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Thread: F/L Hector Gray, George Cross (1)

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    Default F/L Hector Gray, George Cross (1)

    This officer was awarded a posthumous George Cross, 19 April 1946. The gazetted citation was brief:


    Whilst a prisoner of war in Japanese hands, Flight Lieutenant Gray was one of a small group of officers and men engaged in organizing a general escape. The Japanese discovered the plan, and on 1st July 1943, Flight Lieutenant Gray and two Non-Commissioned Officers were arrested. Two army officers were arrested later.

    He was interrogated on several occasion, starved, tortured and was finally brought before a Japanese Court Martial where he was sentenced to death. He was subsequently shot.

    As the first officer to be arrested, Flight Lieutenant Gray bore the brunt of the torture inflicted by the Japanese. In spite of this, and the fact that he was suffering from illness when arrested, and never recovered his health during the five months of his imprisonment, he steadily refused to implicate any others.

    His magnificent fortitude and courageous spirit in the face of torture remained unbroken to the last.

    Documentation leading to this award (principally from Canadian army officers also held POW) is found in AIR 2/9143, dated 24 August 1945 and is very extensive. Because of its length, I most offer it in more than one posting.

    In accordance with your request, the following report is submitted on the circumstances leading up to the removal from Shum Shui Po Camp by the Japanese of F/L H.B. Gray, R.A.F., 538807 Sergeant R.J. Hardy, P7541 Sergeant R.J. Routledge, R.C.C.S. and Captain D. Ford, 2 R.S.

    It must be borne in mind while reading this report that the Japanese appointed Liaison Officer (Major C. Boon, R.A.S.C.) was entirely unreliable. He would have informed the Japanese Military Authorities if he had known of an organization referred to below. Further, he had his own informers in Camp.

    Any changes to the organization (See para.26) therefore could not be put into effect, nor could steps be taken to change the lorry workers (See Para. 30) after it was known that the Japanese had their suspicions.

    1. Kai Tak Working Parties commenced September 1942.

    2. Soon after the commencement, men from the H.K.V.D.C., owing to their knowledge of the Chinese language, were in daily conversation with Chinese overseers, some of whom were friendly.

    3. During the months of October/November a number of messages written on small slips of paper were handed by members of the H.K.V.D.C. to their O.C. (Captain Valentine).

    4. These messages were prepared in various forms on the following lines:

    (a) “I am in touch with friends outside and I am anxious to make contact with the Senior British Officer in your Camp. Acknowledge receipt of message, giving your name. No.13”.

    (b) “To the Senior British Officer: “I have a message for you which will assist a party to escape. Please send reply. I am trying to make contact with Argyle Street Camp. No. 17”.

    One message handed to Captain Valentine was actually addressed to Major Boon.

    5. On the second day, Captain Valentine took Lieutenant Prophet into his confidence. The possibility of a trap was foremost in our minds and after serious consideration we decided to bring in Captain Ford, 2 R.S.”

    6. Messages continued to reach us daily, some of which were stated as coming from Major Clague, R.A., and after some deliberation we agreed to reply to a message handed in by Corporal Bond, H.K.V.D.C. Corporal Bond appealed to us as the most reliable of the men who had handed us messages.

    7. Corporal Bond and Sergeant Hardy, R.A.F. comprised a party of 2 attending to the boiling of hot water for tea at the working party site. They volunteered to go out daily. Bond had a good knowledge of Cantonese and was in a position to cross-examine his Chinese contact (No. 68) very thoroughly before handing over the first note.

    8. F/L Gray was now brought into our confidence. No other officers of other ranks had any knowledge of the existence of this service with the outside world.

    9. The first message sent out by us was purposely guarded and a covering statement added that we were not interested in organizing an escape party. We also called for a reply to be properly signed by Major Clague whose signature we could identify in Camp. A confirmation of this was subsequently received.

    10. Messages were then exchanged in earnest as having found that our Contact No. 68 was genuine. We instructed No. 68 to cancel all other sources in touch with the Camp. No. 68 replied that he was surprised that others were in touch. However, he was able to close down other sources.

