A clasp inscribed “Orange Free State” will be granted to all troops in Orange River Colony at any time between February 28th, 1900, and a date to be hereafter fixed, who received no clasp which has been already specified for an action in the Orange River Colony.
OBE 1st, civil;
QSA (1) OFS (Lieut. G. D. Gray, O.R.C. Prov. M.P.);
KSA (2) (Major G. D. Gray, S.A.C.);
KPM GV (Geo. D. Gray. Sub - Commr., O.R.C. Police.)
OBE London Gazette 27 June 1919: 'For War Services rendered at Cape Town during the late European War.'
KPM London Gazette 3 January 1911. A contemporary source states: 'For a specially distinguished record in administrative police service, and success in organising Police Forces and maintaining their organisation under special difficulty.'
George Douglas Gray was born on 16 July 1870, the son of the Reverend J. H. Gray, M.A., Vicar of Keynsham, Somerset. His father was well-known in England in connection with the Indian Missions of the Church and in wider circles, being as much an astute lawyer as he was a clergyman.
Young George studied at King William's College on the Isle of Man, an institution which was funded by the Bishop Barrow Trust with the aim of educating prospective clergy, before beginning his working life in a Corn Merchant's Office in Bristol in 1886.
Spitalfields and the 'Ripper'
On the death of his father, Gray decided to attend the University of London to study for the Ministry, and upon graduation he was given a title to the Parish of Spitalfields by the Bishop of London, in what is present day Tower Hamlets.
During the Victorian era, the silk industry entered a long decline and the old merchant dwellings had degenerated into multi-occupied slums. Spitalfields became a by-word for urban deprivation, and, by 1832, concern over a London cholera epidemic led The Poor Man's Guardian (18 February 1832) to write of Spitalfields:
'The low houses are all huddled together in close and dark lanes and alleys, presenting at first sight an appearance of non-habitation, so dilapidated are the doors and windows (that) in every room of the houses, whole families, parents, children and aged grandfathers swarm together.'
By the late 1880's, little had changed. According to The Critic, 9 December 1901:
'Here he was brought into contact with criminals of the deepest dye, and the successful manner in which he carries out the duties of his difficult office, may be traced to the excellent opportunities he then had of studying human nature at its most debased form. Almost every woman in the Parish was an unfortunate, and every man a criminal. It was during the time that Mr. Gray occupied this position that 'Jack the Ripper' committed three murders in the Parish.'
The murders of Annie Chapman and Mary Jane Kelly and the attack on Annie Farmer who went by a variety of nicknames such as 'Flossie', 'Tilly', 'Dark Sarah' and 'Laughing Liz', made Spitalfields a challenging place to Minister. On 25 February 1888, Annie Millward of Spitalfield Chambers, 8 White's Row, Spitalfields, was admitted to the Whitechapel Workhouse Infirmary:
'It appears the deceased was admitted to the Whitechapel Infirmary suffering from numerous stabs in the legs and lower part of the body. She stated that she had been attacked by a man who she did not know, and who stabbed her with a clasp knife which he took from his pocket. No one appears to have seen the attack, and as far as at present ascertained there is only the woman's statement to bear out the allegations of an attack, though that she had been stabbed cannot be denied.'
With three 'Ripper' victims within the immediate environs of his area of Ministry, it seems likely that Gray was in one form or another closely associated with those grim events. Indeed it was perhaps in consequence of the same events that he chose to move on to pastures new on passing his final Ordination Examination - he enrolled at Durham University for a higher degree. However, once at Durham, it appears that his 'constitution gave way,' and he decided in 1897 to travel to South Africa in search of better health and a fresh start, this time working as a correspondent for several English papers and one of the Rand dailies.
South Africa - military policeman
With the commencement of the Boer War imminent, Gray received a timely warning of a warrant having been issued for his arrest as a spy, and he was able to escape to the Cape Colony where he became an Officer in the Military Police. He came up with the Naval Brigade to Modder River, and arrived at Bloemfontein just one day after the battle of Magersfontein, to take up a role attached to the Staff of the Military Governor with charge of the Civil Police. It was here that Lieutenant Gray maintained Martial Law and acted as a buffer between the military and civilians: 'His tall, spare figure and anxious face were well known to everyone in those never-to-be-forgotten days of passes and permits' (ibid).
