A Tale of Two Grandfathers – Part One : James George William Grey

I have very different memories of my two sets of Grandparents. I have lots regarding my maternal Grandparents but very few of my paternal ones, the Greys. In fact I have no memories at all of my Grandad Grey as I never met him. I was just 7 years old when he died but as he and my Grandmother had divorced, he unfortunately was never on my radar. It was my much adored Dad’s death that started me researching my family history. A conversation he had not long before his death piqued my interest. He admitted to taking his Mum’s side when his parent’s separated and had totally regretted not keeping in touch with his father. I realised too late that I really knew nothing of this man and my journey started. So here is what I have found out about my Grandad Grey.

James George William Grey. Averil's Grangfather
Grandad, James George William Grey

James George William Grey was born on 26 September 1883 in the Railway Gatehouse, Linby, Nottinghamshire. His father, Ellis John Grey, was a Railway Signalman for the Midland Railway Company. By the time Grandad was 5 years old the family had moved to Kensworth in Hertfordshire where his parents ran the Red Lion Pub. It is here I found him on the 1891 census aged 7, along with Mum, Dad, two older sisters and two younger brothers. His mother, Jane Grey nee Hall, was originally from the village of Hook Norton in Oxfordshire and it was here the family moved at some point after that census, for Jane’s death is registered there in 1897. It is Ellis who registers the death and he gives his address as Hook Norton and his occupation as Farmer. Grandad was just 14 years of age when his mother died.

James George William Grey birth certificate

By the 1901 census Grandad is 17 years of age and still living in Hook Norton but not with his father. He is in fact living with his sister Annie Christina and her husband William Harris. His occupation is listed as Groom – Helper in a stables. I had a flash of inspiration regarding which stables this might be. William’s occupation on that census was Brewers Drayman and I knew Hook Norton had a lovely Brewery which is still in operation today. Could Grandad be working in the brewery stables? Getting in touch with the brewery to see if they had an archivist or indeed had any old records, I was delighted to find out that indeed Grandad did work in the stables there from January 1901 to August 1902 earning 11 shillings a week.

Hook Norton Brewery

Hook Norton was a small rural community but there were a lot of ironstone deposits in the area. With the coming of the railway in 1887 it opened up the opportunity to quarry this resource. Although certainly one of Grandad’s brothers worked at the ironstone quarry, it appears that Grandad himself moved to Coventry for employment. Coventry at this time was a thriving industrial city. The end of the 1800’s saw the city’s trades of watchmaking, silk weaving and bicycle production booming. In the early 20th century as these occupations started to decline car manufacture and electrical goods became the mainstay of employment in the city. My Grandfather’s occupation, well certainly according to his marriage certificate in 1909, was that of Timber Haulier.

He married my Grandmother Catherine Marsh on 05 June 1909. According to his date of birth Grandad would have been 25 years of age but his marriage certificate has him as 22. Grandma was just 17 although again the certificate has her at 19. The fact that Grandma gave birth to their first child, my Uncle Jim, just 5 months later means that Grandma was indeed pregnant at the time of the marriage. They were living with Catherine’s parents in Red Lane, Coventry.

Grandad and Grandma’s marriage certificate with the questionable ages

By the time of the 1911 census my grandparents now had their own home in Peel Street and Grandad’s sister Camellia was living with them along with the now 1 year old James (Uncle Jim). Grandad was still working as a Timber Haulier. In January 1912 a daughter, Hilda Annie (Aunty Hilda), was born.

At the outbreak of World War 1 my grandfather now aged 31 joined the Bedfordshire Regiment. Research is still ongoing into his military career but I do know at the end of the war he received the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 14 Star.

After the war he had 4 more children, including my father, the last being my Uncle Tony in 1931. By the outbreak of World War 2, when the 1939 Register was taken, my grandparents had separated. Grandad was living on his own in Cheveral Avenue. All of his children were with their mother, apart from Aunty Hilda who was already married by this time. His occupation at this time is given as Air Ministry Warden.

Grandad back row on the left at Aunty Hilda’s wedding

I have no idea why the marriage broke down or of the date of any divorce but on 19 March 1947 Grandad re-married. His second wife was Florence Kate Abel and they were married at the Register Office in Thanet, Kent. He was 63 and was described on the marriage certificate as “formerly the husband of Catherine Grey, formerly Marsh, Spinster, from whom he obtained a divorce”. He was living at 105 Westgate Bay Avenue, Westgate on Sea and gave his occupation as Odd Job Man (Boarding House). I know at this time his daughter, my Aunty Hilda, ran an hotel in Westgate.

This unfortunately is all I know of him. I was born in 1954 and Grandad died in 1961 of Broncho Pneumonia. He was living back in Coventry in Jobs Lane. His death certificate has his occupation as retired machinist in a car factory. I find it so sad I will never know if he even knew of my existance.

James George William Grey death certificate

Lest We Forget -Edward Marsh

I find it very sad that each of my Grandparents lost a sibling during the First World War. Edward Marsh, my Great Uncle, was my paternal Grandmother’s brother. Here is his story.


Edward was born in 1894 in Coventry, Warwickshire. The eldest son of Robert Edward Marsh and Ann Marsh née Holtom. He had two older sisters, Ann and my Grandmother Catherine. At the age of 2 his mother gave birth to another boy Charles.On the 1901 census the family are living in Bridge Row, Coventry.

