GRAY, William Nichol

Lieutenant Colonel
Royal Marines
Royal Navy
Friday, May 1, 1908
Died : 
Thursday, January 14, 1988
Lieutenant Colonel William Nichol Gray was awarded the Distinguished Service Order [1] whilst Temporary Major (Acting Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel ) of the Commando [2].
Since his Commanding Officer was wounded on D Day Major Gray has commanded No.45 RM Cdo., and has shown himself to be outstanding on numerous occasions both as a Commanding Officer and as a daring and fearless leader. On 7 June 44  the Commando was ordered to attack and hold the area of Merville and Franceville Plage. Major Gray with a skeleton HQ personally directed the fierce fighting that took place in both villages. One one occasion the Support Troop was unable to move forward being pinned down by accurate MG 34 fire from a well protected posn at the top of the main street. Major Gray gathered a few men together and led a bayonet attack against the enemy, shot the gunner with his revolver and put the rest to flight. He continued to fight his unit for the next 36 hours until almost out of amm. when he received the order to withdraw. This he achieved successfully and under difficult circumstances brought his unit back to our lines intact. Major Gray's tireless energy, devotion to duty and unfailing cheerfulness throughout all difficulties has been an example to all, and it is largely through his fine leadership that his unit has inflicted such heavy casualties upon the enemy [3].
​He was also awarded a Bar to the Distinguished Service Order for operations in NW Europe [4].
Lieutenant Colonel Gray commanded No. 45 RM Commando during the assault across the Rhine and the capture of Wesel on the night 23/24 March 1945. Lt. Colonel Gray’s task was to force his way to the Northern sector of the town and seize a factory which was vital in order to achieve a successful consolidation. Following up rapidly behind the leading unit who had broken into the city, he passed through and debouched into the streets. While leading his troops at speed and clearing all opposition in his path with great determination he was wounded by a panzerfaust fired at close range. In spite of his wound he refused to be evacuated and completed his important task. Having captured the factory he disposed his troops so skilfully that during the next thirty six hours they were able to beat off three major counter attacks by infantry and S.P. guns with enormous casualties to the enemy. Throughout this time although he was suffering considerably from the pain of his wound he was constantly encouraging his men, who were inspired by their Commanders example. Not until the last counter-attack had been broken, forty eight hours after he had been wounded, did this gallant officer allow himself to be evacuated [5].
​Post war Colonel William Nicol GRAY, D.S.O., lately Inspector-General of Police, Palestine, was appointed Companion to the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George [6].
[1] London Gazettes Supp. 36947, page 998.
[2] London Gazettes Supp. 36992, page 1507 (errata).
[3] National Archives file WO 373/47/52.
[4] London Gazettes Supp. 37136, page 3191.
[5] National Archives file WO 373/47/68.
[6] London Gazettes Supp 38311, page 3369.

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