WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2006-01 > 1138539446
From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: BRAY: Francis Arthur Michael Bray--d.12/6/2004>UK
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 2006 12:57:26 -0000
The Daily Telegraph and the telegraph.co.uk
Michael Bray, who has died aged 83, was one of the youngest motor gun boat
(MGB) commanders in the Second World War, monitoring German activity in the
His first experience of being under fire was while riding as a spare CO in
Lieutenant Dicky Richards's MGB 110 when it surprised a German E-boat about
to lay mines off Dover. As Richards drew alongside and opened fire at close
range, Bray found himself on the boat's after deck firing a Lewis gun from
the hip. He realised that, far from being paralysed with fear, he was
"shouting and experiencing savage elation and a sense of relief".
Bray was later in command of MGB 113, based at Dover, when, on the night of
March 11-12 1943, an urgent message about a merchant ship leaving Boulogne
was received. A flotilla of MGBs and motor torpedo boats (MTBs) sailed at
once and, despite the quarry and its strong escort being alerted by an
attack by Fleet Air Arm Albacores, the MTBs closed silently to 700 yards to
launch their torpedoes.
They were rewarded by a loud explosion and a huge column of water as the
4,000-ton Dalila blew up. The heavy land batteries at Dover and on the
French coast joined in the fight, the night sky erupting with tracer fire
and starshell. All the MGBs were hit; but, in a co-ordinated manoeuvre, Bray
closed to distract enemy fire while his boats withdrew. When MGB 113 was
hit, a gunner was killed; but Bray succeeded in returning to harbour.
On the night of his 22nd birthday, Bray commanded one of Lieutenant Peter
Dickens's three boats of 9th MGB Flotilla which surprised three German flak
(anti-aircraft) trawlers off Nieuport, Belgium. Sweeping towards the enemy
at high speed and in a very close line-ahead, the MGBs fired their
broadsides with lethal effect, leaving their selected target stationary and
Bray was ordered to board and take prisoners, and his Australian first
lieutenant, Sub-Lieutenant Bill Fesq, quickly returned with signal and code
books, and a swastika ensign. Anxious to cover what they had done by sinking
the trawler, Bray then took MGB 113 alongside and dropped a depth charge,
lashed to an oil drum to slow its descent. Once he had released the charge
he roared off "like a scalded cat" on full power.
The explosion came all too quickly; the trawler's back was broken and she
sank without trace - but Bray was safe, though MGB 113 required major
repairs. He was awarded the DSC.
Francis Arthur Michael Bray was born on April 4 1921 into a family of
Spitafields silk merchants of Huguenot descent. Young Michael was educated
at Charterhouse, where he heard terrible stories from the masters about the
trenches on the Western Front, and consequently vowed never to join the
His three brothers and one of his sisters went up to Cambridge; but although
Michael was offered a place, it was obvious that war was imminent, and he
joined the RNVR as an ordinary seaman. After training at Butlin's Holiday
Camp at Skegness, he served in the destroyers Electra and Wild Swan on
Atlantic convoy duties, qualifying as an Asdic operator before being
commissioned in 1940.
Bray's first command was MGB 42, operating from Ramsgate. He reckoned that
"discipline was not my strongest feature, but I enjoyed good luck"; and his
early months in coastal forces were characterised by several collisions,
groundings and other accidents from which he escaped unharmed and without
By 1943 Bray was, by his own admission, getting stale in coastal forces. He
joined the destroyer Undaunted in which, on June 7 1944 (D-Day plus one), he
helped rescue General Eisenhower and Admiral Ramsay, whose flagship, the
fast minelayer Apollo, had run aground and lost her propellers off the
Normandy beaches. Bray celebrated VJ day at sea in the British Pacific
He passed up the chance of going up to Cambridge and joined his father in
the Lloyd's broking company, Bray Gibb, in 1947. The family firm merged with
Stewart Wrightson in the late 1960s, and he became chairman of the Lloyd's
Insurance Brokers' Association. Later he moved to Bermuda, where he was
active in the formation of the reinsurance market.
Bray retired to Jost van Dyke, one of the British Virgin Islands, where a
romantic and idyllic life was ended by a local arsonist who burnt his house
down. Having moved to Montserrat, his life was again shattered when, in
1996, the island's volcano erupted with the result that, although houses
were safe, all the island's facilities were destroyed. Finally he settled at
Gers in south-west France.
He owned several boats, which he kept at Bosham in Sussex, as well as a
Greek motor-sailer, based at Piraeus. He also sailed the Lloyd's Yacht
Club's Lutine on the Newport to Bermuda race. Throughout the war Bray
collected photographs taken by others and evaded the censor to send vivid
letters to his parents, on which he later based his wartime memoir, One
Young Man's War (1993). He wrote three other books: A Charterhouse
Miscellany: 1939-1999; and two volumes of The Girandot Family, the story of
his mother's Huguenot ancestors.
Michael Bray died on June 12. His first wife was Victoria Seely, whom he
married in 1954. The marriage was dissolved in 1975, and in the same year he
married, secondly, Paula Cregan (née Brandon). Both survive him with a son
and two daughters from his first marriage and one stepson. A stepdaughter
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2006.
|BRAY: Francis Arthur Michael Bray--d.12/6/2004>UK by "Peter McCrae" <>|