James Dray 1854-1925 (Son of James Edward Dray and Elizabeth Cloake) and his wife Ellen Sophie Nee Hawkins of 1, Albert Lane, Hythe, Kent.

208F - James and Ellen Dray

James and Ellen had 15 children with 11 sons and 4 daughters and how proud these parents must have been to have so many sons serving their country during world war one. One mention in the local paper praising them having 7 sons at war (an 8th son followed his brothers in 1916.) Then they received a letter from the keeper of the Kings Privy purse Sir Frederick Ponsonby dated 8th December 1914. One was in the Sandgate and Cheriton Herald and second in the Hythe Reporter December 1914.

209F - Caption From Hythe Reporter

210F - Caption From the Sandgate and Cheriton Herald - Dec 1914

James Dray 1876-1962 – Colour Sgt 2nd Buffs – First Son of James and Ellen Sophie Dray

James had lead an interesting life as he enlisted 3/01/1896 and previously served in 1st Volunteer Battalion, Buffs. He ended up with the rank of regimental Sergeant Major.

His postings were:

  • 3 to South Africa – between 1899 & 1908
  • Hong Kong 1908-1910
  • Singapore 1910-1913
  • India 1913-1914
  • Training reserve Battalion 1916
  • BEF France 1918-1919
  • Germany transferred to Royal West Surrey Regt 1919-1920, Army of Occupation.

James was discharged in 1920 to Chronic Rheumatism due to war service. He did a Military Engineering course in Chatham 1899, a Cookery course, Aldershot 1899 and a Master Cooks course, Aldershot 1903.

When he was in South Africa his wife visited him from time to time and had two children born out there. When retiring home he went back to Keymer, Sussex. He died in Cuckfield Hospital aged 83

Thomas John Dray 1892 – 11/4/1915 – L/8510 2nd Bat; The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), Thomas died at Zonneke – 8th Son of James and Ellen Sophie Dray

62HYT - James And Thomas John Dray

Thomas was born in 1892 and was the only son not to return home. He was commemorated on his local war memorial in Prospect Road, Hythe, Kent and at his school St Leonards.

St Leonard’s School commemorating the old boys who served their country in WW1 Including Thomas John Dray

211F - Thomas John Dray Roll Call

The other Sons of James and Ellen Dray I haven’t got photos or much information about but feel they must be included.

  • Edward Dray was born 24/11/1874 and married Bertha Annie Chester in 1895. Edward died 21/4/1954.
  • Ellen Kate Dray was born in Hythe, in 1878 and married Thomas Blackman in 1898
  • 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.
  • Sarah Ann Dray, born 1882 in Hythe, died 1884 in Hythe.
  • 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 indispensable 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.
  • Polly Dray was born 13/04/1888 and married George James Austin in 1910. Polly died 25/5/1923
  • Helen Sophie Dray was born in 1893 in Hythe.
  • 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.

Image and text courtesy of Pam Dray


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