    11. Signed messages were received from Major Clague from Waichow offering facilities for escapes, placing Chungking Agents at our service and giving us plans and routes.

    12. Replies were sent to the effect that we were not in favour of escapes at this stage. The state of health of the Camp was at a very low ebb (Oct/Nov/Dec/1942) with many deaths resulting from dysentery, diphtheria and pellagra. A further dose of collective punishment would result in an increase in the death roll and lead to general distress to the Camp.

    13. Further messages from Major Clague reminded us of the duties of all officers as regards escaping and to attach no sentimental value to those uncapable of getting away. (Note: It must be appreciated that we were officers placed in command of troops in a P.O.W. Camp and therefore had responsibilities to perform in attending to the welfare of the men. Major Clague ordered that all officers be informed but these instructions were not complied with for reasons stated in the preamble of this report.)

    14. Arguments were then put forward based on General Maltby’s instructions on the subject of escapes and pointing out the great distress brought about by the last escape of R.A. officers, March 1942. We appealed for medicines.

    15. Towards the end of November, in reply to a request for a name, it was decided to submit Captain Ford’s who was personally known to Major Clague. These messages were prepared and written out by Captain Ford and Lieutenant Prophet in a bunk of one of the huts in H.K.V.D.C. Lines.

    16. Details were then submitted over a period of days, giving particulars of drafts, deaths, numbers in hospital with major complaints, numbers in each unit and as much information as could be given concerning S.S.Po Camp, including scale of rations.

    17. Mid-November, invisible ink came into use. This ink was prepared from rice or Wheat Flour and the writing could be developed by the use of a solution of Iodine.

    18. Lieutenant Commander Boldero arrived at S.S. Po Camp on 9th November, 1942. There was strong feeling that he was to be sent to Argyle Street. We decided to take him into our confidence and to show him everything we had received. This proved an invaluable move as the transfer was made at his direct request to the Japanese Authorization. On 17th December, Lieutenant Commander Boldero left and took with him messages hidden in his shaving soap.

    19. Commander Boldero, at Captain Valentine’s suggestion, appointed Captain Ford in command of Imperial troops and also advised a cross connection with the Canadian units, Captain Le Boutillier being chosen, Colonel Price being absent at Bowen Road Hospital.

    20. A verbal message was sent by Commander Boldero to General Maltby to confirm Captain Ford’s appointment as the officer to take charge of the Imperial troops in the event of G.O.C. and communicated to Captain Ford by the remittance of a certain sum of money.

    21. The close of the year (1942) sees the end of the Kai Tak Working Party.

    22. Early in 1943, contact with No. 68 was re-establishment. It was fortunate at this stage that the Chinese driver of the ration truck handed a message to T/139858 Dvr. T. Farrell for delivery to Captain Ford. Farrell proved to be an excellent man for the job, permanently employed on the Ration Party and a regular service was soon re-established.

    23. Colonel J. Price, R.R.C. arrived in S.S.Po Camp on 28th February 1943. Full information was given to him and he took over control in an advisory capacity.

    24. Messages to Argyle Street Camp were exchanged.

    25. The routine then was:

    (1} Messages after approval of other officers were compiled by Captain Ford and Lieutenant Prophet.
    (2) Messages then handed to F/L Gray for transmission to Sergeant Hardy.
    (3} Sergeant Hardy to Dvr. Farrell.
    (4) Dvr. Farrell to Chinese driver for transmission to No. 68.

    26. Some time during May, Drv. Farrell was discharged from the Ration Party which made it necessary to bring a new link into the chain. The matter was discussed with Colonel Price and it was suggested and agreed that Sergeant Routledge, R.C.C.S. also permanently employed on the Ration Party, should be brought in to take Farrell’s place.

    27. During April/May 1943, messages were received from No. 68 that he had been allotted other duties and that our correspondence would be handled through No. 71 who apparently was mostly interested in medicines and sent in quite bulky parcel of drugs. He did not appear to exercise quite the same care as No. 68.

    28. No. 71 was very anxious that Captain Ford should show himself in the Camp Garden which was overlooked by the road outside the Camp, so that No. 71 could identify Captain Ford with pre-arranged signals. This was considered most unwise and quite unnecessary.

