2/Lt. Alfred Gray

Alfred Gary was born on August 9, 1883 in Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales. His father, Alfred Thomas Gray, was a merchant and spent his time between Manchester and Singapore. Alfred Thomas Gray married Jane Ann Foxwell in November 1881 in Llangollen and 11 months later Vernon Foxwell Gray was born in the Straits Settlements, Singapore. By 1891 Jane Gray was a 32-year old widow and she and her two children were living with her sister in Leamington Spa. By 1901 the family had moved to their own house in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester and Alfred, now 17, was working as an apprentice. By 1911 Alfred was employed as a traveling salesman in the cloth business and living with his mother and a domestic servant in Chorlton, his brother Vernon having left to seek his fortune in India.

Alfred Gray was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force), from the 13th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment, on August 21, 1915. On October 13, 1915 he embarked on His Majesty’s Transport Ship Scotian at Devonport for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

On December 19, 1915 he lead 26 men of B Company in a diversionary frontal attack on the Turkish positions at the North East corner of Fusilier Bluff. A large mine, followed by 5 smaller mines, were detonated and the plan was for the men to advance and shelter in the crater for cover. The mines failed to create any meaningful cover for the men and they were mercilessly fired upon by the Turks. Four men were killed and 11 wounded before Lt. Gray was compelled to order the men to retire.

He somehow managed to survive Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving there on January 18, 1916. He attended a course of instruction in February and on October 10, 1916 left the Battalion for 47 days home leave in the UK, rejoining them on November 26, 1916.

He sailed with the Battalion to France, arriving on March 11, 1917. He was a platoon commander in B Company and is briefly mentioned in the Battalion war diary. He was promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917 and shortly after, proceeded to Paris for 6 days leave on June 13-19, 1917. Not long after he returned, he was sent sick to hospital on July 11, 1917 and eleven days later was invalided to the UK and struck off the strength of the Battalion.

By October 1917 Alfred had recovered sufficiently to marry Edith Winnifred Brittain in Chorlton, the couple subsequently making their home in Walley Range, Manchester. In August 1918 their first son, Vernon Brittain Gray was born and was followed in October 1920 by Ross Foxwell Gray.

Meanwhile he continued to serve, now with the 8th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regiment in Filey, and was awarded the Military Cross on May 5, 1919 for “gallant and distinguished services in the Field”. He resigned his commission on February 22, 1921 retaining the rank of Lieutenant.

By 1939 the family were living in Southport and Alfred was a manager and buyer for a wholesale garment manufacturer. After the outbreak of World War Two both of his sons served in the Royal Air Force. By the 1960s Alfred and Edith had long since retired to a small town near Exeter where Edith passed away in August 1965. Alfred Gray’s exact date of death is unclear but he was by now 82 years old and after the debacle of December 19, 1915 must have counted every day since as a blessing.