Newspaper Article 1939 – Flying Twins from a Gisborne Family

Flying Twins from a Gisborne Family

Amazing Feat of Airmanship by One in War Adventure

By the Gisborne Correspondent of the “New Zealand Free Lance.”

RECENTLY in the news was a pilot described as “a Gisborne schoolmaster,” who performed an amazing feat of airmanship by flying his ’plane back from a R.A.F. flight over north-western Germany with most of the fabric torn from the wings by an explosion while the machine was flying at an altitude of 2,000 feet.

Some difficulty was experienced in tracing the identity of the pilot, as there was no record of any member of the teaching profession having enlisted while he was residing in Gisborne.

However, a cabled remark made by the pilot gave a clue to his identity. It is believed that the hero of this feat is Pilot-Officer Kenneth Gray, who was a schoolteacher before he entered the Royal Air Force. He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. R. L. Gray, Gisborne, but he severed his connection with the teaching profession to take up the airman’s life while he was in Wanganui.


It was really the word “nitwits” which gave the clue to his identity. According to the cabled report of the exploit, the ’plane went into a dizzy spiral dive, following the explosion, before it was checked. The pilot was quoted as saying: “We would have been nitwits to let her fall into the sea after pulling her out of that drop through space.”

The word “nitwits” was a favourite one with Kenneth Gray. This, combined with the fact that he was formerly a schoolteacher and that, though he enlisted from Wanganui, his parents are living in Gisborne, suggests that he is the hero of the exploit. Anyway, the description fits nobody else connected with Gisborne.


Kenneth Gray is a twin. The other twin is also in the Royal Air Force as Pilot-Officer Colin Gray. Kenneth joined the Royal Air Force two years ago when he was teaching at St. George’s School, Wanganui. Colin also applied for entry into the R.A.F. at the same time. He was with a mercantile firm in Napier. At the time, however, he was turned down, but so keen was he to follow the air as a career that he went on to a sheep-farm for the purpose of building up his health so that he might qualify. He was classed as fit about a year ago and went to England to join his brother. They both made good progress, Kenneth being drafted to a bomber squadron and Colin to the fighter section.

The flying twins held for a long time the ambition to become air-pilots, and they secured their first inspiration during one of the visits of the late Sir Charles Kingsford Smith. Both had joy-rides in “Smithy’s” Southern Cross, and formed the ambition of being able to handle an aeroplane as skilfully as “Smithy”

Photo caption – Flying twins of a Gisborne family: Pilot-Officers Kenneth Gray (left) and Colin Gray, both of the Royal Air Force. It is believed that Kenneth Gray is the hero of the amazing feat of flying his ’plane back from a flight over north-western Germany with most of the fabric torn from the wings.

Original digital file



  • Pilot-Officer Colin Gray
  • Pilot-Officer Kenneth Gray
  • R L Gray
  • Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith

Date published

13 December 1939

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Additional information

Great-great-grandsons of Archbishop William Williams whose daughter, Emma Caroline was William Nelson’s second wife


New Zealand Free Lance

Accession number


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