It was also at this time that Gray used his experience and good judgment to maintain the new and highly efficient Bloemfontein Mounted Police and foster stability and the rule of law as much as possible:
'It is worthy of note - and I get this from both sides - that at a time when hundreds of Boer prisoners were passing through his hands, while most Englishmen were making enemies, he was making friends. On one occasion, when a party of Boer prisoners were being brought into town, several of the natives of Waaihoek began to jeer at them as they passed the location. Lieutenant Gray jumped off his horse, and with the serviceable sjambok, meted out some wholesome chastisement.'
With the cessation of hostilities, Gray continued in his role as Commissioner of Municipal Police for the Orange River Colony and decided to start a Police Fire Brigade at Bloemfontein. His example was followed in other Free State towns, having met with the requirements for fire safety at a comparatively small cost.
Following the merger of the Municipal Police with the South African Constabulary, and the successful creation of a Finger Print Bureau in 1908, and a diamond industry protection force, Major Gray was called upon by General Hertzog, the Attorney General of the Orange River Constabulary, to lead the re-organisation of the entire force. This he completed with huge success and, in May 1913, he was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Cape Western Division of the newly created South African Police. As an example of his forward-thinking nature, women police officers were quickly introduced to deal with social 'evils' and for the protection of juveniles.
During the Great War, Gray became a familiar figure at Cape Town, where the police under his command played an important part in maintaining order and assisting the Naval and Military Authorities; it was about this time that he would relive his past Boer War actions, this time displaying a firm hand not to civilians, but to those whom he commanded, in order to maintain discipline and stability:
'On 31 December 1917, the police in Cape Town posed a problem. In the afternoon, approximately 100 policemen turned out in front of Colonel Theodorus Truter, Chief Commissioner of the South African Police, and Colonel Douglas Gray. It was not an occasion for cheery words or remaining festive handshakes. For these men were refusing to work. Truter, with a customary flat-eyed policeman's distaste for unanticipated burdens, warned of severe consequences if duties were not carried out, (ibid).
That evening, and for the next 14 days, one fifth of the total compliment of around 500 policemen went on strike over pay. Strikers were placed on open arrest and the judiciary became nervous as sympathisers threatened to prolong the cause; on 9 January, amid mounting concern about order and discipline, a worried Magistrate sentenced Constable Johannes de Kock and 84 other policemen to three months with hard labour or a £20 fine, suspending enforcement for three months on condition that they return to their duties. They did, their example followed by the remaining strikers, who, pleading guilty to breaking police regulations, quickly returned to their beats.
'This showed,' declared a now relieved Gray, 'these ill-educated Constables were not altogether fools.'
In January 1919, he transferred to Marshall Square, Johannesburg, as Head of the C.I.D. in the Transvaal, becoming Deputy Commissioner C.I.D. for the Union of Pretoria the year after. It was then that he completely re-modelled the Detective Organisation in South Africa along the lines of Scotland Yard, adding a decentralised system suited to local requirements.
In April 1928, Gray was transferred from the C.I.D. to a new post with the purpose of dealing with the organisation of the South African Police with regards to cost effectiveness. Sadly, the post was abolished a mere eight months later and he decided to take retirement after 28 years' service. A special ceremony was held for his retirement at the Commissioner's Office where Gray was able to address those who had served so ably under him:
"I thank you very much indeed for these beautiful presents, and much more for the kindly thought that prompted them. I am really sorry to leave the South African Police, and not to have had the privilege of helping Colonel De Villiers - even for a short time in that difficult and important work he has recently undertaken. Under a new regime, however, it is usual to introduce new blood and new ideas, and when I see all around me the experienced and capable hands at his service, I am sure his task will be an easy and successful one. I shall always be proud of having served with the South African Police."
On retiring, Gray became General Secretary of the Public Servants' Association of South Africa. He died on 15 October 1931, leaving a widow, formerly Miss Grace Kemsley, of Port Elizabeth, and a son, Audrey, who was at University in England at the time of his passing; sold with share certificates and documentation relating to the Panama Canal, copied service record, contemporary newspaper articles including obituary notices, and an extract from The Journal of African History, Bill Nasser, University of Cape Town, 1992.
The recipient's miniature dress medals include the QSA with clasps for Relief of Kimberley, Driefontein and Paardeberg.