    29. At this stage (April/May), the health of the Camp had greatly improved which was due to the Red Cross Supplies which had come into Camp in November 1942, and the subject of escapes which was being constantly referred to was much more agreeable to us. Our considered opinion was that a large scale escape could be made with outside assistance and when this matter was being gone into by both sides the communication system failed.

    30. The last message received was in May 1943 and this was from No. 68 informing us that No. 71 had been detained for questioning by the Gendarmerie and to suspend delivery of messages for the time being.

    31. On 1st July, the Japanese interpreter Tsutada came into Camp and took out F/L Gray in his car. Tsutada had previously taken F/L Gray out to purchase sports equipment and it was first thought that this was a similar mission. However, concurrently with Tsutada’s visit, Tokumaga’s Adjutant arrived in Camp with the ration truck and the driver identified Sergeant Routledge who was taken into custody. A short time later Sergeant Hardy was taken. Their kits and quarters were searched but we believe no incriminating evidence found.

    32. On 10th July, 1943, Captain Ford was taken into custody. Kit and quarters searched but all evidence by that time had been destroyed.

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    Default Re: F/L Hector Gray, George Cross (1)

    PART TWO OF MY PREVIOUS POST:

    To: W/C H.G. Sullivan, Senior R.A.F. Officer, Hong Kong
    From: Lt/Col. J.H. Price, M.C., Royal Rifles of Canada

    Sir:

    1. I am enclosing a report I have made to higher authority concerning events leading up to the removal of certain officers and N.C.O.’s from Shamshuipo P.O.W. Camp “S”.

    2. You will note that the name of one of your officers, the late F/L H.B. Gray, A.F.M., appears in connection with these activities.

    3. This officer showed great qualities of initiative and daring in carrying out these special services which contributed so greatly to the welfare of the inmates of the Camp.

    4. His consistent cheerfulness in the face of all difficulties and the prominent part he played in various camp activities gained him the wholehearted respect and affection of his fellow Prisoners of War.

    5. The courage he displayed in resolutely refusing to give away his fellow workers although subjected to the most brutal forms of torture is beyond praise and in the highest traditions of our race.

    6. If there are any further details you may require, I shall be only too happy to supply them.

    (Signed by L/C, Royal Rifles of Canada)
    Shamshuipo, 26 August 1945

    Wing Commander Sullivan
    Royal Air Force

    Sir:

    The reports on the activities of the Special Service at Sham Shui Po Camp are now in your possession and I wish to take this privilege of submitting an account of my personal association with F/L Gray who played an important part in this organization.

    This officer, who shared my quarters, displayed considerable energy and exceptional initiative in all matters relating to the handling of messages. His advice at all times in the preparation of messages was invaluable and the methods by which he controlled the transference of these notes to and from the truck drivers was outstanding. I am satisfied that no detection was ever made of these plans.

    After F/L Gray’s removal from Camp, he suffered varied forms of torture at the hands of the Japanese. He was the first officer to be taken and obviously received the brunt of the punishment administered by the Gendamerie for the purpose of extracting the names of his associates. From all accounts, this officer showed outstanding bravery and stubbornness in refusing to disclose our names, which resulted in receiving punishment from which he never recovered. His spirit never wavered and he displayed a cheerful disposition to the very end.

    He will never be forgotten by those of his associates who remain, and his name must be added to the many others of his Corps who have valiantly given their lives in the service of their Country.

    Signed by Captain, H.K.V.D.C.
    Shamshuipo, 29 August 1945

    To: Wing Commander H.G. Sullivan, Senior R.A.F. Officer, Hongkong
    From: L/C J.H. Price M.C., Royal Rifles of Canada

    Sir:

    1. I am enclosing a report I have made to higher authority concerning events leading up to the removal of certain officers and N.C.O.’s from Sham Shui Po P.O.W. Camp “S”.

    2. You will note that the name of one of your officers, the late F/L H.B. Gray, AFM, appears in connection with these activities.

    3. This officer showed great qualities of initiative and daring in carrying out these special services which contributed so greatly to the welfare of the inmates of the Camp.

