Sunday, 8 May 2011

H A Bray

Henry Arthur Bray
Born March 1898 in Newquay   Killed in Action 12 April 1918
Crpl 61776 15/17th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment
Enlisted 22 May 1916 at Newquay

Henry was the first son of John and Millicent Bray. A brother, Ernest, followed two years later.  John Bray earned his living as a dirt cart driver, later becoming a coal carrier.  I had great trouble tracking down the Brays on the 1901 Census.  Eventually I found them in Chapel Hill living under the surname Flamank.  This appears to have been John's father's name, his mother being Susan Bray.  For some reason John changed his surname, although the decision seems to have taken a while.  He registered Henry as "Bray" in 1898, but used Flamank on the 1901 Census.  By the time Henry enlisted, John was known as "Bray".  

In May 1916 Henry joined the Army in Newquay.  He was living at 35 Tolcarne Road (which appears to have been demolished now) with his parents and earning his living as a coal carrier.  Henry was nearly 5ft 10 inches tall and weighed in at 147 pounds.  The medical officer who examined him in Bodmin in July found him to be of "Good" physical development, perhaps due to his occupation as a coal carrier.  

Henry enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery and was sent to No3 Depot on 16 November 1916, where he appears to have been in F Company, No 8 Training Reserve Battalion at Rugely Camp.  His time here was fairly eventful.  In February 1917 he was brought up on a charge for being late to 1030 parade.  He escaped with an admonishment.  

Matters took a more serious turn in July when a telegram was sent to his mother to inform her that Henry was "dangerously ill" at the Military Hospital at Cannock Chase.  She was advised that if she wished to visit him but was unable to bear the cost she should take the telegram to the nearest police station.  There is no mention of what the illness was, but Henry pulled through.  However, by October he was in trouble again. This time Henry, by now a Corporal, was charged with neglect of duty.  The charge was dismissed.

Henry was posted to 15/17th W Yorks Regiment on 30 March 1918.  I believe that the 15/17th, a service battalion, were part of XIX Corps and therefore with the Fourth Army.  If this is the case Henry would have been involved in the First Battles of the Somme 1918.  The Fourth Army, commanded by Sir Henry Rawlinson, were fighting at the Battle of the Avre on 4 April 1918.  A great many casualties were sustained and many men taken prisoner by the Germans.  Henry was reported missing on 12 April 1918 but it was not until the official list of dead was received from the Germans that his death was confirmed.  A letter relating to this is in Henry's file, but whilst the first part of the date "18 February" is clear, the year is missing.  Even if it was the February following Henry's death, his parents must have endured several agonising months of waiting for news.

Henry has no grave but is remembered at Le Grand Beaumart Cemetery, Steenwerck.

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