b. 02/10/1917 Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. d. 27/08/1944 Atlantic Ocean.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 27/08/1944 Atlantic Ocean.
Roderick “Cy” Borden Gray (1917-1944) was born on 2nd October 1917 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, the son of Stanley and Rubina Gray. He was educated in Sault Ste. Marie until June 1937, when he left to work for Canadian Pacific Railways as a freight trucker until enlistment. He married shortly before the outbreak of war to Muriel Elizabeth (surname unknown) from North Vancouver, British Columbia.
Roderick joined the Canadian Army on 13th July 1940, transferring to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as an Aircraftman 2nd Class on 21st October 1941. Whilst he was at No 1 ITS in 1942, that he was described as “studious, capable type of airman. Cool, calm and conscientious, confident and dependable.” He then attended training courses in gunnery and bombing. He was posted to Britain for operational duty on 30th November 1942. He then served as crew at No 3 OUT from March to June 1943.
He then was transferred to No 172 Squadron in June 1943, and served with them until his death. As of 16th July 1944, he had completed 590 hours flying time as an observer and had been promoted to Flying Officer.
On 27th August 1944, his Wellington bomber attacked the U-534 over the Atlantic Ocean but was shot down. Despite a severe leg wound Gray succeeded in inflating his own dinghy, and then assisted the wounded captain, George Whiteley, into it. Shortly afterwards, cries were heard from Flight Sergeant John Ford, who had broken his arm. Gray helped him into the dinghy, but, knowing it could only hold two men, he refused to get into the dinghy himself, although he was suffering intense pain. He and Warrant Officer Gordon Bulley held on to the side for some hours. The pain in his leg (it is thought that the lower part of his leg had been shot off) was increasing in intensity and he was becoming exhausted. Nevertheless, he refused to endanger his comrades by entering the dinghy. He eventually lost consciousness and died in the night. When light dawned, his comrades realised he was dead, and had to let him go. The three remaining men were picked up after 15 hours in the sea. Gray’s body was not recovered from the Atlantic.
Following a recommendation for a high gallantry award, he was awarded the posthumous George Cross (London Gazette, 13th March 1945). A week after his citation was published, Warrant Officer Bulley was quoted in a letter to Roderick’s widow as saying “never so long as I live will I forget Cy Gray’s courage. I definitely owe my life to him. In my opinion he was just about the biggest hero that ever lived.” Gray’s medals including his GC, 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with clasp and War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf are held by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: CANADIAN WAR MUSEUM, OTTAWA, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: LOST AT SEA IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN.
St Clements Danes Church, Aldwych, London
Runnymede Memorial (Brian Drummond)