Rifleman R/13331 Edward Gray

Died of Wounds on Friday, 22nd March 1918, age 26.
Commemorated on Panel 61 to 64 of Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France.

17th Bn., King's Royal Rifle Corps. 117th Brigade of 39th Division.

Husband of Mrs Charlotte Gray, 21 Burlington Road, West Bromwich.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: West Bromwich.

First landed France & Flanders, 8th October 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1581645/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Edwin Gray registered September quarter 1893 in Dudley.

1901 Census
2 Bridge Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Edwin Gray (35, Labourer at Blast Furnace, born Broughton, Bucks), his wife Mary (age 33, born Tipton), and their 5 children: Catherine (10, born Tipton), Edwin (7, born Tipton), Susannah (6, born Tipton), Alice (3, born Tipton), and Mary Ann (1, born Tipton).

1911 Census
11 Bridge Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Edwin Gray (46, Labourer General, born Aylesbury, Bucks), his wife Mary (age 43, born Tipton), and their 6 surviving children of 8: Edwin (17, Labourer in Tube Works, born Tipton), Alice (13, born Tipton), Mary Ann (11, born Tipton), Walter (9, born Tipton), Ruth (7, born Tipton), and Leonard (1, born Tipton).

Marriage of Edward Gray and Charlotte Taylor registered September quarter 1915 in West Bromwich.

Personal Data

Edward Gray enlisted at Wolverhampton on 26th May 1915 with the King’s Royal Rifles (KRRC). He was 22 years and 335 days of age and was employed as a “Horse Keeper”. He was 5 feet 10¼ inches tall with a 38½-inch chest, and weighed 161 pounds, his physical development was described as “Fair”. His address was 11 Bridge Road, Tipton, and was he was single - he would marry within a few months.

He landed in France on 8th October 1915, and served with the 2nd KRRC. On 23rd December 1915, a report was filed that when he was the Orderly Corporal issuing rations, he had cut his finger opening a tin, but to avoid any disciplinary issue regarding self-inflicted injuries, it was recorded as ‘accidental’.

In April 1916, he was twice reprimanded, for “when on active service, neglect of duty”, and “when on active service, making an improper reply to a senior NCO”.

In August 1916, probably during the Battle of Pozieres, Edward received a Gun Shot Wound in the left arm. On 26th August, he was admitted to the 2nd Southern General Hospital in Bristol for treatment. He was recovered sufficiently for a period of leave from 16th to 25th September when he gave his intended location as 21 Burlington Road, West Bromwich. He overstayed his leave by a day, and forfeit a day’s pay.

It would seem that Edward was posted to the 6th (Reserve) Battalion prior to returning to France, and was again absent “when on active service, absent off pass from midnight 16th October till 7.30pm 18th October after being warned for draft”. He was punished by the forfeit of 2 day’s pay.

Edward probably saw this as a chance to spend time with his wife and child not knowing what the future held. On the 24th October, he embarked at Southampton and landed at Havre the next day. He was then posted to the 20th KRRC, but on 11th November joined the 17th Battalion.

Edward was appointed ‘unpaid Lance Corporal’ on 13th December 1916, but after two instances of ‘neglect of duty’ in January 1917, he was deprived of his stripe. In March 1917, he had 2 instances of hospitalisation, first for ‘scabies’, and then ‘impetigo’.

Edward was again wounded in August 1917, during the opening week of the Third Battle of Ypres. On the 7th August, he was admitted to the 7th Canadian General Hospital in Étaples, suffering from “Contusions after being buried”, presumably after a close-call with an artillery shell. It was a month before he re-joined his unit, on 7th September.

He was given leave, probably the last time he saw his wife and child, from 28th November to 12th December 1917.

The German Spring Offensive began on 21st March 1918, and on the next day Edward was killed. His body was never identified, so he was initially posted as” Missing”. This undoubtedly caused much grief to his wife and to his mother, as both wrote on a number of occasions over the next year enquiring of any news of Edward, each reply was “still missing”.

In one of these letters, he was referred to as belonging to 17th Battalion, ‘D’ Company, 15th Platoon.

Edward’s widow, Charlotte, was in receipt of a Separation Allowance of 23/8d (23 shillings and eight pence) per week until 11th May 1919. This was followed by a pension of 20/5d (20 shillings and 5 pence) per week for Charlotte and one child, effective from 12th May 1919.

After Edward's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £1/12/9d (1 pound, 12 shillings and 9 pence); this was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Charlotte, in January 1920. His War Gratuity was £16/0/0d (16 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Charlotte in January 1920. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Edward had enlisted in October 1914, this suggests an error in the calculation as he enlisted in May 1915.

Action resulting in his death

The German Spring Offensive began at 4.30am on 21st March 1918 with an enormous artillery bombardment. The 17th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps (17/KRRC), was in Reserve at Sorel working on the rear defences. Sorel lies about midway between Cambrai and Peronne, to the east of the 1916 Somme battlefields.

At 5.15am 17/KRRC received orders to move to Sorel Wood where they remained, under shell fire, for the rest of the day. Their casualties for the day were 2 killed and 29 wounded.

17/KRRC belonged to 39th Division, at 5.10pm most of the Division was ordered to dig, wire, and hold the Switch Line from Tincourt Wood to Saulcourt. This was about 5 miles to the south of Sorel Wood. The 17/KRRC had the 16th Sherwood Foresters on their right, the 16th Rifle Brigade on their left.

On 22nd March at 8.50am, the enemy was reported to be attacking near Villers Faucon about 3 miles to the east of 17/KRRC. At noon 17/KRRC was withdrawn as a unit but used to reinforce their neighbours, ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies to the Sherwood Foresters and ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies to the Rifle Brigade.

At 5 pm the enemy attacked heavily, causing the 16th Rifle Brigade to withdraw after suffering many casualties, this was followed by a more general withdrawal. ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies of 17/KRRC, who had been supporting the 16th Rifle Brigade, suffered severely.

Edward Gray is shown as ‘died of wounds’ on 22nd March while serving with ‘D’ Company of 17/KRRC. It is possible that he was wounded either on 21st or 22nd March. Records show that 17/KRRC had 4 men killed on 21st March and 15 men killed on 22nd March.

Edward has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings

Birmingham Daily Gazette 16th September 1916
Midlands names in the Roll of Honour.
The following casualties amongst warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and men are reported under various dates:
KING'S R. RILFES- Gray, 13331, L-Cpl., E., (Tipton).