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Aviation museum in North Saanich unveils monument to B.C. pilot killed in Second World War

A monument outside the B.C. Aviation Museum in North Saanich will finally have its moment in the spotlight.

Originally set to be unveiled in 2020, the monument honours the only B.C. pilot and the last Canadian to be awarded the Victoria Cross, Lt. Robert Hampton Gray VC DSC.

The memorial stands at the entrance to the museum near the Victoria International Airport.

At the outbreak of the war, “Hammy” Gray, who was born in Trail and attended school in Nelson, was completing his studies at the University of British Columbia when he enrolled in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve as an ordinary seaman. Selected for pilot training, he earned his wings and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant and served on naval aircraft carriers in both the Atlantic and Pacific, according to the museum.

RELATED: New monument outside BC Aviation Museum honours fallen pilot

Gray was “mentioned in dispatches … a daring attack on the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944 and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for aiding in sinking a Japanese destroyer in the area of Tokyo on July 28, 1945. On Aug. 9, 1945, he led an attack on Japanese ships in Onagawa Bay. Hit by anti-aircraft fire, he released his bomb to sink the destroyer Amakusa before his plane crashed into the bay.”

He was 27.

One of the last Canadians to die in the Second World War, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

On Aug. 9, 1989, the Japanese dedicated a memorial to Gray that overlooked the bay where his remains lie. It is the only monument to a former enemy ever erected in Japan.

The monument at the B.C. Aviation Museum was to be dedicated on Aug. 9, 2020, the 75th anniversary of Gray’s death, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed construction and prohibited public gatherings.

The monument will be unveiled Sunday, Aug. 8 at 10:30 a.m. The consul-general for Japan is expected to attend, along with members of Gray’s descended family and military officials.

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c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca

Peninsula News Staff

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