to the full and loved to travel, spending many holidays in the United States.

Indeed, on one occasion they drove right across America, west to east, where they visited Lorraine, Carol and Linda, who lived there.

Right to the end Mr Gray was polite and gracious, always saying thank you when help or a service was rendered to him.

He never forgot his time in the RAF and was active in 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.

Mr Gray 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.

Belfast Telegraph

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