From our ‘Family histories’ section: The Dray Family: ‘James Dray and his Wife Ellen Sophia Dray’: Courtesy of Pam Dray

Thomas was born in 1892 one of twelve sons from the marriage of James and Ellen Sophia Dray. The family lived at 1, Albert Lane, Hythe Kent and Thomas was the only son not to return home from War. He died at Zonneke on the 11th April 1915. He is commemorated on his local war memorial in Prospect Road, Hythe, Kent as well as at his school St Leonards.

62HYT - James And Thomas John Dray

His brother James was born in 1876 and led an interesting life. He enlisted 3rd January 1896 and had previously served in 1st Volunteer Battalion, Buffs. He did a Military Engineering course in Chatham 1899, a cookery course in Aldershot 1899, and a Master Cooks course in Aldershot 1903. James ended up with the rank of regimental Sergeant Major. His postings included three separate occasions to South Africa, between 1899-1908, Hong Kong 1908-1910, Singapore 1910-1913, India 1913-1914, a training reserve Battalion in 1916, BEF France 1918-1919 and in Germany where he transferred to Royal West Surrey Regt 1919-1920, Army of Occupation.

When he was in South Africa his wife visited him from time to time and had two children born out there. He was discharged in 1920 due to Chronic Rheumatism caused by war service, and upon retiring he went back to Keymer, Sussex. He died in Cuckfield Hospital aged 83.

The other Sons of James and Ellen Dray:

• Edward Dray was born in 1874 and died in 1954.

• George Dray, born 1879, Hythe, Kent, was in the Royal Field Artillery.

• John Dray was born on the 26.3.1881 in Hythe, Kent. He was a Private in the 1st Buffs.

• William Frederick Dray, born 1884 – 1960 as yet no record found of war service or exemption.

• Percy Charles Dray, born 24.11.1886 Hythe Kent. On the 25th March 1916 it was reported in the local paper that Percy had asked for an exemption not to join the army, on account of he was the last single son at home and although working as a Labourer at the Camp he was also helping his father in his fish and chip shop of evenings also running the accounts. Capt Twopenny said that whilst recognising the splendid record of the family, Dray, being away all day, could hardly be indispensible to his father’s business. The Mayor then said he appreciated the grand example the family had set, and therefore he granted a month’s extension, with the following two months. I think there was also a twist to this tale as on the 16.4.1916 the last banns for his wedding to Mable May Browne were called and were married after that. I am not sure but it was believed he did go into the army at a later date.

• Harry Dray, born 8.8.1886, Hythe, Kent, Number l/7966 2/East Kent. He made the Army his career and finished as a Colour Sergeant in the Buffs. He married Minnette De Silva in Bangalore India in 1919 and remained out there for the rest of his life. Harry was issued with the British War Medal in India 10.9.1923 in Madras being a Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant at that time. It is believed Harry stayed in India and died there.

• Richard Dray, born 2/5/1894, Hythe, Kent, 855431 DVR 64 Bde Royal Field Artillery.

• Fleetwood George Dray born 18.8.1895 Hythe Kent Number 14675 R.F.A of Hythe was 19 years 7 months when he enlisted in Dover in 1914 as a driver. His occupation at the time was a Hotel Worker. From his service records he went to France and whilst there he was awaiting trial 16.5.1917 but sentence was commuted to 24.12.1918 remainder of sentence 2 years I.H.L. 21.5.1917 and the sentence would be brought forward for reconsideration in September 1918. What was his crime? We did not find out. In his records was a letter from his father to the records office of the R.F.A in Oct 1917, saying he had not heard from his son in 6 months and wanted to know if he was ok. Various letters went from office to office asking about him and the last information was that the sentence was remitted and he was posted 20.3.1919. Fleetwood transferred to Class Z army reserve on 15th July 1919. He went on to marry Beatrice Simms around 1922 and they had a son Denis Fleetwood who lived in Solihull Birmingham. Fleetwood died in Solihull in 1970.

• Frederick Bertie Dray, born 12/10/1896 -1953, Number 10091 The Buffs. Frederick was a greengrocer by trade living with his parents. He enlisted aged 18 years. 29.11.1913 at Shorncliffe, Folkestone, Kent and was discharged 16.1.1914 after serving 49 days. Stated on his discharge papers was: ‘unlikely to become an efficient soldier’. Apparently this type of discharge usually meant that he could not shoot straight or perform drill, (this probably saved him from getting killed in WW1.) Interestingly Frederick’s history sheet showed he had 3 elder brothers all in the 2nd Buffs stationed in Wellington, India, Madras. This procedure, of so many brothers in the same battalion, was later stopped in WW1 to prevent multiple family casualties in battle.

• Albert Dray was in the Royal Field Artillery

Image & text courtesy of Pam Dray.


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