454 and 459 RAAF Squadrons
Squadron Leader George Andrew GRAY
454 RAAF Squadron
Service Number 402346
Date of Birth: 19 Jun 1916
Place of Birth: Goulburn NSW
Date of Enlistment: 19 Aug 1940
Rank: Squadron Leader
Date of Discharge: 27 Sep 1945
Date of Death: 12 Jul 2005
The following excerpt from 'Alamein to the Alps' by Mark Lax
"The Quarry is Caught
The squadron was also tasked to support the subsequent attack and three aircraft were dispatched to Tobruk to take part in the raid. Squadron Leader George Gray10 was bombing leader at 454 and because of his experience in both bombing techniques and long range navigation, led the raid as a key member on Squadron Leader Vic Cashmore’s crew. He later described preparations for the attack:
We were sent with three other crews down to a strip near Tobruk [Bu Amud] to provide the leaders for a strike force of 15 South African Baltimores (of 15 Squadron) who were fitted to carry bombs. We were to lead them because we had trained most of the South African crews at the OTU at Shandur in Egypt. We went off in two boxes of nine to rendezvous with nine Spits to escort us and the rest of the strike force – 12 Marauders (24 Sqn, SAAF) and 26 Beaufighters from 252 and 603 Squadrons (including rocket, escort and ‘suppression’ Beaus armed with cannon). The attack by the air striking force was to be two-pronged. First, the Baltimores
and Marauders were to bomb the merchant ships, with the Beaufighters coming in on a second wave to hit the merchants and escort vessels with rockets. Overhead, the Spitfires and Mustangs would deal with any Me-109s, Arados and Ju-88s thrown at them. In transit, one SAAF Baltimore and two Beaufighters returned early. At 18.57, the convoy was sighted about 27 miles north of Candia, flying eight barrage balloons and circled by German fighter escort. At 19.03 the Marauders went in followed two minutes later by the Baltimores. Located where it was, meant the convoy was at the very edge of the Baltimore’s range. Everything had to be perfect – timing, navigation and bombing accuracy – if the day was to be a success. George Gray continued… It was about 7 pm and still daylight when we attacked. We managed
to straddle a merchant ship and the South African Baltimores, another. The rocket Beaus had a go at the merchant ships and some of the rockets went straight through without damaging them significantly. I think about six Beaus were lost but a South African box shot down a 109. Interestingly the burning 109 passed right across my view through the bombsight as we were on the run in and caused a bit of a distraction. There was a lot of flak from the destroyers, but we were high enough to get away with it.
However, much of the bombing was inaccurate, with many of the Marauder and following Baltimore bombs missing their targets completely, although George Gray claimed at least one direct hit onSabine. The second wave of rocket firing Beaufighters had more success. They severely damaged two merchant vessels, one destroyer and a smaller escort. In addition, a Me-109 and an Arado were destroyed, two Arados claimed as probably destroyed and a further damaged.
By the end of the strike, only two merchant vessels (both on fire) and one destroyer made it into Candia Harbour.
In all, 105 x 500 lb and 42 x 250 lb bombs were dropped. But the job was not finished and had to be completed. That night, nine 38 Squadron Wellingtons and eleven SAAF Liberators continued the assault, bombing Candia Harbour and docks, while losing one of the Wellingtons in the process. The results were unobserved."