On the 1911 census a 17-year-old Edward is living with his Mother and Father and younger brother. The family also have four boarders and live in Red Lane, Coventry. Edward’s occupation is given as a Machinist Driller in an Ordnance Works.

Corporal Edward Marsh

In 1914 Edward would be 20 years old and working as a Turner at Rover Co. Ltd. He was to enlist at the outbreak of the war. He was part of “C” battery, 78th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery which was placed under the command of the 17th (Northern) Division. The Division was established in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army. They were moved around quite a bit during training and were to be retained in England for home defence duties. However this order was reversed and an advance party set off for France on 6 July 1915 with the main embarkation starting on the 12 July.

The division was originally concentrated around St.Omer and spent time in the southern area of Ypres salient for trench familiarisation then holding the front lines. During 1916 they would see action at Bluff, south east of Ypres and take part in the Battle of Albert at the beginning of July that year, where they would capture the village of Fricourt. It was during the Battle of Delville Wood which started on 15 July 1916 and would last until 3 September that Edward received fatal injuries.

He was taken from the front line to No.3 Stationary Hospital in Rouen. It was here on the 29 July 1916, at the age of 22, he would die from his injuries. He had risen to the rank of Corporal. His death was reported in the Midland Daily Telegraph in which it stated “the family has received the official notification of the death, and a letter from the authorities states that the soldier was scarcely conscious during the five days he was at the hospital.”

Corporal Edward Marsh, Roll of Honour Midland Daily Telegraph 02 August 1916

Edward Marsh is buried in St.Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France, (Grave Reference A. 13. 51.)

St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France.

Photo of St. Sever Cemetery from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org

Newspaper extract copyright Trinity Mirror . Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk



Lest We Forget- Lawrence Percy Grey

Each year in November we take time to remember. Armistice Day, the 11 November 1918 was the day hostilities ended at 11:00am in World War 1.However it was June 1919 before the Peace Treaties were signed. After the Second World War we started to remember those who had died on Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday of November. It is then people’s thoughts turned to loved ones lost in the two conflicts. Of course today we think of all the brave men and women who have given their lives in conflicts all around the globe.




One young man who lost his life in World War 1 was my Great Uncle Lawrence Percy Grey. This is his story.

Lawrence Percy Grey was my paternal Grandfather’s brother. Born in Kensworth, Hertfordshire in 1888. He was baptised in Kensworth on 4 August 1889. His parents Ellis John Grey and Jane Grey nee Hall were running the Red Lion Pub at the time of his birth. He had 5 older sisters and 2 older brothers. His mother would go on to have another boy and girl after Lawrence’s birth.

When Lawrence is just 9 years old his mother dies of breast cancer. The family had already left Kensworth and moved to Hook Norton, in Oxfordshire where his mother’s family came from. It must have been awful for the family as some of the children were still so young. Three of his sisters were married when his mother died and by the 1901 census there is just Lawrence aged 14 and his older brother Ellis John living with their father. Ellis John senior is a Farmer and the two boys are working with him, Ellis junior being a Carter on the farm and Lawrence a Plough boy. The rest of his siblings are back in Hertfordshire apart from my Grandfather James and sister Annie who are both living in Hook Norton.

In 1907 when Lawrence was just 20 his father died. The 1911 census included records of overseas military establishments and I found Lawrence with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 1st Battalion in India.He was a Private aged 22. The Battalion had moved out to India in 1903 and was to stay there until the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. So it seems at some point, possibly after the death of his father, Lawrence had decided to become a career soldier.

During the 1st World War the British relied on oil to keep its Navy afloat. Mesopotamia (current day Iraq) was important for that reason. It was part of the Turkish Ottoman empire. The Turkish army was run by German advisors, so the British army was sent here in 1914 to protect the oil supply lines. They captured Basra in November 1914. In India, Lawrence’s battalion was under the command of the 17th Indian Brigade of 6th Poona Division. They left for Mesopotamia on 23 November 1914.

On arriving the 6th Poona Division started making advances away from Basra towards Baghdad but their supply line was very thinly stretched behind them. By the time they reached Kut al Amara they were already 600km from the sea. Although some concern was raised that the supply line should be strengthened before they advanced further, the order to carry on towards Baghdad was given. Unfortunately on reaching Ctesiphon in November 1915, the British suffered a terrible defeat sustaining some 4,500 casualties. They were forced to retreat to Kut al Amara where they were under seige from early December 1915 to the end of April 1916.

Siege at Kut al Amara

One just can’t imagine what conditions would have been like. They would have many injured men with them  and they would have inadequate medical supplies. Food would be scarce and disease would be rife. Attempts were made to reach them and send in supplies but all failed. It is hardly surprising that men would die of ‘natural causes’ in these conditions. Around 1,750 men would die from injuries, disease or starvation during the siege. Lawrence Percy Grey was one of those men. He would not see the Anglo-Indian troops taken prisoner. The siege ended on the 29 April 1916, Lawrence had died on 16 April 1916.

Banbury Gaurdian 24 August 1916

On the 13 July 1916 Lawrence is Mentioned in Dispatches and on 12 December 1917 he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Research at this time is still on going as to why this was awarded. He is buried in the Kut War Cemetery, Iraq, Plot 1 Row E Grave 14. The Cemetery was renovated in 2014 by the War Graves Commission.

Kut War Cemetery

Photo of Kut War Cemetery photo from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org

Newspaper extract copyright Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website www.britishnewspaperarchives.co.uk