Lest We Forget – Raymund John Grey

During the Second World War my father lost a brother. Here is the story of the Uncle I never had the chance to meet.

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Raymund John Grey was born on 6 January 1923 at 53 Much Park Street, Coventry. (I have used the spelling Raymund as this is how it appears on his birth certificate however later documents have the spelling as Raymond). His father James George William Grey was a Motor Tester. His mother was Catherine Grey nee Marsh. Raymund had an older brother James Ellis (Uncle Jim) and an older sister Hilda Anne (Aunty Hilda). When Ray was just nineteen months old his mother gave birth to my father Kenneth Joseph. Another sister arrived two years later Catherine Monica (Aunty Monica) and the family was completed in 1931 with the arrival of my Uncle Tony.

I have been told by family members that Ray and my father were very close. Being so near in age I imagine them growing up together possibly getting into all sorts of mischief.They spent their childhood together in Coventry in Short Street where my father and Aunty Monica were born and then moved to Cheveral Avenue by the time Uncle Tony was born.

Unfortunately before the outbreak of World War 2 Ray’s parents had separated. On the 29 September 1939 a National Register was taken of everybody living in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It was this register that would be used when the government were to issue identity cards and ration books. On the register I found my Grandfather still in Cheveral Avenue but living on his own. His occupation is listed as Air Ministry Warden. My Grandmother was now living in Victory Road with all of the children apart from my Aunty Hilda who had married in 1932

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Uncle Ray on the far right.

Ray joined the Royal Navy in January 1942 at the age of 19. He had previously been a member of the Home Guard and was probably on fire and rescue duty during the many raids Coventry suffered.  Unfortunately I don’t know anything about his naval career. Maybe a trip down to the National Archives in London may reveal something but for now I only have photographs, family stories and the knowledge that he died on war service in Canada.

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Uncle Ray. On the back of this photo is written ‘Taken in Main Street, St.John. N.B. Canada. July 1943. To Mother with love Ray. xxxx’

According to a family photo I have, Uncle Ray was certainly in St. John, New Brunswick Canada in July 1943 as it is written on the back of the photo. On a list of Navy death records I found that at the time of his death, 21 August 1943, he was serving on HMS Arcturus as a Telegraphist. All I can find out about HMS Arcturus is she was a minesweeper of the Algerine class. She was ordered on 9 December 1941, laid down on 21 February 1942 and launched on 31 August 1942. However she was not commissioned until 23 October 1943, this was 2 months after Ray’s death. She was built by Redfern Construction of Toronto, Canada.

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HMS Arcturus

The sad thing about Uncle Ray’s death is it was an accidental drowning. Family members have told me he had suffered an injury loosing a lot of blood. While on a training exercise, which involved a swim in the St.John river, he got into difficulty, whether this was as a result of the injury I don’t know. Before any one realised there was a problem it was too late. My poor Grandmother felt he was out of danger being in Canada and just a week before Ray’s death her mother (my Great Grandma Ann Marsh) had died.

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Roll of Honour in the Coventry Evening Telegraph 30 August 1943

A lovely but sad story my dear cousin Wendy in Australia has told me was a memory she has of a visit to Grandma’s. Although very young she remembers being surprised to see all three family members who had enlisted there at the same time, Uncle Ray, my father also in the Royal Navy and Aunty Monica. Not sure of the exact reason, it seemed unusual for the three of them to get leave at the same time unless it was for Ann Marsh’s funeral. She died on 14 August and the funeral was on 17 August and Uncle Ray is definitely back in Canada on 21 August when he has his terrible accident. I have found out from the newspaper announcement of Great Grandma Ann’s death she had been in hospital for a short time prior to it. So could the leave have been to visit her in hospital especially if the prognosis was not good? However enough supposition, this visit was the last time anyone of the family saw Uncle Ray. A short time later my cousin found out he had died and a couple of weeks after that a parcel arrived from Canada for her. It contained a pink and white bunny from our Uncle Ray. She named it Yankee Doodle, Canada/America seemed like the same country to her then.

Although he was not killed in action but died on war service he is still remembered with honour at St.Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, St.John County, New Brunswick, Canada. He is buried in Naval Plot Grave 38.

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St.Joseph’s Cemetery, St.John, New Brunswick
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Uncle Ray’s Grave. Note it says HMS Arcturuc not Arcturus.

A year after his death the family remembered him with a memoriam notice in the local paper. There were two announcements, one from his Mother and siblings still at home and one from my Aunty Hilda and her family. He is still remembered today certainly by some of his nieces and nephews. RIP Uncle Ray.

