RNZAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: 1st of August 1940
Rank Achieved: Flight Sergeant
Flying Hours: 428 hours
Operational Sorties: 2 ops
Date of Birth: Born on the 11th of July 1921, at Te Kuiti (one source recorded birth date as 22nd of September 1922)
Personal Details: Roderick was the son of Samuel Edward and Sybil Hunia Gray of Grey Street, Cambridge (later of Petone, Wellington). He was the younger brother of another Cambridge airman, Edward McLeod Gray, who was also in the RNZAF, and also lost his life. Roderick and his brothers had attended school at Cambridge Primary.
He received secondary schooling at Hutt Valley High School, where he gained his Matriculation, and then furthered his education by attending evening classes at Hutt Valley Memorial Technical College. Rod was a keen footballer, cricketer and tennis player.
Upon leaving school he was employed on manual duties with Schweppes Ltd., at Lower Hutt. By the time he applied for RNZAF service on the 26th of July 1940, Rod was working as a clerk with the Public Works Department in Wellington.
Service Details: Rod enlisted at RNZAF Station Harewood on the 1st of August 1940, and he was employed there and afterwards at RNZAF Station Rongotai as a Medical Orderly.
On the 1st of December 1941 he was remustered and posted to RNZAF Station Levin to begin training as a pilot. From Levin he proceeded to No 2 Elementary Flying Training School at RNZAF Station New Plymouth, and then onto No. 2 Flying Training School at Woodbourne on the 5th of April 1942.
In June 1942 Rod was posted to No. 1 Flying Training School at RNZAF Station Wigram, flying Airspeed Oxford twin-engined trainers. On the 2nd of September 1942 he completed his training and was presented his Flying Badge wings. On the 28th of November 1942 Rod was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
Rod embarked for the United Kingdom on the 6th of January 1943, and shortly after his arrival at No. 11 Personel Reception Centre in Brighton, he was posted to No. 11 Advanced Flying Unit. He arrived there, at Perton, Staffordshire, on the 16th of March 1943, and trained at this station, and its satellite airfield of Wheaton Ashton, on Airspeed Oxfords.
On the 4th of May 1943 he proceeded to No. 11 OTU at Westcott, Bucks, to crew up and complete his training as a bomber pilot on Vickers Wellingtons. On the 1st of June 1943 Rod was promoted to Flight Sergeant.
He then converted to Short Stirlings at No. 1665 Conversion Unit at Woolfox Lodge in Rutland, and was posted on the 25th of August 1943 to No. 15 Squadron at Oakington, Cambridgeshire.
Rod commenced operational flying here as a 2nd pilot on Stirlings, his first op being a raid on Nuremberg in Germany. He failed to return from his second op. Another New Zealander killed with him on this raid was Pilot Officer Ralph Stanley France of Whakatane.
Details of Death: Roderick was 2nd Pilot in a Short Stirling III (coded BK764/R) of No 15 Squadron, RAF that took off from RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk at 00:22hrs on the 31st of August 1943. Their mission was to raid Monchengladbach-Rheydt, Germany (660 aircraft took part in the raid, 32 were lost). The Stirling was brought down about 20km SW of the target area, crashing at Uyl (Myhl?), near Wassenburg. Seven of the eight crew died including Roderick.
Buried at: Those who died including Roderick were buried at Monchengladbach on the 7th of September 1943. They were later reinterred at Rheinberg, 12km south of Wesel. Roderick is buried with 37 other airmen in two rows of plot three at the cemetery, all of whom were unable to be identified. They are all commemorated by special memorials within the cemetery
Connection with Cambridge: Rod spent several years of his childhood in Cambridge and attended Cambridge Primary School
For Your Tomorrow by Errol Martyn
AIR 118/62 /b RNZAF biographies of deceased personnel 1939-45 Vol 4 Ea - Gw
Cambridge Museum records via Eris Parker
Photo kindly supplied by Arthur Arculus