Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Joseph Henry Ray (of Teynham)
d. 6th April 1918. Aged 20
Lance Corporal, G/17547
Royal Sussex Regiment
[also #2010, Royal East Kent Yeomanry (The Duke of Connaught's Own) (Mount Rifles)]
Remembered with Honour
Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery, Albert
Plot 2, Row K, Grave 3
Killed in Action
Joseph Henry Ray was born into a local family that had become established in Greenstreet Hill as florists. His grandfather, George Ray, moved from his birthplace, Frinsted, to work as a gardener. Latterly, his occupation was registered as gardener/florist.
Joseph's father, William George, and mother Sarah Annie Lewis (nee Winterton) had 7 children of which only five survived. Joseph's older brothers were Archibald, William Llewellyn, and George Winterton (who served in the navy and survived the War) and his younger sister was Sybil Violet.
Sister Sybil married (1933) John Boyd Aitkin who died at the age of 50 in 1949, still living at 57 London Road, Teynham.
Before enlistment, Joseph, like his siblings worked as an assistant florist in the parental business located next on Greenstreet Hill, Teynham side.
The East Kent Gazette of 7th April, 1918, recorded Joseph's untimely death.
"RAY.- April 7th, 1918, killed in France, Lance Corporal Joseph H. Ray, of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles (attached Royal Sussex). Youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. William G. Ray, of Mount Pleasant, Greenstreet, aged 21 years."
The Faversham and North East Kent News of 27th April 1918 reported:
Three more names have to be added to the list of Teynham an Lynsted men who have died gallantly for their country, namely, those of Pte. Ernest Cheeseman, Royal West Kent Regt.; Lance-Corpl. Joseph Henry Ray, Sussex Regt.; and Pte Albert Edward Hadlow, West Surrey Regt. The two last named were about the same age, and were formerly in the choir together at Teynham Church.
Lance-Corpl. Ray, who was 21 years of age was the youngest son of Mr and Mrs W G Ray, of the nursery, Greenstreet. He was in charge of a Lewis Gun Section and was killed by a sniper outside of his dug-out on April 7th. He originally joined the R.E.K.M.R. in the second month of the war but was later transferred to the Sussex. He went to the front in August, 1916, and had been twice wounded. Prior to his enlistment he was employed in the butchery department of the Rainham Co-operative Society. The other three sons of Mr and Mrs Ray are all serving their country – one in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and two in the Sick Berth Reserve at Chatham.
The Faversham and North East Kent News of 4th May 1918 reported:
MEMORIAL SERVICE AT TEYNHAM. There was a very large congregation at Teynham Parish Church on Sunday evening last, when the death of four men on active service was commemorated, viz., Privates G. Potts, E. Cheeseman, A.E. Hadlow and LCp Joseph Ray. The Vicar read prayers and the sermon was preached by Mr. F. Honeyball. Gunner Rickards, of the Conyer garrison, took the organ and played the Dead March at the close of the service.
One year later, on 12th April 1919, the same newspaper includes an "In Memoriam" item from Joseph's family:
"RAY: In loving and proud memory of Joseph Henry Ray, Corporal R.E.K.M.R. attached to the Royal Sussex Lewis Gun Section, who was killed on April 7th, 1918, at Boozincourt, and buried at Clarefaye, in France. Aged 21. Peace perfect peace.
From Father, Mother, Sister, and Brothers."
[Note: The place-name "Clarefaye" is mysterious and may be the result of time, distance and strangeness of the language? The Cemetery lies on the road that joins Bouzincourt and Aveluy. Note also the wrong date of death.]
The Weekly Casualty List of 14th May 1918 confirmed Joseph's death.
Joseph's father, William George Ray, was appointed to the Teynham War Memorial Committee, as reported in this newspaper on 21st June 1919. As well as being a local business-owner, William was the choirmaster in the Church of St Andrew, on Greenstreet Hill - long since demolished.
The War Gratuity, together with other effects amounting to £9 0s. 4d. were initially Willed to Joseph's father but his name is struck out on the record in favour of "Mother Sarah A."
