When compiling the book Beware! Beware! I could not find the fate of two pilots, Sgt A E Gray and Flt Lt R G A Barclay. Both force landed in France around the same time in 1941, there was no record of fatalities but I could not determine their fate. Now with the help of Sgt Gray's son, Allan Gray, the mystery is solved plus the identity of Sgt Gray on two photos in the book where no identity was formerly known.
Sgt Albert Edward Grey Hornchurch went missing on 26 08 41 whilst taking part in Circus 87 near St Omer whilst escorting bombing Blenheims in Spitfire Vb W3247 'City of Hull III'. He force landed on the beach, was injured and taken POW; becoming PoW No 179. He escaped from Stalag Luft IV Kirchhain camp 12 May 1942 then to Stalag Luft 6 at Heydekug. I await more information about what happened later. The photo on page 57 shows Sgt Gray in the centre between Sgt Townsend and Sgt Evans and the photo bottom right on page 78 shows Sgt Gray on the right of the pair of pilots.
Also listed as unknown fate in Appendix IV - Roll of Honour is Flt Lt R G A Barclay, DFC. Whilst based at Hornchurch he was taking part in Circus 100A on 20 September 1941 in Spitfire Vb W3816 named THE SHOPMATE when he was attacked by German aircraft near French coast and force landed on beach . He evaded capture and returned to 611 Sqn via Spain.
Allan Gray has sent more information about his father including two photographs and details of his operational flying. He also sent details of his time as a Prisoner of War and that he escaped from the Kirchain Camp on 12 May 1942 with 52 other British PoW's - regrettably only to be recaptured. Sgt Gray was promoted during his captivity: to Flight Sergeant on 1 May 1943 and immediately to Warrant Officer the next day! He was returned to England on 22 April 1945 to be finally released from the RAF on 27 March 1946.
Sgt Albert Gray had joined the RAF on 1 June 1940 at Uxbridge, doing his induction training at Torquay. His pilot training was at No 8 Service Flying Training School at Montrose in Scotland on Masters before moving on to No 58 OTU at Grangemouth also in Scotland from 31 March 1941 until 12 May 1941 when he joined No 123 Squadron. At Grangemouth he converted onto the Spitfire. No 123 Squadron was at Drem near Aberdeen reforming two days earlier with Spitfire Mk 1's. After two months with No 123, Albert moved to 611 at Hornchurch, Essex, flying Spitfire Va's and V'b's.
The official diary (RAF Form 540) stated:
"POSTING; 929821 Sgt. ALBERT EDWARD GRAY posted to Squadron from 123 (East Indies) Squadron. He has only flown Spitfire Is and is still inexperienced - it would be criminal to send him on a sweep, but we must return him as operational."
The entry on the day he was shot down 26 August 1941, stated:
"Dull cloudy day brightened after lunch and Circus 87 was put on at 1720 after we had been at Readiness since dawn and were about to be released. We were middle Squadron in Target Support Wing in attack on St. Omer aerodrome and saw more. 109s than for a long time past - 120+ was on the board at Ops, but Batchelor called it 50+ so as not to shake the boys too much. We couldn't come to grips at all but George Barclay and Sgt. Gray were jumped on coming out at Gravalines by 4 Me 109Fs with the result that Sgt . Gray has not yet returned - a great pity as he was a real good lad and the best type of Sgt. Pilot. His aircraft was W.3247 (City of Hull) and was one of the few remaining batch of Spitfire VB's"
His operational flying is summarised in the following chart (available as a downloadable PDF): Click Here (28KB).