    4. His consistent cheerfulness in the face of all difficulties and the prominent part he played in various camp activities gained him the wholehearted respected and affection of his fellow prisoners of war.

    5. The courage he displayed in resolutely refusing to give away his fellow workers although subjected to the most brutal forms of torture is beyond praise and in the highest traditions of our race.

    6. If there are any further details you may require, I shall be only too happy to furnish them.

    (Signed by L/C John H. Price, Royal Rifles of Canada)
    Sham Shui Po, 26 August 1945
    (Certified copy - H.G. Sullivan, Wing Commander}

    Report on events leading up to the removal from Sham Shui Po Camp “S”, Hongkong, of Captain Ford. 2nd Royal Scots, F/L Gray, A.F.M., R.A.F., No. 538807 Sergeant Hardy, R.A.F. and No. P7541 Sergeant Routledge, R.C.C.S.

    1. On 28 February, 1943, I was transferred from Argyle Street Officers P.O.W. Camp to Sham Shui Po to rejoin other Canadian P.O.W. A week or two prior to my transfer, I had been asked by Colonel Newnham M.C. G.S.O.1 China Command H.Q., if I would undertake, should I be transferred, to deliver a packet to Captain Ford, 2nd Royal Scots at Sham Shui Po. He informed me that the packet would contain information of a highly dangerous nature which, if found by the Japanese, would certainly endanger the lives of myself and many others.

    2. I had been moved around many times between the various camps and knew very thoroughly their methods of searching-kit and, consequently, I told him I thought I could deliver the packet without much risk of discovery. He finally delivered to me a packet of Japanese issue tooth powder explaining that the message was concealed in the powder inside. I placed this in my kit in a position that experience had taught me would escape the notice of the searching officer, and about a week later was transferred.

    3. On my arrival at Sham Shui Po, my kit was searched by Interpreter Innoye who, as I had expected, failed to find anything suspicious. I delivered the packet to Captain Ford and told him that I had no idea of its contents but could guarantee that it had not been tampered with.

    4. Shortly after rejoining my Regiment and having been settle in my quarters, my adjutant, Captain W.P.O Le Boutellier, R.R.C., told me that Captain Ford would like to talk to me confidentially. On my enquiring the probable subject of the conversation, he said it related to the packet I had delivered and the nature of the message contained in it.

    5. He then told me that for some time communication had been established with British Intelligence Officers in Waichow through Chinese Agents in the Colony. Some time during the autumn of 1942 when working parties were going daily to Kai Tak Airport, Chinese overseers had passed messages to our people from contacts in Hongkong saying they had messages purporting to come from British Intelligence in Waichow. Naturally, a trap was suspected and many tests were applied before authenticity was established to everyone’s satisfaction.

    6. This channel of communication was then opened and was finally extended to Argyle Street Camp when L/C Boldero, R.N., was transferred from Sham Shui Po to Argyle Street in December. Captain Ford took charge of the organization and was assisted by F/L Gray, Captain Valentine and Lieutenant Prophet H.K.V.D.G., as well as certain other ranks whose names I was not given at the time. These officers had decided that some Canadian officer should be informed and had selected Captain Le Boutellier who had later, with their permission, informed Major W.A. Bishop, E.D., R.R.C.

    7. I then interviewed Captain Ford who told me that he would like to put me in touch with what he and his group were doing as they had felt the need of advice and assistance from some senior officer to motivate the necessity of communicating with Argyle Street and the subsequent delay in decisions. I realized the dangerous nature of this undertaking and agreed to listen on the understanding that no action would be taken or communications exchanged without my knowledge and approval and I undertook to take full responsibility for final decisions. He agreed and told me the story of the development of the chain of communication, the instructions he had received from Major Clague, R.A. (an escapee from Hongkong) who was acting as Intelligence Officer at Waichow and showed me a large range of maps and other documents he had received. I was also informed that he and Major Bishop had buried two prismatic compasses and four other maps. The numbers of the Agents, so far as I can remember, were 68 and 71.

