GRAY, William Nichol (Lt Col)

Lieutenant Colonel
Royal Marines
Royal Navy
Lieut. Colonel Gray was awarded the DSO whilst Temporary Major (Acting Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel ) of the Commando.


On 23rd-24th March 1945 Lieutenant Colonel Gray was in command of 46 (Royal Marine) Commando which captured the original bridgehead over the River Rhine. He attacked across the river in Buffaloes and fought his way inland with unparalleled determination and skill. His men captured two large groups of houses killing over thirty enemy and capturing eighty three enemy in the first ten minutes of the operation. This was only made possible by the speed and dash of this fearless advance where a number of key personnel were lost. Lieutenant Colonel Gray never allowed the impetus to slacken despite every enemy opposition, and his dauntless courage and sure progress made the brigade task possible. He was in every way an inspiration and example to the men under his command. He was continually under fire from small arms fire from the Rhine to Wesel, and in Wesel was under fire from enemy armed with panzerfausts (hand-held anti-tank weapons) which wounded many of the men around him. His cool judgement and his complete contempt for danger inspired his men and influenced the battle at a most critical stage.
(London Gazettes Supp 36947, page 998, and 36992, page 1507. National Archives WO 373/47/52) 
​He was awarded a Bar to his DSO for operations in NW Europe.


Lieutenant Colonel Gray commanded No. 45 (Royal Marine) Commando during the assault across the Rhine and the capture of Wesel on the night 23rd-24th March 1945. Lieutenant 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 self-propelled 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 Commander’s 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.
(Source: London Gazettes Supp. 37136, page 3191 and National Archives WO/373/47/68.)
​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.
(Source: London Gazettes Supp. 38311, page 3369.)

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