- Name: Thomas GRAY
- D.O.B: 17th May, 1914
- D.O.A: 12th May, 1940
- D.O.D: 12th May, 1940
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Sergeant, No 12 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Over the Albert Canal, Belgium near Maastricht, Netherlands 12 May 1940
12 May 1940
The Second World War 1939 - 40
On 10 May 1940 the Germans launched their blitzkrieg on the Low Countries and France. Maastricht on the River Meuse was captured by them that same day. In an attempt to interrupt the westward advance of German troops into Belgium, on 12 May 1940 the RAF despatched five Fairey Battle single-engine bombers to try to destroy two vital bridges at Veldwezelt and Vroenhoeven over the Albert Canal, which bounded Maastricht to the west. Flying Officer D E Garland, assisted by his navigator Sergeant T Gray, led the attack at Veldwezelt. Only one of the five planes returned to base. Though damaged, the bridge was quickly back in use.
Flying Officer Garland was the pilot and Sergeant Gray the observer of the leading aircraft of a formation of five aircraft that attacked a bridge over the Albert Canal which had not been destroyed and was allowing the enemy to advance into Belgium. All the air crews of the squadron concerned volunteered for the operation and, after five crews had been selected by drawing lots, the attack was delivered at low altitude against this vital target. Orders were issued that this bridge was to be destroyed at all costs. As had been anticipated, exceptionally intense machine gun and anti-aircraft fire was encountered, and the bridge area was heavily protected by enemy fighters. In spite of this the formation successfully delivered a dive bombing attack from the lowest practicable altitude and British fighters in the vicinity reported that the target was obscured by the bombs bursting on it and in its vicinity. Only one aircraft returned from this mission out of the five concerned. The pilot of this aircraft reports that in addition to the extremely heavy anti-aircraft fire, through which our aircraft dived to attack the objective, they were also attacked by a large number of enemy fighters after they had released their bombs on the target. Much of the success of this vital operation must be attributed to the formation leader, Flying Officer Garland, and to the coolness and resource of Sergeant Gray, who navigated Flying Officer Garland’s aircraft under most difficult conditions in such a manner that the whole formation was able successfully to attack the target in spite of subsequent heavy losses. Flying Officer Garland and Sergeant Gray unfortunately failed to return from the mission.