The War Gratuity of £16 10s suggests enlistment in October 1914 - this is consistent with a list of local men found in the Faversham and North East Kent News of 5th December 1914. Here he is described as "Trooper, East Kent Yeomanry" - perhaps only for his initial training as so often happened. His records show he enlisted as Private, 2010, firstly into the 2/1st and then the 3/1st Royal East Kent Yeomanry (The Duke of Connaught's Own) (Mount Rifles). To serve overseas, Joseph was called on to serve in the Royal Sussex Regiment.
In 18th March 1917, we find Joseph admitted to the General Hospital, Le Havre, serving in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment. This change in fighting unit was commonplace and tended to reflect the allocation of trained-up soldiers to meet the most pressing needs in the field from a Main Depot in France. He was diagnosed with an abscess of connective tissue to his right knee. At that time he had been serving for 2 years, with 8 months with the field force. He was transferred to the Sick Convoy on 24th March 1917 aboard the Hospital Ship "Gloucester Castle".
On his return to France, after convalescence, he was sent to the Front to serve in the 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment.
The German Spring Offensive in 1918 was anticipated once the weather began to warm up and the Eastern Front troops had found their way to the Western Front. Prisoners confirmed this expectation. Neither the date, nor the extent of that opening attack was known. Brigades and Divisions prepared themselves by intensive programmes of counter-attack training and improvements in trench systems in depth. On 21st March 1918, the opening attack took place on the SOMME Front where Joseph and his comrades were located. The wider Front extended northwards to ARRAS, by 28th March 1918.
At the time that Joseph was admitted for treatment of the abscess on his knee (18th March 1917), his comrades were serving close to the River Somme (Chuignes), south-east of Albert. The 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment had served in the forward line for 17 days before it went into Support on 12th March and then to Chuignes the next day. During that episode, the Battalion had experienced 3 killed, 11 wounded and one wounded and missing. It was probably at this time that Joseph was sent behind the lines for treatment.
We pick up Joseph's story in 1918 as the Spring Offensive erupted to test the 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, which came under command of 36th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division.
Immediately before the Spring Offensive, the 7th Battalion was providing Working Parties from Sailly and there were "civilians leaving in large numbers" (15th March). They were then thrown into a critical role of holding lines nearby at short notice.
"21st March: Sailly: Relieved by 2/6 Kings, complete about noon. Battalion moved to Caudescure – arrived 4 p.m. Received orders to move to Steenbecque the following day.
22nd: Caudescure: Left 2 p.m. Arrived Steenbecque 5.30 p.m. From leave 2/Lt T. Clarke. Joined Battalion Captain M. Campbell-Johnston.
23rd: Steenbecque: Working parties 100. 2/Lt J.S. Collins to 1st Army Musketry Camp. Lt C. Clayton to 2nd Army Central School.
24th: Steenbecque: Left at 8 a.m. Arrived Burbure 3.30 p.m. Embussed at 9 p.m. and left for WARLOY [Note: now Warloy-Baillon]. Capt R.C.D. Hind from leave.
25th: Warloy: Arrived Warloy about 9 a.m. Battalion waited in a field. Left for Lavieville at 3 p.m.; intercepted at Hénencourt by Staff-Captain and ordered to stack packs and leave out surplus personnel. Brigade was ordered to take over line near Montauban[-de-Picardie]. Battalion halted just East of Albert about 9.30 p.m.-2.45 a.m. Battalion ordered to hold Ancre crossings North of Aveluy.
26th: Positions established by about 6.30 p.m. Battalion frontage from South end of Aveluy Wood to Black horse Bridge. Dispositions – "C" & "D" Companies Front Line, "A" & "B" Companies in Support. 11.30 p.m. Report was received that enemy had broken through on the left of the Battalion Sector. A defensive flank was formed by the left support Company.
27th: Aveluy Wood: About 9 a.m. the enemy attacked on our right and the Battalion on our right fell back. "A" Company formed a defensive flank along the South edge of Aveluy Wood and later "B" Company were also put in on the right flank to bridge a gap between "D" & "A" Company. The Battalion was now formed on 2 sides of a square – "C" & "D" facing East and "A" & "B" facing South.
