Major William Robert Gregory MC

First World War

Gregory was born in County Galway, Ireland on 20 May 1881. He studied at Harrow, Oxford University and the Slade School of Art.

As an athlete, Gregory excelled in bowls, boxing, and horse riding. He played cricket for Ireland, and his bowling performances in international competition are ranked among the greatest in Irish cricket history.

At the age of 34 and with 3 children, he joined the war effort. In 1916 as a fighter pilot on 40 Squadron Royal Flying Corps, Gregory was credited with eight victories and became one of the first of the Irish pilots to achieve Ace status.

Did you know…? An Ace or Fighter Ace is a military pilot credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat.

Through his gallantry in battle, Gregory earned the Military Cross and became a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur, the highest French order of merit (Knight to the Legion of Honor).

Gregory flew the Royal Aircraft Factory RE-8, the French Nieuport, and the Sopwith Camel. He was tragically killed when his Royal Flying Corps aircraft crashed on the Italian front on 23 January 1918, aged 36.

 William Butler Yeats wrote four poems about Gregory between 1918 and 1921. He describes him as "my dear friend's dear son" and as "soldier, scholar, horseman" in 'In Memory of Major Robert Gregory'.