Edward Cecil GRAY
Rank: Captain
Unit: 11th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 2 May 1917
Age: 23
Cemetery: Grevillers British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

In the early summer of 1891, John Edward Gray, a Wesleyan minister, married Lois Burgess. At the time, only Anglican churches were authorised to conduct legal marriage ceremonies so, whilst the couple are bound to have made their vows in a non-conformist church, the marriage was also registered at second civil ceremony at Stockport. Edward's ministry appears to have taken them all over the country as, in about 1893, they were in Devon when their first child was born. They named her Lois after her mother. A year later, they had moved to Sevenoaks in Kent when Edward Cecil was born on 10 February. He was always known as Cecil to distinguish him from his father. In about 1900, Ronald was born in Norfolk.

The 1901 Census finds the family living at 19 Gargrave (? Sp.) Road, Skipton. It's not known if Cecil ever lived in the Stockport area and nothing has been discovered to indicate it but he was obviously highly thought of, as his name appears on the Stockport and Heaton Moor War Memorials.

When War was declared on 4 August 1914, Cecil was an undergraduate at Manchester University and a member of its Officer Training Corps. He enlisted within days and, on the 13th, had applied for a commission. He gave his address as Mill Brow, Wigan, but it would seem Rev. Gray had moved parishes again and was living at The Manse, Richmond Hill, Leeds. Cecil's enlistment papers, which still exist at the National Archives, show that he was nearly 5' 10" tall and weighed 143 pounds. The examining doctor recorded that he had normal hearing and good teeth.

The 11th Battalion was sent to Gallipoli as reinforcements for the failing campaign. They landed on 7 August 1915 but 2nd Lieutenant Gray did not join them until 29 September. The reinforcements failed to bring success and, by the end of the year, all of the troops were withdrawn. Cecil then spent several months in Egypt before the Battalion was reassigned to France in July 1916.

On 20 August 1916, he received a wound in his left thigh from a rifle grenade. He was treated first at a field hospital at Fervent and, once his condition was stabilised, he was transferred to one of the military hospitals based at Rouen. Four days later, he was evacuated back to "Blighty " aboard the Hospital Ship "Patrick" and he was admitted to a military hospital at Grimsby. Whilst still in hospital, he was promoted, first to Lieutenant on 2 November and then to Temporary Captain a month later. By 11 December, he had fully recovered and was discharged from medical care.

He was, no doubt, allowed a period of leave and, on 7 February 1917, he left Folkestone for a military base at Etaples in France, rejoining the Battalion on the 17th. In the middle of April, the Battalion was at Morchies, ten kilometres to the north east of the French town of Bapaume. The men were providing working parties helping to build defences around the town. They were due to move into new positions on the 24th and, the day before, the Battalion's Colonel and the four Company Captains went to reconnoitre the new area near Grevillers. On the way back, Cecil was badly wounded by a piece of shrapnel from an exploding shell.   

He was taken to a field hospital based in the town - 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station. A telegram was sent to his father "Regret to inform you Capt. E Gray, Manchester Regiment, reported dangerously ill in 3 Australian CCS with shell wound head compound fracture skull. It is regretted that permission to visit cannot be granted."

Field hospitals were fairly rudimentary affairs. Their job was to undertake any necessary emergency surgery and stabilise a man's condition allowing him to be transferred to full hospital facilities far behind the front line or, even, back to Britain. The fact that Cecil remained there for over a week before he died can mean only one thing - the surgeons had already decided his was a hopeless case with no chance of recovery. These were hard but vital decisions to be taken when the number of casualties from an unexpected attack could easily overwhelm medical facilities. Cecil would have been placed in a separate part of the tented hospital and made as comfortable as possible including being given sufficiently large doses of morphine to deaden the pain, but he would received no further practical treatment.

In the early 1920s, Rev. and Mrs Gray were living at The Manse, Whalley, Blackburn.

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