Flight Sergeant John (Jack) Balfour Gray Jr. was born in Trail, British Columbia, on January 21, 1921, the son of John Balfour Gray Sr. and Wilhelmina (née McAllister) Gray. Jack had two older siblings: sister Phyllis Wilma and brother Robert Hampton. The family soon moved to Nelson, B.C., where Jack’s father established a business as a jeweller and watchmaker.
Jack enlisted with the Royal Canadian Air Force (R.C.A.F.) in Vancouver, B.C., on June 28, 1940. Following training as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner, he served in England with the R.C.A.F. 144 (R.A.F.) Squadron, Bomber Command. On February 27, 1942, while returning from night operations over Germany, Jack was killed along with his three fellow crew members when their Handley Page Hampden bomber crashed at Warmsworth, near Doncaster, in Yorkshire, England. He was buried at the Doncaster (Rose Hill) Cemetery.
The letters in the collection are written by Jack to his mother and father in Nelson, B.C., and to his sister Phyllis (m. Gautschi). Among those most frequently mentioned in the letters are his brother Lieutenant Robert Hampton Gray, VC, DFC, who during this time was training as a pilot with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Hampton was killed on August 9, 1945, just days before the end of the war. Also frequently mentioned is Jack’s closest friend, R.C.A.F. Flight Sergeant Henry (Harry) F.C. Humphries.
In a number of his letters Jack writes about the film Target for Tonight, the Academy Award winning documentary film about an R.A.F. bomber crew conducting a bombing raid over Germany. Jack’s squadron participated in the production of the film, with Jack (and his friend Harry) appearing several times in the scenes where the aircrews are being briefed. More information is available in CLIP’s Special Items Collection Target for Tonight.
F/S John Balfour Gray’s Service Record (Serv/Reg# R58225) can be viewed/downloaded in pdf format through Library and Archives Canada.
Burial information is available at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
A memorial page honouring Gray can be visited online at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
Lieut. Robert Hampton Gray's Service Record (Serv/Reg# V13438) is available online through Library and Archives Canada.
F/S Henry F.C. Humphries (Serv/Reg# R54094) survived the war; his Service Record is not open for public access at this time.
The film Target for Tonight, hosted by the Imperial War Museums website; the film has been divided into six separate media files of between six to eleven minutes each in length.
Collection reviewed/updated June-July 2022. Transcriptions proofed and corrections made where applicable, and content descriptions reviewed/expanded. Some new materials have been added; no materials have been removed but duplicate postings, if present, will have been corrected.
Additional materials for the John (Jack) Gray Collection, along with those of other members of the Gray family, have been recently received and are anticipated to be made available online in the spring of 2023.
On given name/surname use: “Jack” has been used rather than the surname/given name in order to clearly distinguish between other similarly named family members, both here and in related Gray family Collections. (”Jack” was the name most widely, and often exclusively, used by friends and family.)]