Dolly Gray. The Death of a Friend!

DOLLY GRAY ( Centre of photo) Aegis BG Team 1997

I have just returned from the funeral of my very dear friend, Paul (Dolly) Gray, and thought it was only fitting that I said a few words about him. First, the nickname. Paul Gray was immediately called Dolly when he joined the Royal Marines in 1979. ‘Goodbye Dolly Gray’ was a music hall song sung by soldiers during the carnage of the First World War, so Paul Gray, a young 19-year-old lad from Newcastle instantly became Dolly as soon as he was sworn in. He was the top recruit in his troop during training and was subsequently awarded The King’s Badge. He then aced everything the Corps could chuck at him over the next four years including Mountain and Artic training in 45 Commando RM and a hard tour in west Belfast during the particularly volatile period of the hunger strikes. Dolly then went on to challenge SBS selection. For a civilian explanation, this is the process for the distillation of excellence designed to break down the normal fit motivated bootneck into his constituent parts and produce the strange beast that’s a Royal Marine swimmer/canoeist.

Paul broke his leg on his first course but returned on his second and graduated as the top student. Service around the world as a special forces soldier followed. After operations in Gulf War 1, he worked on SF tasks until leaving the Corps early to secure a job as one of the first special forces military contractors to work directly for the UAE. After a long contract in Dubai with some other notable RM characters (Davey S-Scotty-MG) he moved into the world of international close protection as a member of a BG team for an Arab politician and member of a Royal family.

After over four years working on the team, Dolly found new horizons as a media security consultant in Iraq in 2004/06 for US channels NBC News and Fox News. Dolly looked after his clients during both Operation Vigilant Resolve (The first battle of Falluja) and Operation Phantom Fury (The second battle of Falluja).  This was some of the hardest street fighting that the US Marines were involved in during the Iraqi insurgency and Dolly looked after his people, protected them, and kept them safe. Dolly then served his country again as a security advisor to the FCO for several years where he ensured they were kept safe as well.

I had the very great pleasure to work alongside him over the years. We were both bodyguards for the Arab Royal family and subsequently worked together as security consultants in Baghdad over the time frames above.

  Working with such a professional was easy. The overriding theme of any conversation when discussing Dolly with his SBS oppos after the funeral was his self-depreciating humour, his dedication to his mates, his reliability, and his incredible sense of the comic especially when under pressure. Dolly was unbreakable. During the six years we worked together I always knew I could count on him in any situation, and I felt safe no matter where we were.

Paul (Dolly) Gray, excellent bloke and Corps legend succumbed to cancer and died on the 10th of October.

Dolly was not a religious man and had a Humanist funeral. According to the Oxford dictionary Humanism is:

 A system of thought that considers that solving human problems with the help of reason is more important than religious beliefs.

That just about sums up Dolly. After a very adventurous life- gunslinging all over the world, he settled back in Newcastle, to spend the rest of his life as a hospital worker in the NHS.  Unlike Dolly, I do believe in the hereafter. I am that sort of confused Christian former Royal Marine that thinks that we will all meet again at that final RV that’s like the Viking’s Valhalla without the constant scrapping, but I can agree with the humanist angle as well. A Greek philosopher called Aristophanes just about nailed it.

Your lost friends are not dead but gone before.

Advanced a stage or two upon that road.

Which you must travel in the steps they trod.

This gets truer as we all begin to run out of road.

A final quote from that music hall song.

Goodbye Dolly, I must leave you,
Tho’ it breaks my heart to go.
Hark! I hear the bugles calling,
‘Goodbye Dolly Gray, Gray! Gray!

And hey old mate, from your fellow Royals, our hearts are broken!

See you at the final RV buddy!

 Dolly leaves a loving sister and a devoted set of relations. Our thoughts are with you.


44 Comments on “Dolly Gray. The Death of a Friend!”

  1. Served with Dolly at 45 cdo gp, as everyone has stated, a great bloke, great soldier, greatest is the key word – a sad loss to this world and I was gutted to hear he passed so early – thanks for a great tribute

  2. Really sorry for your loss Bernie. Knowing you and your no-bullshit style of speaking your mind, your words about him are clearly testament to the kind of man he was and what he meant to you mate.

  3. Lucky to serve in Zulu Company 45 Cdo as Dolly’s Troop Officer, Norway and NI. Good man well missed. RIP Royal.

  4. wonderful narrative Bernie and a fitting summation for such a wonderful career never mind person. BZ – Ewan (PS – no such thing as a former Royal Marine…..)

    1. Thanks Ewan, yeah, still a bit sad but uplifted by being back with some warriors at the wake! Lot’s of great dits and big smiles!

