Flying Officer Lemuel William GRAY

454 RAAF Squadron

Service Number J21425

Date of Birth: 16 Sep 1917

Place of Birth: Westville, Nova Scotia Canada

Date of Enlistment: Unknown

Rank: Flying Office RCAF

Date of Death: 23 Aug 1944

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The Association was contacted by Mark Robbins (married to Beverley's daughter, Tracey) stating

"Lemuel Gray was my wife's Grandfather. He had 2 children before going overseas...Richard and Beverley. And I married Beverley's daughter Tracey. I learned that Lemuel Gray flew for the RAAF 454 Squadron and found a copy of "Alamein to the Alps" by Mark Lax was was very interesting to read"

 

Mark has kindly provided the photos on this page along with the following information about Flying Officer Lemuel Gray

Flying Officer Lemuel William Gray J/21425 was attached to RAAF squadron 454, 30 Dec 1943 to 23 Aug 1944. Buried in Florence War Cemetary, Italy.


Son of William and Thirza Gray, Westville, Nova Scotia. Husband to Alice Gray, Springhill, Nova Scotia who is presently living in a seniors home in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Father to Richard (presently living in Pugwash, NS) and Beverley (deceased) Gray.

Source of his service information is RCAF service number and service unit (454 RAAF) and his Grave documentation 

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The following excerpt about Flying Officer Lem GRAY were taken from 'Alamein to the Alps' by Mark Lax

There was a brief moment of excitement of another form reported on the morning of 6 April when Flying Officer Lem Gray flew directly over a submarine. After crossing the coast near Tocra in Baltimore FW367, he sighted an empty dinghy and shortly afterwards, noticed a wake as the gunner reported a dark object just under the surface. After sending a message, he lost contact and resumed his patrol until ordered back by HQ. But he was too late and the sub had slipped away. German and Italian submarines had a harder time remaining concealed in the Mediterranean. The waters were clear and less turbid, so it was possible to see submarines under the surface below 50 feet in depth, whereas in the Atlantic, crews were lucky to see anything below 30 feet down.

By early May, the Squadron was informed that it would soon be spending more time on bombing missions, so operational flying was reduced while bombing and formation flying was practiced. On the 14th, the first promised attack occurred – the first bombing mission for about nine months. Four Baltimores led by the new CO, Wing Commander Mick Moore in FA486, bombed Kalamata Harbour in Western Greece. Moore had returned to the Squadron on promotion as its commander after a two-month spell with 201 Group HQ. Also on the raid were Squadron Leader Vic Cashmore in FW366:G, Flying Officer Lem Gray in FW589 and Pilot Officer Dave Johnston48 in FW405 and their respective crews. Each aircraft carried three 250lb bombs, but unfortunately most bombs fell long, as the approach had to be made from the land side.

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A CHANGE OF FORTUNE


Despite the excitement of a successful three days of convoy attacks, the Squadron soon returned to normal operations – convoy escort, reconnaissance and the occasional bombing sortie. Meanwhile, the German air Force was now under increasing pressure. By May 1944, their operations over Italy had almost ceased, such was the domination of Allied air power. In preparation for the expected Allied landings in Europe, Luftwaffe command headquarters Fliegerkorps II – responsible for operations in Italy – and Fliegerkorps X – responsible for operations in Greece and the Balkans, had been withdrawn.


With these command elements, aircraft numbers too were down to about 115 from around 300 just a few months prior. The German centre of gravity had shifted to Europe. After the fall of Rome on 4 June, all remaining single-engined enemy fighters were pulled back to the north of Italy for air defense, and the Luftwaffe effectively took little part in the remainder of the Italian campaign.

 

With the German recapture of the Dodecanese Islands, the small number of fighters continued to harass the Allied air forces in the Eastern Med, but after the loss of Liels and crew on 1 June, the Squadron would not suffer further until their move onto the Italian mainland.

 

Operations continued in the Aegean, but these would only be brief. On 5 June, Flying Officers Lem Gray, ‘Fiji’ Thompson and Ken Ilott bombed Navarino from 8,000ft, their objective being the olive oil factory. Their bombs were dropped in a long stick, but slightly overshot and despite the light flak, their aircraft and crews suffered no damage. The factory was again visited on the 9th, and again the target was missed although a nearby factory producing alcohol was damaged. While other targets were hit throughout the month, another move was rumoured. On 27 June, the final bombing sorties for the month were flown by Squadron Leader Don Beaton, Flying Officer Lem Gray and Pilot Officer Dave Johnston who flew in box formation with 13 Baltimores of 15 Squadron SAAF to revisit Heraklion to attack an ammunition dump reported to the east of the town. Also in the raid were seven Spitfires from 94 Squadron acting as escort.


No results were observed except the usual smoke and dust. Most Baltimores were holed, including those from 454, but all returned safely.

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