    8. He showed me how arrangements had been made for medicines, some of which had come in through the above channel and some in containers in personal parcels. A constant stream of information was kept up as to Camp requirements and, in return, periodic news of outside events was sent in, as well as the above-mentioned medical supplies. This ran smoothly for some time and much useful work was done in the interests of health.

    9. However, constant requests from outside began to come in for parties to escape guaranteeing a high factor of safety and naming “rendezvous” etc. It was represented to me that there were many parties eager to go if I would give the word but, owing to the general state of health of the Camp, which at that time was low, and the certainty of reprisals against other ranks who were defenceless, I refused to permit either individual or small party escapes but agreed to work out a plan for a large break. Briefly, a plan was finally developed which had for its basis an aerial raid on Hongkong followed by guerilla raid on the Camp to destroy a section of the perimeter fence through which a large organized party could escape, be armed, and be guided to safety. In principle, this meant a rescue and not an escape and, in our opinion could have been carried out without serious reprisals on those left behind. This was being considered when the channel of communication was closed.

    10. As well, I was able to send a report to the Canadian Minister at Chungking giving information about Canadian P.O.W. and asking for money, Red Cross supplies, etc. Word was received from Waichow that this report had been forwarded with proper security precautions.

    11. We were asked to give information about Japanese shipping and planes. This, we refused to do, partly because we were not in a favourable position to observe such activities and partly, as this constituted direct espionage, we did not care so definitely and decisively further to endanger the lives of those who had the direct task of contacting the Agents for something of very questionable value.

    12. Some time in May, Captain Ford came to me and told me that the Japanese appeared to be getting suspicious. They had decreed that Chinese-speaking P.O.W. be allowed out on the working party and otherwise behaved as though they suspected something. He said that our receiver of messages, Dvr. Farrell, R.A.S.C. had been dropped from the ration party. He suggested that a Canadian having no outside friends or acquaintances and so less open to suspicious would be a good person to take his place.

    13. Sergeant Routledge R.C.C.S. was then a member of the ration party. I sent for him, explained the situation, the nature and danger of the task, and asked him if he would care to undertake it. I made it clear to him that this was between ourselves and I should think none the less of him if, on thinking it over, he considered the risk unjustified. I further assured him that we would not be taking these risks merely for a news service. This N.C.O. very gallantly agreed to do this work and I turned him over to Captain Ford for detailed instructions. He performed his service adequately and competently and was the means of bringing many medical necessities into the Camp. I cannot speak too highly of this N.C.O.’s devotion to duty. He deserves the highest recognition possible.

    14. Others who participated in this extremely hazardous part of the undertaking and who are deserving of equal recognition are Sergeant Hardy, R.A.F., and Dvr. Farrell, R.A.S.C.

    15. On the morning of 1st July 1943, F/L Gray was taken out of Camp by Interpreter Tautuda. A little later, Sergeant Hardy and Sergeant Routledge were removed. Sergeant Routledge, before he went, was able to leave a message for Captain Valentine who immediately took precautionary measures to ensure that incriminating documents were out of the way. All documents were subsequently taken by Captain Ford to Major Bishop’s room and eventually destroyed.

    16. On 10th July, Captain Ford was taken out.

    17. No further arrests were made. This is undoubtedly due to the gallantry of those brave men in refusing to give away their fellow workers in spite of brutal torture.

    18. On the morning of 22 August 1945, I interviewed Sergeant Hardy, R.A.F., and Sergeant Routledge, R.C.C.S. at the C.B.S. Hospital where they had been placed on arrival from Canton the previous evening. They told me that after their removal from Sham Shui Po in July 1943, they had been detained, tortured and questioned by Japanese Gendarmerie and finally court-martialled by the Japanese Military Authorities and sentenced in early December to fifteen years in prison. Sentence was served in Stanley Jail until 22nd June 1945 when they were removed to solitary confinement in a military prison in Canton where they remained until their return to Hongkong.

    19. They further told me that Captain Ford and F/L Gray were sentenced by court martial to be shot. This sentence had been carried out on or about 18th December 1943.

    (Signed by John H. Price, L/C, Royal Rifles of Canada
    Sham Shui Po
    24th August 1945

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