  5. I never knew Dolly but that’s a wonderful account of his life in and after the Corp.

    Sorry for your loss Bernie.

  6. Thank you for that wonderful obituary.
    Went through Basic Training with Paul, then 45 Cdo, 9 Tp, then in Poole. He was our best man and godfather to our first born.
    Your words certainly help as we cope with the tragic loss of a top, top man.

    1. Hi Mick
      He talked of you often mate. Sadness is something that we have to live with, pride in having known Dolly lives on!
      Warmest regards to you and the family Royal.

  7. Great and fitting words,
    Bernie. Dolly truly was a larger than life character who took everything in his stride and gave off that devilish laugh after he’d pulled through yet another scrape that would have crumpled lesser men.
    A true gent, mate and operator – it was a privilege to have been there to doff my cap at his sad send off.
    Rest easy, Royal.

    1. George
      Yes old mate-what a top geezer as you are mate. It was such a pleasure to have a beer with you, I hope next time it’s
      on a more celebratory occasion. Wishing your son a great career in the Corps mate
      RIP Dolly, yoiu will be sadly missed.

      1. Hi Bernie

        Lovely words…!

        Completed my diving course with Dolly, great bloke always had your back.

        Will be sadly missed.

        See you in the Final RV my friend..


  8. I had the great pleasure of first meeting Dolly on our Junior Command Course. I was on an ‘A’ with a week to go and rumour had it I would take top spot. But typically, Dolly shot past me at the finish line to make lead Junior, and well deserved too. He was one of those lads who had all the bits while most of the rest of us unfortunately only have just about enough. To my surprise, the next time I saw his face was in Poole when he turned up for selection. I can’t remember how many were on his course but I had no doubt he’d end up in the SBS. The last time I saw him was literally bumping into him in the Sheraton Hotel, Baghdad back in the day. Very very sad to hear of his passing. He was a great soldier and a most exceptional man.

    1. HI Ric
      Yes mate-top man and great company in a bar or in a contact.
      The Sheraton days were mega mate?
      My best for your writing career Royal.

  9. They were indeed fine days Bernie. Where did they go? We were all so sprightly then! So many great mates. Thanks for the sentiments, mate. Stay well.

  10. Dolly what a man, always a smile and a piss take. I was in 45 Cdo with him and then our paths crossed again in Poole where I was R Coy and he was the real deal.

    party hard work hard and always laughing fondest memories of the Jolly Miller and the Infamous Corkers bonded together with Nelson and the Viking club.

    Dolly was a man’s man and every chick loved him..were all headed off this mortal coil .. yet again Dolly beat us to it. RIP mate.

    1. Yes mate
      He was always had the best times on the BFT as well.
      He’s just beat the clock before us Ronnie?
      Warmest regards old mate

  11. I have just got back from work away and have just heard about Dolly. Dolly spoke to me at the end of September. He sent me a text to say “he was no longer on Whatsapp at the mo. A quick call would be useful. Send me a text back for a quick chat…. No Dramas”. I called him and we had a good old chat and when he became tired and we finished the call. His main message to me was that he wanted me, and through me, Speedy, to know from him and not from other sources his situation. He was not focused on himself even near the end which tells you everything about who Paul Gray was.
    Bernie thank you for your wonderful words. They are much appreciated.

    1. Murdo, yes mate, that sounds like Dolly-selfless sort of sums it up mate!
      I’m glad you were there when he reached out, He will always be sadly missed.
      My warmest regards

  12. Great piece Bernie, I will will miss him and really sad to think he is no longer with us. A true professional.
    RIP Dolly.

  13. The best of eulogies Bernie.
    Dolly was a guiding light for us mere mortals and I remember bumping into him on various occasions in the Greenzone among other places.
    A sad loss but I have no doubt he’s regaling the troops at the FRV with the most epic dits.
    Rest easy Royal 🥃🥃

    1. Thanks Simon
      A guy that you felt safe when working with.
      The ultimate accolade in a hostile environment mate.
      RIP Dolly.

  14. Very sad to hear about Paul. I knew him on that 45 Cdo tour of West Belfast. I was one of the Wrens who were also part of that summer of 1981. My future husband was in 8 Troop, Zulu Company (Jon Trafford). I remember Paul as a consummate Bootneck.

  15. Fine words Bernie for a fine man.
    Working with you both was always a mixture of pleasure and privilege.
    Dolly was a most professional man who kept a wry sense of humour on hand at all times. One for instance is him pretending to BG me off of the bosses yacht telling the crowd i was Robbie Williams.
    RIP Dolly what a sad loss to us all.

  16. Bernie fantastic tribute to a brilliant bloke. I had a lot of fun with dolly mick g and chalkie… never a dull moment

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