Brigadier ''Mike'' Wingate Gray, OBE, MC; born July 17, 1921, died November 3, 1995
WITH the death of Mike Wingate Gray, the Black Watch has lost one of its most gallant and illustrious members.
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He was born into a military family, educated at Wellington College, and joined the Black Watch in 1941. He went with the Highland Division to the desert and took part in all its battles from Alamein, through North Africa, Sicily, and North West Europe. During that time he won the Military Cross twice, firstly in Gerbini, in Sicily, where he charged a German machine-gun post standing up in a carrier firing a bren gun from his shoulder.
The second was on in October, 1944, at Dunkirk where he negotiated a ceasefire between the British, German, and French to enable some 20,000 civilians and German wounded to be evacuated.
Apart from his proven gallantry he was a master linguist and could speak Russian, French, and Germany fluently.
His service after the war continued with the Black Watch in Germany and British Guyana, interspersed with staff jobs, one of which was on the staff of Bernard Fergusson during the Suez crisis of 1956.
In 1963 he took the massed band of the Black Watch to tour the US. Shortly after it played on the White House lawn, President Kennedy was assassinated. His widow asked for Black Watch pipers to play at his funeral.
On return from America, he started his service with the SAS, commanding the regiment from 1964 to 1967 with squadrons deployed in Borneo, Aden, and Radfan. For this he was awarded the OBE. He concluded his military career as military attache in Paris after a tour as the deputy fortress commander of Gilbraltar.
He retired in 1973. Apart from being both physically and mentally tough, Mike had enormous charm. He was never too serious and could always see the light side of any crisis. The Jocks all adored him, they knew his reputation and even the most awkward would respond to his leadership.
He led with style, totally unpompously, and by example. He loved a party and alcohol appeared to have no effect on him. His enormous popularity won him many friends from all walks of life.
After retirement, he dabbled in boat-building and for a time worked for a security firm providing protection for VIPs. But his real passion was sailing. For many years he kept a boat in the Mediterranean and he knew all the best watering-holes around its rim.
He was a great supporter of everything to do with the Black Watch and could always be seen at reunions and dinners. He took part in the 50th anniversary VJ Day parade in London, albeit in a wheelchair. By then his health was failing despite major heart surgery some years ago.
To everyone in the Black Watch and the SAS he was a friend. He had no enemies and I never heard anyone speak ill of him. The world seems a poorer and duller place without him.
* Appreciation by Col Robert Gurdon, regimental secretary, the Black Watch.