About 5 p.m. enemy attacked on the whole front and succeeded in breaking into the wood at the South East corner. "A" Company retired slightly, killing a large number of the enemy. 2/Lt Rogers was taken prisoner but succeeded in escaping. "D" Company retired on Battalion H.Q. which were at Quarry Post. The attack was held up at Battalion H.Q. which were temporarily surrounded.
28th: During the night 27/28th the line was readjusted – "A" & "D" on the left in touch with the Royal West Kents and B Company in Quarry Post. No news was heard of "C" Company.
During the morning the enemy attacked and drove in the line slightly. A counter attack restored the position. "B" Company Quarry Post completely repulsed the enemy. During the afternoon, touch was gained with "C" Company and "B" Company. After dusk a continuous line was formed across Aveluy Wood facing South East from Quarry Post exclusive, which was taken over by the 9th Royal Fusiliers to the right of the Oxfordshire and Bucks (2nd Division). "B" Company were in support.
29th: Rain, quiet day. Relieved by 24th London Regiment. Relief complete 12.35 a.m. From leave, Lt R. F. Clements, 2.Lts V. StG. Smith and T.S. Rowsell. Battalion marched to Warloy.
30th: Warloy: Arrived 4 p.m. Total casualties for operations starting 25th 2/Lt Manley killed, 18 O.R. killed. 2/Lts Cutler, Smart, Lotheim, Atkinson and Paley. 73 O.R. wounded and 24 O.R. missing believed prisoners.
[Remaining Strength: 34 Officers; 800 O.R.]
31st: Warloy: Reorganisation and working parties 275. Lt. Edgar joined the Battalion.
1st April: Warloy: Battalion ordered to stand to by 6 a.m. Battalion stood down 7.45 a.m. Lt. Collins & Clayton rejoined.
2nd: Warloy: Brigade took over Left Sector of Divisional Front just North of Albert. Battalion relieved 10th Sherwood Foresters (17 Division) in Brigade Reserve. Relief complete 11.30 p.m.
3rd: Brigade Reserve: Fairly quiet.
4th: Artillery activity considerable about 1 p.m.
5th: 7 a.m.: Enemy attacked all along the Front. Barrage heavy and considerable gas used. "C" Company was sent to support 9th Royal Fusiliers on the left. Enemy penetrated front held by 5th Royal Berkshires.
"A" & "B" Companies counter-attacked (under 5th Royal Berkshires) at 8.45 p.m. Attack unsuccessful. Battalion relieved 5th Royal Berkshire during the night. Lt. Collins missing. 2/Lt Mossop wounded.
[7th Royal West Sussex Strength: 34 Officers and 818 O.R. - 36th Infantry Brigade Records]
6th: Front Line: Relief complete 4 a.m. "C" Company left Front Line. "D" Company right Front Line. "A" and "B" Companies amalgamated, in support. About 11 a.m. Battalion on right sent up S.O.S. About 5 p.m. enemy put down a barrage, as a result of attack by Division on right. Our guns retaliated on S.O.S. lines. All quiet by 6 p.m. Battalion was relieved by 6th Queens. Relief complete 3.30 a.m. Total casualties: 2 officers, 127 O.R.
7th April: SENLIS: Battalion bivouacked under banks on slopes South East of SENLIS. 6.30 a.m. enemy gas shells SENLIS.
Joseph Henry Ray was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals.
Click on image for larger version
The East Kent Gazette of 9th February, 1918, reported the marriage of Joseph's brother, William Lawrence, to Kathleen Gates.
TEYNHAM – WEDDING. Much interest was aroused in a wedding which took place at Teynham on Saturday last, both the bride and bridegroom belonging to well-known Teynham families. The marriage was between Miss Kathleen Gates, the only daughter of Mr. George Gates (foreman of the Conyer Shipbuilding Yard) and Mrs. Gates, and Mr. W.L. Ray, who is serving as a sick berth steward in the Royal Navy, and who is the second son of Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Ray, of The Nurseries, Greenstreet, Teynham. Both the young people have been serving their country, for the bride has been a voluntary nurse at the Sittingbourne Red Cross Hospital, while the bridegroom is "doing his bit" in the Navy. The ceremony was performed at the Parish Church, Teynham, in the presence of a large company of relatives and friends. The Vicar (the Rev W.A. Purton) officiated……"