Samuel Leonard (Len) Gray
10 January 1917 - 16 March 2008
Granddad standing on the forecastle of HMS Hood
My Granddad was born on 10 January 1917 in Aldershot,
Hampshire, England to parents Samuel Barker Gray who served in the British
Army and Elsie May Gray (nee Zimmer). To most my Granddad was better known
He is known to have worked as a fitter prior to joining
the Navy. He volunteered for 12 year term in the Royal Navy in December
1934, but did not enter the Navy until 22 January 1935.
My Granddad joined the Navy as a Stoker 2nd Class. He
was trained at shore base HMS Victory 2 from January to Aug 1935. After
completing training he joined the crew of
H.M.S. Hood on 30 August 1935.
During his time in HMS Hood, the ship was stationed in
the Mediterranean escorting merchant shipping during the Spanish Civil War.
He was promoted to Stoker 1st Class during this timeframe. He remained with
HMS Hood until 23 November 1937, when he returned to HMS Victory 2. He
remained there until March 1938 when he joined HMS Enterprise. He would be
assigned to both the
light cruiser HMS Enterprise and
Hawkins-class heavy cruiser
HMS Effingham for the remainder of the year.
My Granddad returned to shore base HMS Victory 2 in
February 1939. The remainder of that year saw him serve in/at shore base HMS
Excellent serving in the
Hawkins-class heavy cruiser
HMS Frobisher and return again to HMS Victory 2. He was promoted to
Acting Leading Stoker during this timeframe.
In January 1940, my Granddad joined shore base HMS
Cochrane 2 serving in the destroyer HMS Vega. HMS Vega was an
Admiralty V & W class Destroyer. On the 11 Nov, 1940 HMS Vega was damaged
when she hit a mine near Harwich (off Sunk Head). He remained on HMS Vega
until December 1940.
In the meantime, he had been promoted to Leading
Stoker. He spent the rest of the month in shore base HMS Pembroke 4 serving
on the Hunt-class destroyer HMS Athelstone and joined shore base HMS Victory
3 in mid January 1941. He served at HMS Victory 2 in April and May 1941. The
remainder of the year saw him serve in
The HMS Aurora was a part of Force K, a raiding
squadron of cruisers. Their task was to intercept and destroy German and
Italian convoys en route to Libya. The convoys were supplying Rommel's
Afrika Corp in North Africa with troops and equipment.
Force K was sent out on 18 December to intercept a
convoy bound for Tripoli. HMS Neptune, leading the line, struck two mines,
part of a newly laid Italian minefield, during the night of 19 December/20
December 1941. The other cruisers, the HMS Aurora and HMS Penelope also
struck mines. Reversing out of the minefield, HMS Neptune struck a third
mine, taking off her propellors and leaving her dead in the water.
The HMS Aurora was badly damaged, my grandfather worked
on the engines which had been knocked out by a mine, eventually getting
engines working. The Aurora was down to 10 knots (19 km/h) and needed to
turn back to Malta immediately but the destroyers HMS Kandahar and HMS
Lively were sent into the minefield to attempt a tow.
My Granddad’s actions on the night of 19 December 1941
resulted in the saving of many lives of those who served on the HMS Aurora
as the threat of enemy ships in the area was very real.
He joined the shore base St Angelo, shore base HMS
Talbot in Malta in January 1942.
In June 1942 my Granddad was serving on the submarine
depot ship HMS Medway when she was assisting in the evacuation of troops
from Alexandria. Accompanied by eight destroyers she headed for Haifa. At
08.24 hours on the June 30, 1942 she was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat
U-372. My Granddad climbed down into the water on ropes to his safety. By
the end of World War 2 my Granddad was torpedoed on three separate
Shortly thereafter he was appointed Acting Stoker Petty
Officer (Ty). He returned to shore base HMS Victory 2 in July 1942 and
remained there until July 1944.
While Granddad was assigned to HMS Victory 2 he was
also stationed at shore base HMS Assegai in South Africa. From September
1942 to March 1943 he served on the County-class heavy cruiser HMS
Devonshire. He then served on HMS Laura during March 1943. From March 1943
to January 1944 he served on the submarine depot ship HMS Lucia. He returned
to HMS Assegai in January 1944 to February 1944. Most of this timeframe,
1942 to 1944, was involved in naval operations in the Indian Ocean between
Africa and Australia.
During this timeframe he was promoted to Stoker Petty
Officer (Ty). From July to November 1944 he served at shore base HMS Drake 4
serving on the W-class destroyer HMS Wivern. He then served in shore base
HMS Cochrane 2 until June 1945.
My Granddad served at HMS Victory 2 from June to
December 1945. He was promoted to Stoker Petty Officer during this
timeframe. He then served at HMS Enterprise until January 1946. The
remainder of the year was spent in/at
HMS Ranpura with a short time at HMS Victory 2.
On February 18th, 1947 my Granddad married my Nanna in
My Granddad and
1947 saw him leave HMS Ranpura and serve in/at shore
base HMS Victory 2, shore base HMS Mercury, shore base HMS Victory,
submarine depot ship HMS Resource, shore base HMS Victory and shore base HMS
Fort St Angelo. He was promoted to Petty Officer Stoker Mechanic that same
year. 1948 saw him leave St Angelo and serve in/at submarine depot ship HMS
Forth. He remained at HMS Forth until January 1950. The remainder of 1950
saw him serve at/in Kamarata Barracks and shore base HMS Victory. He became
a Chief Petty Officer Stoker Mechanic during this time frame.
He served most of 1951 in the aircraft carrier HMS
Implacable. He left the ship in late October to join the crew of battleship
HMS Vanguard. He remained with Vanguard until May 1954. He then transferred
to shore base HMS Bellerophon where he remained until December 1956. He had
been promoted to Chief Mechanic (E) during that timeframe.
My Granddad’s next assignment was a two month
assignment to Victory. He then joined the Town-class light cruiser HMS
Newcastle where he remained until October 1958. He was then posted to shore
base HMS Sultan until March 1960. The rest of that year was spent at shore
base HMS Phoenicia in Malta and shore base HMS Victory. He left HMS Victory
in August 1961 and joined HMS Bellerophon. He rejoined Victory in December
1961 and spent his final month of service there.
My Granddad retired from the Royal Navy and was
pensioned on 21 January 1962.
During his naval service, he received the 1939-45 Star,
Atlantic Star (with France & Germany clasp), Africa Star, Pacific Star,
Defence Medal, the War Medal 1939-45 and the Royal Navy Long Service & Good
In 1963 my Granddad and Nanna emigrated to Australia
with their daughter’s Lynda, Julia and Elizabeth residing in South Australia
in the same house to this date.
My Granddad worked at the Holden Vehicle Manufacturing
Plant in Elizabeth up to the late 1970’s managing in the Main Power Plant.
In retirement my Granddad was always busy finding there
was always something to do around the house from complete renovations inside
and outside the house which he continued to do up to when he was in his 90’s
as well as gardening.
My Granddad has three Grandsons, Grant, Dale and
myself, Craig. He has 9 Great Grandchildren, Ashley, Leanne, Joshua, Jeremy,
Aiden, Jamieson, Benjamin, Seth and Slade. And now a new entry a Great Great
Grand Daughter Amelia.
My Granddad’s Naval career is also on the internet on
the website www.hmshood.com under crew biographies.