A Formidable Hero is the long-awaited biography of Lieutenant R.H. "Hammy" Gray, one of Canada's last war heroes. Here is the story of a young British Columbian who, along with several friends, joins the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve. It is early in the war and he is flying with the Fleet Air Arm — just months earlier he had been a budding student at the University of British Columbia!
Hammy is posted on a long tour in East Africa. All he can do in this quiet corner of the war is pine for action. That finally comes when he is posted back to England and flung into the desperate effort to destroy the Tirpits, Germany's mighty battleship, in a Norwegian fjord.
Next Hammy sails aboard the carrier Formidable to join the British Pacific Fleet. He is soon "in the thick of it" as the British and Americans pound the Japanese homeland. All the excitement, drama and danger of carrier life is here, from the rigours of operations aboard ship in the sweltering tropics, to the dreaded Kamikazes who take their toll aboard Formidable and the other carriers.
Comes August 1945, and the atomic bomb ends the war. But not soon enough for Hammy Gray. The day Nagasaki is bombed Hammy is detailed to strike targets in Honshu. En route, an enemy flotilla is spotted at anchor in Onagawa Bay. Hammy decides to attack, and leads his Corsairs in. On his first pass he is shot up but scores a direct hit on a destroyer. Plan and ship both go down and Hammy is killed.
Japan lays down its arms on August 14 and back in Nelson, B.C., Hammy's family rejoices. The news of his death has not yet arrived. So much the worse the blow when it does.
A Formidable Hero is a picture of a young Canadian transformed by the war. From a jovial but pensive student he quickly becomes an outstanding pilot whose natural abilities to lead make him revered among his peers. One is not surprised to hear at the end of the story that he has earned the Victoria Cross. He is the last Canadian to have done so, even if posthumously.