My Paternal Family
Uncle: Robert (Bob) Wray (born 1894)
Bob Wray was a war hero who was awarded the Military Medal. But he fell upon hard times in the 1930s and also served a short time in prison, as we shall see. Bob was the seventh child of Alfred and Emily, born on 19 or 21 April 1894 at Preston.  He was sent to school at a young age.  In 1897, the headmistress wrote, ‘Robert Wray is so young that I will not press him to learn.  He will be in the babies class next year’. In 1911, he (aged sixteen) was living with his parents and six siblings at Back Lane, Preston and working as a farm labourer. He enlisted as a private in the Suffolk Regiment (No 43525) just after his eighteenth birthday on 22 April 1912, two years before the outbreak of war.  He later transferred to the Bedfordshire Regiment (No 10005) serving in the SCLC Labour Corps and was promoted to corporal. He fought in the battles of Festubert, Arras, Albert and Vimy Ridge. He was wounded four times and was de-mobbed on 23 March 1919. Bob was described as having a fresh complexion, blue eyes, a linear scar on the back of his right hand and a half inch scar above his right eyebrow.  He was awarded the Military Medal. When his brother, Ernest was killed, it was reported that Robert ‘was with his brother in France serving with him side by side, and was present at Ernest’s funeral.
Re: Bob’s Military Medal
There is a record of Bob being slightly wounded (‘Slt’) on 17 April 1917:
In 1921, Robert was back in Preston and once again living with his family now at 5 Chequers Cottages, Preston. He was a farm labourer working for Douglas Vickers at Temple Farm, Preston. On 18 November 1922, Robert married Lizzie May Jenkins (daughter of a jobbing gardener who was living at Whitwell, Herts) at Hitchin Registry Office. A daughter, Phyliss, was born in early 1923:
Bob played cricket for Preston and was remembered as a right-handed ‘hitter’. His medals were a source of pride as he ‘wore a magnificent wide leather belt with regimental badges on it’ as can be clearly seen in the team photograph from 1923 shown below. A story is told that he ‘was once fielding on the long-on boundary at Preston when he let out a shriek and collapsed to the ground in a cloud of smoke.  It transpired that a box of wax vestas in his hip pocket had become ignited in the sun.  If memory serves correctly, he had his tea standing up on that Saturday’.
Bob is remembered as being a poacher, His attitude seemed to be, ‘I’m not going to starve when Harper’s (one of Preston’s gamekeepers) got all those (rabbits, pheasants etc)’. A son told me that he was ‘never out of trouble’ - he was always being accused of something and that whenever chickens or other livestock went missing, the police made a bee-line for his father’s front door.
Bob left Preston to live at 6 Council Cottages, Peters Green on the outskirts of Luton. I get the impression that he didn’t have a great deal of contact with the rest of his family. He claimed Parish Relief of £20 for one week on March 27, 1937 as he was unemployed.
The 1939 Register recorded Bob at 6 Perry Green (Council) Cottages, Kimpton (shown below). Next door at No 5 was his cousin, Claud Wray
Bob and Lizzie suffered a sudden, sad loss on 6 January 1945 when their twenty-year-old daughter, Florence Minnie, (who was working in the munitions industry) was rushed to the Lister Hospital, Hitchin where she died from tuberculous.
17 July 1936. Possibly Bob’s laconic reply was typical of the man - he wasn’t bothered by authority.
During World War II, Bob returned from work one day very tired and refused to go on Home Guard duty.  The war hero was incarcerated in Luton Gaol. The local magistrate told his sons, ‘Your father is a silly old fool’.
Three of Bob’s children - and my cousins - in 2010