My Paternal Family
Uncle: Ernest Wray (born 1892)
Ernest (Ern) Wray was born in the June Quarter of 1892 at Back Lane, Preston, Herts.   When Ern (aged four) started school, he was so young that he needed ‘a time longer in the baby class’.  He was able to write well but sometimes found school a little tedious. On a summer’s day towards the end of July 1899 he was punished along with his cousin Willie Currell ‘for truant playing on Friday afternoon.  This is a rare fault in this school’. He left school on 26 June 1903, aged eleven and, like some of his brothers, found work as a gardener. In the 1911 census, he was included in the household of his aunt, Phyllis Jenkins and her husband, Herbert. He was still working as a domestic gardener:
Soon after World War One began, on 5 September 1914, Ern enlisted at Hitchin in the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment No 17002.  The entry in his Soldier’s Small Book shows him as 5’ 8¾’’ tall, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair.  He gave his religion as ‘Church of England’.
In early 1915, Ern wrote to one of his brothers (most probably Arthur) from Landguard Camp, Felixstowe:
One can only imagine how Ernest’s parents, Alfred and Emily, felt when notification of their son’s death was received (see below).  Ernest had been killed in action on 24 August 1915 and was buried at the Military Cemetery, Bethune (Map Ref X6A72).
More details of Ernest’s war are given in The 2nd Bedfords in France and Flanders 1914 -  1918. On 12 March 1915 at Neuve Chapell, the German forces had captured a section of one of the Allied trenches. A counter attack was launched by one officer and twenty men but this failed and all but two of the party were killed or wounded. Ernest was one of those two. On the day he died, his Company was at the front line east of Festubert. In the evening of 24 August, ‘B’ Company of the Beds relieved ‘A’ Company of the 8th Devons in the trenches. It was evidently during this operation that Ernest was killed. In September 1915, the Hitchin Parish News reported, ‘The first Preston lad to die for his country is Ernest Wray, who was killed instantly in action in France on the 24 August. Very sincerest sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Wray who are old inhabitants of Preston... Bob (Wray) was with his brother in France serving with him side by side, and was present at Ernest’s funeral.
Hitchin War Memorial
(Above, l to r:) Ernest Wray’s 1914-15 Star; General Service Medal and Victory Medal and Memorial Plaque