Wing Commander Oswald Gordon Gregson



Oswald Gordon Gregson was born on 25 February 1896 at Hatcham, New Cross, London, one of two children of photographer Oswald Gregson and his wife Frances (nee Clark). In the first decade of the new century the family moved to Belfast. By 1911 the parents and their surviving child (Oswald) were living at 45 Colenso Parade, the father working as a photographic operator.

Gregson enlisted in the North Irish Horse between 11 and 30 December 1914 (No.1361 – later Corps of Hussars No.71352). One report (below) states that he saw "considerable" service in France, but I have not been able to verify this. Nonetheless, he rose to the rank of squadron sergeant-major (warrant officer Class 2).

In 1917 he applied for a commission in the Royal Flying Corps. After training as a flight cadet, on 4 June 1918 he was appointed 2nd lieutenant in the Flying Branch of the Royal Air Force.

On 19 July 1918 Gregson married Mary Evelyn Purdy. The Belfast Weekly Telegraph reported:

A pretty wedding took place at All Souls' Church, Belfast, on Friday, when Lieutenant O. G. Gregson, Royal Air Force, son of Mr. Oswald Gregson, of Belfast, was united in matrimony to Evelyn, second daughter of Mr. Hugh Purdy, Camden Street (late of Holywood). Revs. T. Tilson (Greyabbey) and E. C. Pickering performed the ceremony. The bridegroom, who was at Greenmount Agricultural College, Antrim, before the war, enlisted in the North Irish Horse in 1915 [sic], and rose to the rank of sergeant-major, from which he was promoted to a commission in the air force. He has seen considerable service in France.

Soon after his marriage, Gregson embarked for overseas service.

After the war ended he served with the Royal Air Force in the Middle East. He was mentioned in despatches:

...for distinguished service rendered during active operations in Iraq during 1920-21.

On 30 June 1922 he was promoted from the rank of flying officer to flight lieutenant.

Gregson was placed on the retired list (at his own request) on 18 November 1928 and the following month left England for Fremantle, Australia, with his wife and their three sons.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 Gregson re-joined the Royal Air Force. He was serving at Air Headquarters, Singapore, as squadron leader commanding a transit camp, when the city fell to the Japanese in February 1942. He was held as a prisoner of war until 1945. Soon after this he was appointed acting wing commander.

On 1 October 1946 Gregson was awarded an Order of the British Empire (Officer of the Military Division):

... in recognition of gallant and distinguished services rendered whilst prisoners of war in Japanese hands.

He died on 13 August 1979 and is buried at Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth, Western Australia.


Gregson's son Michael Oswald Gregson, born on 15 February 1923, served in World War 2 as an ordinary seaman in the Royal Australian Navy. He died on 20 November 1941 when HMAS Sydney was sunk by the German raider Kormoran in the Indian Ocean with the loss of all hands (645), Australia's worst naval disaster.


The West Australian, 20 July 1949


First image sourced from the State Library of Western Australia.