Stories of Remembrance

Navy, Second World War (1939-45)Commander Robert Gray DSO,Royal Australian Navy

He has shown himself to be undeterred by misfortune, ready & quick to improvise & of outstanding coolness, determination & courage under stress. Never defeated & never loses heart.
Gray's commanding officer, Captain Sir Philip Bowyer-Smyth, RN, September 1941

Commander Robert Gray was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for bravery and enterprise whilst serving in HMAS Perth during the battle of Matapan, on 28 March 1941, an action for which he had earlier received a Mention in Despatches.

During the battle, Perth, part of the 7th Cruiser Squadron, Royal Navy, encountered superior Italian naval forces. The squadron commander Vice-Admiral Pridham-Wippell retired at full speed towards a larger Royal Navy fleet, hoping to draw the enemy into a trap.

The plan required the squadron to proceed at maximum speed while making a thick smoke screen to cover ships from heavy enemy fire. Commander Gray, the Chief Engineer in Perth was able to maintain a smokescreen while simultaneously extracting 17,000 horsepower above the engine’s designed maximum.

Perth was in Australian waters when Japan entered the war in December. Sent to help in the defence of Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies in February 1942, she was sunk off Java, at the northern entrance to Sunda Strait, on 1 March. Gray was officially declared missing, presumed drowned.

His medals are on display in the Gallery of Medals.

This Story of Remembrance was compiled through the research of the Exhibitions and Collections team at the Shrine of Remembrance.

  • Name Robert Gray
  • Date of Birth 26 June 1902
  • Place of Birth South Melbourne, Victoria
  • Date of Enlistment 31 December 1915
  • Date of Death 01 March 1942
  • Place of Death at sea

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