David Peter Gray

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David Peter Gray
Personal Information
Date of Birth 8 Feb 1923
Place of Birth Katanning, Western Australia
Age at Enlistment 17 years, 11 months
Description 5'7" (1.70m) tall ; ; Sallow complexion ; blue eyes ; light brown hair
Occupation Labourer
Religion Church of England
Address Albany road, Kelmscott, Western Australia
Next of Kin Father , Mr Charles Gray
Military Information
Reg Number F3333
Date of Enlistment 27 Jan 1941
Rank Able Seaman
Ships Served On
Ship Name HMAS Perth
Tour Dates 12 Aug 1941 ‒ 1 Mar 1942
Return to Australia
Journey Dates 14 Sep 1945
Transport Details plane Singapore to Labuan
Journey Dates 26 Sep 1945 ‒ 11 Oct 1945
Transport Details AHS2 Wanganella Labuan to Sydney
Post War Details
Fate POW 1 Mar 1942
Returned to Australia
External Monument(s) The Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Ballarat, Victoria
Medals 1939-45 Star
Pacific Star
War Medal 1939-45
Australian Service Medal 1939-45

War Service

Mobilised on 27 Jan 1941 at HMAS Leeuwin in Fremantle, and trained in the WA based section of HMAS Cerberus where he qualified in seamanship (8 Aug 1941) and gunnery (18 Jul 1941). Initial enlistment was for three years, and on 12 Aug 1941 he joined the crew of HMAS Perth as an Ordinary Seaman Grade II.

When David joined HMAS Perth she was engaged in convoy escort duties around the Australian coast until at the request of the US she was sent to what is now Indonesia. On 31 Jan 1942 Perth sailed from Sydney, reaching Fremantle on 10 February. On 8 Feb 1942 David was promoted to Acting Able Seaman. On 15 Feb 1942, relieved HMAS Adelaide as ocean escort for the convoy of four empty oil tankers and two cargo vessels (designated Convoy MS4) on a mission to claim as much oil from the Netherlands East Indies as possible before the Japanese invaded. With the fall of Singapore the convoy was recalled with the exception of HMAS Perth and SS Jacob.

Having escorted a convoy south to a point 700 nautical miles from Fremantle, HMAS Perth returned to Tanjong Priok (port for Batavia), arriving there during an air attack on 24 Feb 1942. The next day HMAS Perth and four British naval vessels sailed for Surabaya at the eastern end of Java to join a larger US fleet. Having received reports that a Japanese invasion force comprising eight cruisers, twelve destroyers and thirty transports were heading for Surabaya, the Joint US fleet sailed to meet them. HMAS Perth and the US Houston were the only allied ships to survive the engagement that followed, known as the Battle of the Java Sea. Returning to Tanjong Priok in an attempt to refuel and rearm, they then sailed for Tjilatjap via the Sunda Strait.

Led to believe that there were no Japanese ships in the area, HMAS Perth sighted a Japanese destroyer and engaged her. Almost immediately numerous Japanese ships surrounded the two allied ships and a lengthy battle ensued. With ammunition running out, HMAS Perth attempted to force her way free but was hit by four torpedos and received further shell fire. HMAS Perth sank 25 minutes after midnight on 1 Mar 1942. 353 men were killed, and 4 more died after being rescued. Of the 324 survivors, 106 died as POWs, and 218, including David were repatriated after the war.

Transferred from Thailand to Malaya by the Japanese on 25 Jan 1945, on 14 Sep 1945 David was admitted to the 2/4th Australian General Hospital on Labuan having been airlifted there from Singapore. On 26 Sep 1945 he boarded AHS2 Wanganella and arrived back in Australia on 11 Oct 1945, where he was taken on strength by HMAS Penguin in Sydney. On 22 Nov 1945 he was at HMAS Lonsdale in Melbourne, before being admitted to 115th Australian General Hospital at Heidelberg receiving treatment. On 22 Jan 1946 David was taken on strength by HMAS Leeuwin, while undergoing further recovery treatment from his time as a POW.

As a result of his health arising from his time in captivity, David elected to take his discharge from the Navy, and was discharged on 12 Jul 1946 with a pension of 10/- per fortnight.

Post War

During 1948 David married Betty Johnston.

Electoral Roll entries: 1949 at Fulham street south Belmont, carpenter; 1954 - 1968 at 20 Baldwin street South Perth; 1972 - 1980 at Unit 6/9 Fisher road, Darlington, supervisor.


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