Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (8 December 2016)

Date of Auction: 8th December 2016

Sold for £2,400

Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200

A good 1943 Second War ‘Mediterranean Operations’ D.F.C. group of eight awarded to Beaufighter Pilot, Flight Lieutenant W. Y. McGregor, 227 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force, who was accredited with victories on land, sea and in the air, before being killed in action on a sortie to Kos, 2 September 1943

Distinguished Flying Cross, G.VI.R., reverse officially dated ‘1943’; 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; New Zealand Service Medal 1939-45; New Zealand Memorial Cross, G.VI.R. (NZ 412789 F/L W. Y. McGregor DFC) lacquered overall, very fine (8) £1800-2200


D.F.C. London Gazette 10 September 1943:

‘In operations in the Middle East this officer has obtained notable successes. On one occasion he attacked a medium sized ship with cannon fire, setting drums of petrol alight while on another occasion, in July, 1943, he successfully bombed another vessel of similar tonnage, causing its destruction. On other sorties, Flying Officer McGregor has destroyed one Junkers 52 and shared in destruction of another. In addition, he has executed destructive attacks on rail and road transport. his sound judgement, great skill and keeness have set a worthy example.’

Walter Young McGregor was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, in November 1916. He was educated at Dunedin Technical College and Otago Boys High School, before being employed as a carpenter. He enlisted for aircrew training with the Royal New Zealand Air Force in April 1941. McGregor carried out his initial training at No. 4 E.F.T.S., Whenuapai, before embarking for Canada in August 1941 as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme.

Upon arrival in Canada, McGregor trained as a Pilot at No. 2 F.T.S., Uplands, Ottawa. He obtained his ‘Wings’, 21 November 1941, and was commissioned Pilot Officer. He spent the remainder of 1941 at various postings in Canada, awaiting embarkation to the United Kingdom. McGregor arrived in the UK in March 1942, and was posted to 2 O.T.U. at Catfoss the following month. Whilst at the latter he completed his training in Beaufighters.

McGregor volunteered for overseas posting, and proceeded to Malta in September 1942. He was posted for operational flying to 227 (Beaufighters) at Luqa. The squadron had a long-range fighter role and were mainly employed on offensive sweeps and convoy escort duties in the Mediterranean and the Aegean areas. McGregor, who flew in at least 45 of such sorties with the squadron, quickly climbed up the promotion ladder advancing to Flying Officer and then Flight Lieutenant by June 1943. He quickly started making his presence felt, as New Zealanders with the Royal Air Force by Thompson records:

‘Spectacular success against shipping carrying supplies to the Dodecanese Islands was scored by Beaufighters of No. 227 Squadron commanded by Wing Commander R. M. MacKenzie. In one five month period under his leadership, squadron crews sank or probably sank 49 merchant ships and caiques totalling 9,300 tonnes and damaged 63 vessels of more than 17,400 tons. Flying Officer W. Y. McGregor and Flight Sergeant Shattky were two New Zealander Beaufighter pilots particularly successful in offensive sweeps over the Aegean. On one occasion McGregor attacked a 2,000 ton ship with cannon, setting drums of petrol on fire, which finally resulted in the vessel sinking, while Shattky scored a direct hit on a caique and blew the frail craft to pieces.’

McGregor was killed in action on an operational sortie to Kos, 2 September 1943. The aircraft was seen to strike the mast of a caique, and exploded on striking the sea. He was classified as ‘Missing’, with the award of his D.F.C. being gazetted eight days later. In February 1944 information was received from Wing Commander Collard, British Camp Leader at Stalag Luft III, on behalf of Acting Flight Lieutenant C.E. Turner:

‘F/O Turner states: While carrying out an attack on an enemy ship off the island of Kos his pilot F/Lt. W. Y. McGregor was killed by A.A. fire and the aircraft crashed into the mast of the ship. McGregor was buried at Kos.’

R. M. MacKenzie, Squadron Leader (I/C) of 227 Squadron, later wrote (letter included with lot):

‘The history of 227 Squadron before I joined it was that they operated from Malta and after a hectic period, what was left of it came to the Middle East (Edku Aerodrome - about 30 miles east of Alexandria) to rest and retrain. McGregor was one of about ten crews to come from Malta. I do not know how long he had been operating with them but he was one of the more experienced pilots and was great assistance to me in reforming the squadron. I joined the squadron at Edku on 3 February 1943 as their CO.

Our first operational task was in the Aegean Sea to stop supplies getting to the islands and we operated mainly from Derna. We moved to Tripoli to give it air cover to the convoys during the invasion of Sicily - returned to Derna for a short time before going to Cyprus to cover the abortive assault of Kos. It was during these operations that McGregor and his navigator went missing.

You will see from these details that McGregor spent most of his operational flights attacking defended targets at low level. Regarding the merchant vessel he sank - he in fact dropped 2 x 250 lb bombs on it.’

McGregor flew 468 hours as a pilot before his luck ran out. He is buried in the Kos Military Cemetery. His brother Pilot Officer J. D. McGregor was also killed in action serving with the R.A.F. during the Second War.

Sold with original letter from Squadron Leader R. M. MacKenzie, dated 29 April 1989; copied research and a photographic image of recipient in uniform.