Anyone who has been part of the military vehicles world for any length of time will be instantly familiar with the name Peter Gray.
Founder of the Military Vehicle Conservation Group (MVCG), which later became the Military Vehicle Trust (MVT), Peter is the man who really started the military vehicle hobby during the 1970’s and was the organiser of the first military vehicle tours to Normandy in 1974. These wonderful trips inspired groups to begin both here on the Continent and in the USA, lots of the European groups affiliated to the MVCG. Later tours included Paris, Arnhem and the Ardennes.
Having spent his childhood on Jersey during the occupation, Peter developed something of a reputation as a rebel! As a young teenager he and his friends spent time wandering the isle looking for ammunition and dynamite to make fireworks with. Known as “Der Junger”, as the Germans didn’t know his name just that he was trouble! The “Wanted” poster for him is on display in the Jersey Occupation Museum.
Peter stood up to the occupation with acts of sabotage. Caught twice and ultimately sent to the Jersey Home for Boys for a short while until he was 15, Peter was then ordered to report to Field Command to start working in the German armoury – in theory to keep him out of mischief! Working with the electrician, a German Corporal, one of his jobs was to maintain the underground range. A haven for a young boy with an interest in guns, Peter was often allowed to fire a few rounds as a treat.
Finally arrested by the Germans for attempting to dynamite a shop, he was denounced by a friend under interrogation and sent to prison by the Germans in 1943 aged just 15. In prison he shared a cell with a Russian named Viktor whom he helped escape by drawing a map of the town. The Germans later told him Viktor had been captured and shot, but this was not true as some years later Peter met a lady on Jersey who had sheltered Viktor for six weeks before moving him on.
Returning with his family to England after the war, Peter developed an interest in Harley Davidsons. This lead him to a Jeep which he bought that took him years to finish – the work was obviously worth it though as he kept it for 49 years. Peter then set up his own business buying and selling ex-Government vehicles from France, which ultimately started his collecting. People started asking where they could get their own vehicles and so a small group of people with the same interest started the MVCG - which started with just 21 members and now as the MVT has over 7,000.
Peter had many stories, including the time he spent 10-weeks living in a Bedford QL while he extricated an M10 from Pounds yard in Portsmouth. He had known about the vehicle for a while – the only one left with an engine in it. Pounds had been selling off the GM diesel engines to go in yachts. He went back several times to ask about it and each time the price went up. The final time his then wife told him to just buy it, before the price went up again! Pounds gave him a key to the yard and, with the help of friends including the late Warwick Offredi and Chris Davies, the engine was stripped out, brakes chiselled off; the M10 was repaired and put back together. When it debuted at the MVCG Thruxton show it was difficult to believe what he had done in 3 months.
Peter was always very surprised by the price of military vehicles these days: “It’s beyond belief” he once said, adding “I wish I’d kept some more!” He was also amazed at the massive interest in military vehicles, something he never predicted when the small group of enthusiasts got together in Worthing.
His passion didn’t stop at Harleys and military vehicles, he was a serious railway enthusiast and lived in an old station at Caligny in France. He had a French railway drivers qualification and was heavily involved in a railway preservation society – sadly the day he died he was due to host a railway event at his station.
Peter’s legacy is truly enormous – a worldwide hobby now enjoyed by thousands of enthusiasts who have an understanding of the debt we owe to the WW2 Generation – of which he was part.
So Peter - All this fun we have with military vehicles and the friendships made through it - was your fault!
Peter died peacefully on October 4th 2015 after a long illness, in his beloved Normandy.
PETER GRAY FUNERAL DETAILS = SAT 10th OCTOBER Le Crématorium de Caen
Please arrive for 1115hrs.
Peter’s coffin will be arriving on a Jeep, escorted by some Harley Davidson riders from Caen Harley Davidson dealership. Please wear what you like and anecdotes from the mourners are welcome during the service which will be a celebration of Peter’s life.
No flowers please, but we will have a collection for Help For Heroes – a charity dear to PG’s heart.
Le Crématorium de Caen is in Rue de l’Abbaye d’Ardenne, to the west of the centre of Caen in a peaceful setting opposite the Cimetière Parc.
Nearest ferry port is Ouistreham (Brittany Ferries) – its about a 15 min drive.
You need to get on the Caen Ring road (Perephique)
Take direction to CHU (that is the Centre Hopital Urgences which is a very tall building you cant miss right on the rin groad, ), then take Exit n°7 « Caen-Chemin Vert, Saint Germain la Blanche Herbe ». At the top of the slip road on the exit of the junction, from there, the crematorium is signposted at all intersections.
GPS Coordinates :
Latitude : 49.191044
Crématorium de Caen
Rue de l'Abbaye d'Ardenne
14000 – Caen http://www.crematoriums.fr/etablissements.php?id=9#
Tél : 0033 2 31 73 34 34
If anyone has any questions please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope to see many of Peters friends on Saturday.