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In Memoriam notices, Coventry Evening Telegraph, 21 August 1944

Newspaper Extract copyright Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website www.britishnewspaperachive

Photo of St.Joseph’s Cemetery from Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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Lest We Forget -Charles Barnacle

This is the story of my Great Uncle Charles Barnacle my maternal Grandmother’s brother killed in action at Ypres during World War 1.

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Charles Barnacle was born in Birmingham on 21 September 1897. He was the youngest son of Frank Barnacle and Esther Barnacle nee Green. At the time of his birth he had 4 older siblings (2 brothers and 2 sisters). His parents had 3 more daughters after Charles. His father was a Machinist in a Cycle Works.

Charles spent his early years in Birmingham and I found the family on the 1901 census in Hatchett Street, Birmingham. By 1905 the family are living in Coventry where Charles’s 2 youngest sisters are born. In 1909 when Charles is just 12 years old, Frank one of his older brothers dies. On the 1911 census Charles at 13 is at school and the family are living in Walsgrave, Coventry.

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Charles Barnacle

At the outbreak of World War 1 Charles is working for Hillman’s Motor Company as a Fitter. He enlisted in early 1915 (I have found a will for him written while in service dated 4 April 1915) at the age of 17, one of the many underage recruits. He was a Driver in the 21st Divisional Ammunition Column of the Royal Field Artillery part of the 21st Division. The Division had arrived in France in September 1915.

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Charles Barnacle in uniform with his mother Esther (Great Grandma) sitting centre and his sister Clara (my Grandmother) seated left.

During 1916 the 21st Division served in many of the Battles along the Western Front. This included several of the Battles of the Somme (Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Flers-Courcelette, Morval where the Division captured Geudecourt and Transloy Ridge). Between March and April 1917 the Germans withdrew to the Hindenberg Line and the Division saw action in the 1st and 3rd Battles of Scarpe and were involved in flanking operations around Bullecourt, all of these were phases of the Arras offensive.

By the end of July 1917 it became important to reach the Belgium coast to destroy the German submarine bases there. On the 31 July 1917 the 3rd Battle of Ypres or Battle of Passchendaele started. It became one of the most infamous battles of World War 1 not only because of the immense number of casualties but the awful rain, some of the heaviest for 30 years, turned the ground into a quagmire. Tanks became bogged down and the mud became so deep that men and horses drowned in it. Part of this offensive was the battle at Polygon Wood which started on the 26 September 1917 and lasted until 3 October 1917. It was here that Charles Barnacle was killed in action on 2 October at just 20 years of age.

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Just some of the Memorial Panels at Tyne Cot.

Charles is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West Flanders, Belgium. In his will he left all of his effects to his mother Esther Barnacle.

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Roll of Honour in the Midland Daily Telegraph.

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Charles Barnacle’s Will

Photo of Tyne Cot Memorial from 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 -William Henry Jones

Yet another Great Uncle who was killed during World War 1. William was my maternal Grandfathers brother. Here is his story.anzac_day_poppies

William Henry Jones was the eldest of 6 children. He was born on 24 April 1879 and was baptized at St.Michael’s, Coventry on 16 May that year. His parents were William Jones and Sarah Ann Jones nee Davis. His father was a Watchmaker and they lived in Much Park Street. William would live in Much Park Street for all of his childhood years, for it is here I found him on the 1891 and 1901 census.

On the 1901 census William is listed as being a Cycle Fork Builder. It is during this year on 26 May at Christ Church in Coventry that he marries Annie Cook. By the 1911 census the couple, living in Whitefriars Street, have had three sons, William, Lenard and Percy. Before the outbreak of war William was working as a Mechanic at the Humber Works.

William was a member of the 1/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. This was a peace time Territorial Force and were on summer camp when they were recalled to their home base on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914. As a Territorial Force they were not obliged to serve overseas. However the Battalion was mobilised on 5 August as part of the Warwickshire Brigade, South Midland Division and William, along with most of the men in  the Brigade, volunteered for Imperial Service. After many months of training in England in March 1915 the men of the now named 48th (South Midland) Division were told to expect overseas service. Later that month William along with the other soldiers in the Division were on their way from Southampton to Le Havre landing there on 22 March 1915. By 3 April 1915 they were concentrated near the town of Cassel, France.

Over the following year William would have been involved in the fighting in the trenches. It was on the 24 June 1916 that the allies started a week long artillery bombardment of German defensive positions in preparation for what was to become the Battle of the Somme which started on 1 July. It was on this day that William was killed in action by shell fire when leaving the trenches for rest. He is buried in Hebuterne Military Cemetery, Plot 2 Row C Grave 9.

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Hebuterne Military Cemetery, France

In his will, which appears to have been written while fighting in France, he left all of his belongings to his wife Annie Jones.

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Photo of Hebuterne Military Cemetery from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.)

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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