Arthur Edward WRAY
Rank: Private
Number: 52044
Unit: A Company, 19th Battalion LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 25 April 1918
Age: 28 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Arthur grew up in Didsbury where his father, Frederick, was a butcher and lived at 26 Lime Grove. He was the youngest of Frederick and Sarah's four children; his older siblings being Andrew, Florence and Herbert. He had been educated at Didsbury National School and had been a member of the local Lads' Club. The family worshipped at Emmanuel Church, where Arthur was a member of the choir.

By the time of the Great War, the Wrays had moved to Heaton Mersey, living at 12 Chapel Street. In the early part of 1916, Arthur enlisted into the army at Stockport, joining the Cheshire Regiment (service number 35380). He didn't serve abroad with the Regiment and was, no doubt, transferred to the Fusiliers when he had completed his training around the late summer of 1916.

On 9 April 1918, the Germans opened the second phase of their spring offensive around the border between Belgium and France in what would become known as the Battle of the Lys. The fighting was still going on two weeks later. The 19th Battalion of the Fusiliers was a Pioneer Battalion. They were trained fighting soldiers, but their main job was in the construction of trenches and strong-points. During a major attack, they would follow the leading waves of troops and undertake the consolidation of any captured positions. Between the 22nd and 24th April, they were engaged on this task, digging a communication trench from the rear area towards the front line at the south east corner of Mt. Kemmel (about 6 miles south west of Ypres).

The Regimental History recounts "At 2.30am on the 25th, the German artillery opened a heavy bombardment with high explosives and lachrymatory and mustard gas as had been foretold by a prisoner taken by the French the previous evening. The infantry assault followed at 6am when the Germans over-ran the French positions and, in a little over an hour, had seized Kemmel village and Mt. Kemmel with its invaluable observation".

The Battalion now took up the best defensive position it could, around a farm on a spur of the hill known as Little Kemmel. They were continuously attacked until the enemy succeeded in working round both flanks when surrender or death became the only possibilities.

"In spite of a gallant and prolonged resistance against overwhelming odds, the Battalion had met with disaster owing to a German advance of a rapidity which could not have been foreseen and which should not have been possible."

Thomas Palfreyman and Arthur Wray were two of the 58 men from the Battalion who were killed during the day. Few have a known grave. Gerald Griffiths was taken prisoner and died on 31 May.

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