R.H. Gray S/Lt.,
March 25. [annotation, origin unknown: “/42”]
Dear Mother and Dad,
I was so glad to get your letter of March 4th and an Air-Graph of the same date. They came remarkably quickly. It is grand to hear that people are being so kind. Nothing helps much really but it is nice to have friends that do try. Jack did have so many friends and they will I know all feel very badly but he went doing something that had to be done. That is the only consolation we have, I guess.
Your letter was grand Mother. As I told you I didn’t get any news until three days after the funeral. The fault really lies with Canada House who slipped up really for the first time, and forwarded the wire to the wrong place. So I got it late. I was terribly sorry because I know I should have been there and I know how much you would would long to hear about it. I am sorry and disappointed about the whole thing.
However I am on leave again and I drove up with a friend to his home in Yorkshire. We drove through Doncaster and I went out to Rose Hill Cemetery to see it. It is a nice clean, new little place, very quiet and well cared for. I asked the superintendent what I could do about a headstone but the Air Ministry supply plain white crosses with the name etc. on them, and for the present they want all the military graves to be more or less standard. So I left it at that but if you could tell me what you would like me to do I shall look to it right away. I believe they don’t mind as long as you have a stone in the shape of a cross so as it is fairly standard. But for the time being I think it looks better the way it is. All the others around are quite plain and simple and I think it is better to leave it for now. I left the superintendent, who seemed a very decent chap, some money and he said he would keep flowers on it for about a month. At the end of that time I shall see about it again. He seemed very sympathetic and assured me that in the summer they were all looked after from their own flower gardens. The grave was covered with turf and was tidy and neat. There was a card on the top which I presume had been with some flowers “From the officers and N.C.O’s of 144 Squadron.” There is one of the other members of Jacks crew in the same plot and another Canadian air force chap.
I am sure that you will be glad to hear about this though it still just doesn’t seem possible to me. But as you say it is so much better to be sure about a thing like this than to be left in uncertainty for months. I am hoping it will be a little comfort to you to know that everything is being taken care of and that he is in as nice a spot as can be under the circumstances And please don’t worry about me. I know you cannot help it but try not to.
I also got a cable from Ed yesterday telling me of the safe arrival of my little niece. I am so glad that no complications have come up at this time. They will have got a cable from me by now. I am now waiting anxiously to hear more about her and what they are going to call her, who she looks like etc. I am indeed a very proud uncle.
As I said I am on leave again. I was invited by a chap called Eddison to spend the time at their place in Yorkshire. His father is a doctor and they have quite a nice home. In fact I feel more at home here than I have since I left Canada. They have three married daughters, one of whom has been staying here, she is just Phyllis’ age and very much like her in her mannerisms so as you can see it is very nice, especially now. We have been going around the countryside in a motor-car (another thing that is like home) and yesterday we went out for a ride on motor-cycles, the first time incidentally that I had ever ridden one. Yesterday and today we played squash quite violently and enjoyed it. You use a racquet like a badminton racket, and a small rubber ball which you hit against the wall. I don’t know much about the game but I enjoyed it and I am sure, worked off a few pounds.
It is nice to get away from this new station at Winchester. We do nothing but fly people around who are training, two hours in the morning and two more in the afternoon. We just fly along some railroad for about one hundred miles and then back again so it is very dull as you can see.
I was just thinking I might quote you the letter I got from Jack’s Adjutant in case you haven’t got one like it. I shall put it on a separate sheet in case they cut some of it out.
I am leaving out the parts they might cut out anyway.
In reply to your letter of —– I would inform you that your brother Flight Sergeant John Balfour Gray lost his life as a result of a crash on the night of —–
He was a wireless operator / Air Gunner of an aircraft detailed to carry out —–—–. The operation was successfully concluded and the aircraft returned to this country. Whilst circling an aerodrome near —– —–, prior to effecting a landing, it would appear that the aircraft became short of petrol and, although this is by no means certain, it may have been the primary cause of the crash which unfortunately followed. I am sure you will be grateful for the small consolation that your brother’s body was thrown clear of the aircraft and death was instantaneous – (over)
Your brother was a very courageous and popular member of the squadron and the loss of him and his gallant crew is very much felt by all the members of this unit.
With deepest sympathy,
I have put this in though I feel you probably have the information. But I was glad to get this letter. It is very kind and decent as you can see and it is nice to know just what happened.
I saw Jack last about February 20th. He had just done his third operational trip at that time. He seemed happy and as before spent the night with me at the hotel. We talked long into the night about all sorts of things and it did both of us a lot of good to see and talk to the other. He was a grand man and the whole thing is still unbelievable. He was keen enough about the work he was doing and seemed to like the other members of his crew very much. He had just become a Flight-Sergeant and looked grand in his uniform. I too have lots of memories of him and am so glad that the last one is such a happy one. I wish I could tell you more but you never think of remembering little things in expectation of a thing like this. I am thinking of you both a lot now and send you all my love and sympathy,