Thomas WRAY
Rank: Private
Number: 39372
Unit: 2nd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 25 January 1918
Age: 20
Cemetery: Vaulx Hill Cemetery, Vaulx-Vraucourt, Pas de Calais, France

Tom Wray was born in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, the son of George and Sarah. George was a miner working to build railway tunnels and the family appears to have often moved, no doubt so he could be near his work. The 1901 Census show the family living at Chapel Fields, Marple. Their youngest child, 1 year old Catherine, had been born there but, only two years before, they were in Ashbourne when Tom was born. They had four other children - Christopher (6), Dorothy (12), Frances (11) and Henrietta (8). Although the records of the War Graves Commission show the name of Thomas, the entry on the Census is Tom and, within the constraints of this project, it has not been possible to verify his actual name.

The Commission records also show Tom as serving with the 8th Battalion with which he had indeed been with, for the several months that he had been on active service. However, the Battalion was in the process of being disbanded (process completed by end of February) and Tom had already been transferred at the end of December.

On 20 January 1918, Tom and his comrades started another tour of duty in the front line trenches north east of the French town of Bapaume. It was a quiet time in this sector with no major offensives in the immediate offing from either side. The trenches were in very bad condition and the men spent most of their time trying to repair and improve them after damage by heavy rain. Danger was never very far away and each side's artillery periodically shelled the trenches opposite.

Tom's official date of death is 25th January but an examination of the Battalion's War Diary describes this as a quiet day. However, on the evening of the 24th, there is mention of heavy artillery fire and it seems more likely that this is when Tom was killed. He was originally buried very close to where he died. In September 1918, a new Cemetery was opened at Vaulx with only a handful of burials until after the War. Over the following couple of years, the small front-line burial areas were closed as the land was returned to civilian use. Tom's body was exhumed and taken there and his grave is now tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The Cemetery now has nearly 600 graves.

Further information about Tom, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

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