Virtual Museum -
Paintings and Posters
"Big Beautiful Doll" - Oil painting by Australian artist Spike
Measures 760mm x 1220mm. Painted in 1998.
On July 13 1940, Gray shot down a Bf 109 near Calais. Over the next seven weeks he claimed 14 enemy aircraft destroyed, shared another and probably destroyed or damaged a further fourteen and was awarded the DFC in mid-August. In early September, 54 Squadron flew north for a period of rest. Gray went briefly to 43 Squadron but returned to 54 Squadron in January 1941 to replace Alan Deere (another New Zealand fighter ace) as a flight commander. The unit returned south in late February and Gray remained until mid-June 1941 before he was posted to No.1 Squadron as a flight commander. On the 16 June, he shared in the destruction of an He 59 floatplane and on 22 August shot down a Bf 109. Gray was awarded a Bar to his DFC on September 20 1940, being by then credited with seventeen confirmed victories.
Gray took command of 616 Squadron in late August 1941. In February
1942, he was posted to staff duties. After several short flying
appointments in late 1942, he was posted to North Africa in December to
take command of 81 Squadron, the first unit to fly Spitfire IX's in the
Middle East. With this mark, he quickly claimed more victories.
When the North African campaign ended on 13 May 1943, Gray was awarded
the DSO, after destroying a further five enemy aircraft and probably
destroyed or damaged four others. After promotion to Wing
Commander, Gray was appointed to lead 322 Wing moving to Malta to
prepare for the invasion of Sicily. On 14 June 1943, he shot down
a Bf 109. Then, on the 17th, he shot down a Macchi 202, followed
by a Bf109 on 10 July, invasion day. The Wing moved to
Lentini East airfield on Sicily on the 19th and, six days later, Gray
led the Wing on a sweep of the Milazzo area, on Sicily's north-east
coast, where it was reported that German transports would be landing
supplies on the beach at Cap Milazzo. As the Spitfires arrived,
the Ju 52's were circling to land. Five escorting enemy fighters were
shot down in the action and, of the twenty-one transports destroyed,
Gray claimed two. They were to be his final victories. On return
to Britain, he was awarded a second Bar to the DFC.
Gray retired from the RAF in March 1961 as a Group Captain and
returned to live in New Zealand, where he died at Waikanae on 1 August
Ref. No. 1169. FRAMED ORIGINAL PENCIL
DRAWING OF MOSQUITO BY RON FULTOW. Number two of five originals.
Depicts Mosquito EG-J of No. 487 Squadron. Drawing is signed by PO D.
R. “Bob” Fowler, who was a Pilot Officer flying EG-J on the famous
Amiens Prison raid:
"In March 1944, a combined force of RAF, RAAF, RNZAF and RCAF
aircrew flew one of the most hazardous daylight bombing raids of
WWII. In atrocious weather their Mosquitoes and Typhoons flew an
ultra-low level mission to ‘spring’ French Resistance fighters from the
Amiens prison, then under control of the Gestapo.
"With snow still falling, nineteen Mosquitoes – eighteen Mk VI fighter-bombers of 140 Wing and one Mk IV PRU took-off from RAF Hunsdon, Hertfordshire, at 1055 hours on 18 February 1944. Their job was the breach the walls of the Amiens Prison and free Resistance Leaders leading up to D-Day - the Allied invasion of Europe.
"The first wave, led by Wing Commander ‘Black’ Smith, were three
minutes late into the attack. Sweeping up the straight Amiens-Albert
road, they split into two sections of three aircraft, to attack the
Eastern and Northern outer walls. Cutting their speed to prevent damage
to the bombs on impact, the first section each flew in at ten feet
above the ground, releasing their bombs exactly on the eastern
perimeter wall followed by a frantic manoeuvre to get their aircraft
over and around the prison building. The second section followed in
immediately, P/O Merv Darrell and P/O Bob Fowler attacking the northern
outer walls, breaching them twice.
"Following the initial attack were five Mosquitoes of 464 Squadron, and a sixth Mosquito from 487 piloted by G/C P C Pickard. Led by W/C Bob Iredale, their task was to breach the main building and destroy the guard’s quarters at the east and west ends of the prison. It was intended that the cell doors would be sprung open by concussion from the bomb blasts, allowing the prisoners to escape.
"One of the RAF’s most celebrated airmen was overall Commander of
the raid, G/C P C Pick Pickard. He was last over the prison – the
exact moment captured in Gerald Coulson’s remarkable painting – just
seconds before the delay fuse bombs exploded.
"Resistance Leader Dominique Ponchardier sent this message to London in March 1944:
"I thank you in the name of our comrades for the bombardment of the
prison. We were not able to save all. Thanks to the
admirable precision of the attack the first bomb blew in nearly all
doors and 150 prisoners escaped with the help of the civilian
population. Of theses, 12 were to be have been shot on February
19. In addition, 37 prisoners were killed, some of them by German
machine-guns, and 50 Germans were also killed."
Ref. No. 865. BRASS STATUE OF PILOT.
Measures 210 mm high. Figure is solid brass and is attached to a
brass base which has the Royal Air Force “RAF’ emblem on it.
Detail includes goggles, flying helmet, life preserver, Irvin Suit,
gloves, parachute and 1939 pattern flying boots.