Lt Gen Sir Michael Gray

LIEUTENANT General Sir Michael Gray, who has died aged 78, had a military career which took him to almost every post-war hot spot involving the British Army, including Suez (Operation Musketeer) Malaya (the Emergency), Cyprus (the EOKA campaign), Aden (campaign for independence) and Northern Ireland. By the time he retired he had made 1,000 parachute jumps.

He was the last Commander – in 1977 – of 16th Parachute Brigade, and from 1990 to 1993 was Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment. In 1994 he was awarded the Légion d’honneur.

A Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire, Sir Michael had been chairman of the Airborne Assault Normandy Trust since 1972, and he was Lieutenant of the Tower of London from 1995 to 1998.

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His father had served in the Royal Navy, dying in 1940 – Michael aged seven – when his ship caught fire after it had rammed a German U-boat.

Michael went to Beverley Grammar School for two years, then won a maths scholarship to Christ’s Hospital in Horsham, the famous “Blue Coats school,” where he proved himself to be an all-rounder in the classroom and on the games field.

He left in 1950 to be a gunner in 5 Royal Horse artillery. He studied at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and was commissioned in 1953.

After his extensive experience in numerous theatres of conflict, he wrote of war that it is the “only time when you can cut through red tape and get on with the job; a time for quick, instinctive decisions based on experience and judgment”.

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In 1958 he married Juliette Noon to whom he had been introduced by a mutual friend.

He very much enjoyed being a deputy Sheriff of Calhoun County, Alabama, an appointment dating from 1980 when he was military attaché in Washington.

He had been there a year, and in 1981, when he was promoted to major general, he was made defence attaché.

In 1984, he was made Chief of Staff of the British Army of the Rhine at Rheindahlen. He was knighted on becoming a lieutenant general in 1986, when he returned to the UK as GOC South East England and Commander of Joint Forces HQ at Aldershot. He retired from the Army in 1982.

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After his retirement, he took an MBA at London University and then joined Wardle Storeys Plc, working with the Airborne Systems Division as defence industries adviser.

In 1991 he became one of five honorary Life Brothers of Hull Trinity House, and in 1996 he was made a Deputy Lieutenant of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

A patron of the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington, he was involved in a wide range of organisations, usually in senior positions, and was also a member and vice-president of Beverley Civic Society.

Highly practical, able to turn his hand to anything, throughout his life he was an enthusiastic gardener, and typically, was both skilful and very knowledgeable. Meticulous, precise and direct, he was a man who did nothing by half measures.

Lt Gen Sir Michael Gray is survived by his children Simon, Patrick, and Elizabeth, and one granddaughter.