Private David Gray: Finding Peace in Shorncliffe

Private David Gray 18th Battalion, Canadian Infantry Western Ontario Regiment November 23, 1916

Private David Gray 18th Battalion, Canadian Infantry Western Ontario Regiment November 23, 1916. Source: CVWM

One of the challenges with the research with this blog is the amazing quantity and assortment of information. It leads you in all sorts of directions. On Twitter I became aware of the Shorncliffe Trust (twitter handle @shorncliffe95 ) which is working hard to preserve and commemorate the history of this area. Since the 2nd Canadian Contingent spent a significant time in the Folkestone area and Shorncliffe I was curious to see how many 18th Battalion (non reserve) soldiers are interned at the Shorncliffe Military Cemetery.

During my research I read a post at the Canadian Great War Project: “Every year since 1917, with the exception 1939-1945, the local population has held a Canada Day ceremony. Children from the local Folkestone school are assigned the grave of one of the Canadians, and after the prayers and speeches the child lays a small bunch of flowers on each headstone.”

As a Canadian I cannot begin to express my appreciation for this recognition for the men and women who served our country in conjunction with our Allies. Many of the Canadian soldiers laid to rest are remembered thanks to the community in Kent.

What was Pte. David Gray (Service no. 124644) thinking on February 8th, 1916 when he enlisted in London, Ontario? He was married to his wife, Annie, and he was 40 years old when the average age of a Canadian soldier in World War 1 was 26 years old. From London, Ontario he would have been processed and shipped to England and sadly died November 23rd 1916 having served his country for 290 days, had a birthday and was then 41.

It is hard to think of this carriage painter at his age, relatively old for that era at 4o when the life expectancy at that time was approximately 50 having the motivation to go to war. At this time the Canadian Army was made up with volunteers and one wonders why the Canadian born Pte. Gray enlisted. Chances are he had ties to the United Kingdom but most of the private soldiers, if not the officers were younger than him so it must of been odd being older with such a young corp of soldiers.

At the time of enlistment he gave his address as 353 Oxford Street in London, Ontario and his GWGC registration commemorates him to his wife Annie Gray residing at 2535, Lillibridge Avenue, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A..

On September 15th, 1916 at the Somme he was severely wounded (GSW to right ear, cheek, lips with a wound to right thigh and a compound fracture of the femur) and transported back to England for treatment.

The 18th Battalion War Diary offers this entry on the date of wounding for Pte. Gray during the Battle of Fler-Courcelette:

“Battalion moved in fighting order from Brickfields. Took up position on right of frontage allocated to 4th Can. INF Bgde viz 18th Bn right, 20th Bn centre, 21st left.

6:24 [AM] – Battalion attached German front and second lines to depth of 1200 yds and held the position gained (both objectives gained).”

No mention of OR (other ranks) wounded or killed except a list of the officers wounded and killed that month (see post on battle).

But now he is honoured each year on Canada Day in the green of England thanks to the many generations after him.

Thank you people of Kent.

Headstone

Age on headstone inaccurate. Via Find-A-Grave, Les Highton.

PS:  An inquiry is being made through the CWGC to verify headstone details and data.

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2 thoughts on “Private David Gray: Finding Peace in Shorncliffe

    • Hello Paige,

      You query led me to check where I got those photos. As I work on this blog I try to be judicious with sources.

      The picture of Private David Gray came from his page at the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. No other attribution was given. The link to the page is here.

      The picture of his headstone comes from Find-A-Grave and the link is here.

      Your query gave me the opportunity to update my image sources.

      As to attribution please use the web site url if possible and my name is Eric Edwards. If I can be of assistance with anything please ask.

      Best,

      Eric

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