Douglas Gray - Details of Service and Civilian Career
C. R. D. Gray wearing the Skinner's Horse full dress uniform

C. R. D. Gray wearing the Skinner's Horse full dress uniform when he was Aide-de-Camp to the Governor of Burma from 1935 to 1938.

Lt. Col. Charles Robert Douglas Gray was born on 31st December 1909 in Peking, China, where his father, Lieutenant Colonel George Douglas Gray, CMG. CBE. MD. RAMC. was the medical officer to the British Ambassador.


He was educated first at Grange School at Matfield, Kent where he won the Victor Ludorum in Athletics, and later at Fettes College, Edinburgh. Here he was a sixth form prefect and excelled on the sports field. He was in the 1st XV, the 1st XI (hockey) and the shooting VIII. He also won the steeplechase and the 120 yards hurdles. He passed the Cert "A" for the army. He also played in the Schools International for Scotland at Rugby and Hockey, and twice for the Sussex County Rugby XV.

From Fettes a military career beckoned, and he continued his education at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he played rugby in the 1st XV. He was also runner up (to Sir Peter Farquhar) for "The Saddle". His sporting capabilities broadened, and he obtained a pilot's licence (Royal Aero Club, no 8979, February 1930).

Service Career

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Robert Douglas Gray had a distinguished military career beginning on 30th January 1930 when he was commissioned into the Indian Army. He was attached to the 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. He saw active service with the Battalion on the North West Frontier Province, Khajuri Plain campaign, for which he was awarded with the Frontier Medal. He was invalided to the UK for six months, and then posted to Skinner's Horse, joining the regiment in March 1932.

There were two regiments of Indian Cavalry raised by Colonel James Skinner in 1803. They became the 1st Bengal Lancers and the 3rd Skinner's Horse. On the reduction of the Indian Army in 1922, they were amalgamated and became Skinner's Horse (1st Duke of York's Own Cavalry). The old 1st Lancers wore yellow uniforms (unique in the world) and the old 3rd wore blue. Each regiment had the full-dress (mounted) long 'Kurta' worn with a turban and cummerbund, also a full-dress (dis-mounted) or levee, dress. These were not in general use after 1914 (but could still be worn by officers on special assignments (e.g. ADCs). The mess jacket and waistcoat of the old 1st Bengal Lancers was adopted by the 1922 regiment of Skinner's Horse and was the cold weather mess dress until 1939. All six of these uniforms are no in the collection of the National Army Museum at Sandhurst.

Regimental. Won Lucknow 'chase on "Curragh Rose".

Won the Kadir Cup (Individual pigsticking) on Granite. He actually had qualified both horses in the final. In Skinner's Horse team in Muttra Cup.

Posted as Aide-de-Camp to The Governor of Burma.

Long leave in England. Bought own horse, "Emancipator", on which he was placed 3rd in the Grand Military Steeplechase, at Sandown. He also rode him in the Grand National at Aintree, falling at Beecher's on the second circuit.

Service with Skinner's Horse in the NWFP Active Campaign in Waziristan. Awarded second Frontier Medal. Promoted to Captain.

Appointed Quartermaster for the mechanisation of the Regiment.

Regiment proceeded on Active Service with the Fifth Indian Division in Sudan. Promoted to Squadron-Commander.

Wounded in action at the Battle of Keren, but not evacuated.

Selected for War Course at Staff College, Quetta. On completion, obtained Grade II appointment as DAAG (Major) to GHQ, New Delhi. Joined personal staff of the Principal Administration Officer.

Returned to Skinner's Horse in Italy, as second-in-command, until the end of European hostilities in May 1945.

Returned to India, and transferred to the Army Remount Service, at Mona Remount Depot. Posted later to the Burma Front as DAD Remounts with the 7th Indian Division. After the end of the war with Japan, was sent to Thailand to organise the disposal of all captured Japanese army animals. On completion was posted as GSO (1) Remount Directorate at GHQ, New Delhi with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Posted to command the Indian Army Remount breeding area in Montgomery (Punjab) - in overall charge of 75 stallions and some 3500 brood mares - supplying horses and mules for the Indian Army and civilian market.

December 27th. On final partition of India, and end of British Rule, was compulsorily retired with substantive rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and returned to England.

Civilian Career

In February 1948, Douglas was employed by David Wills as the stud manager of Hadrian Stud, in Newmarket. He also joined the Territorial Army (22nd Armoured Brigade), as a RARO with the 10th Royal Hussars.

Hadrian Stud had a strong boarding contingent, with many of the animals being in foreign ownership. A number of the clients were Americans, like Mrs. P G Margetts, who bred the great Noblesse at Hadrian. This filly won the 1963 Oaks, and is ancestress of the Khalid Abdullah celebrities, Rainbow Quest, Warning and Commander in Chief.

While Noblesse was one of the easiest Oaks winners in living memory, the Hadrian bred Tomy Lee had triumphed in the 1959 Kentucky Derby, to become the first British bred hero of the Run for the Roses since Omar Khayyam in 1917.

In 1960 he purchased Stetchworth Park stud, Newmarket, in partnership with his wife Joan, while continuing to manage Hadrian Stud.

The day to day running of Stetchworth was very much in the hands of Joan, as for most of the time, Douglas was either involved with Hadrian or the National Stud. Stetchworth specialised in boarding stock, one of its principal clients being the prominent owner-breeder Dan Prenn.

Was invited by the Chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board (Lord Wigg) to succeed Peter Burrell as the Director of the National Stud. Douglas accepted the position.

His American connections, established at Hadrian, paid handsome dividends for the National Stud, as it was through Douglas that Paul Mellon's great champion, Mill Reef, came to spend the duration of his stud career there.

Retired from the National Stud on the age limit (65), having completed the Levy Board's brief to select, train and hand-over a successor.

Continued to run and own Stetchworth Park stud privately.

Sold Stetchworth to Bill Gredley and was then invited by Lord McAlpine of Moffat and the trustees to be the first Director of the new British Racing School for stable staff at Newmarket.

Completed the project building and organised the initial syllabus and course. Also arranged the opening ceremony by HRH The Prince and Princess of Wales.

With the Racing School launched, Douglas requested release from this un-paid appointment, and, at the age of 74, finally retired from the racing and bloodstock industry.

Douglas has held a number of official offices over the years and he was at one time either a council or executive member of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, The Bloodstock Industries Committee, the Animal Health Trust and the Newmarket Stud Farmers' Association. A founder member of the National Horseracing Museum, he was always a great champion of all stud and stable staff and many had good reason to be grateful for his unfailing help in times of need.

Awarded the OBE.

Royal British Legion

Both before and after retirement, Douglas has keenly supported the Royal British Legion, as President of the Newmarket and District branch (1955-1984), and as President of the Suffolk Country RBL (1981-1984). In 1984 he was awarded the RBL Gold Badge, and life membership of the Legion.