Obalin Herbert GRAY

Poppy

GRAY, Obalin Herbert

Service Numbers: 2252, 2552
Enlisted: 30 December 1914
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 3rd Field Ambulance
Born: Bushy Park, Tasmania, October 1890
Home Town: Hobart, Tasmania
Schooling: Friends High School
Occupation: Warehouseman
Died: SW head and left side, France, 24 August 1918
Cemetery: Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, France
Plot VI, Row B, Grave 10
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Barnes Bay War Memorial, Bruny Roll of Honour, Hobart Roll of Honour, Sandford Pictorial Honour Roll, Sandford Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

30 Dec 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance
19 Feb 1915: Involvement Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance
19 Feb 1915: Embarked Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance, HMAT Runic, Melbourne
18 May 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance, Bullecourt (Second), SW right heel
24 Aug 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 2552, 3rd Field Ambulance, Died of Wounds at 55th Casualty Clearing Station. SW to face and skull, SW to side

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Biography contributed by Virtual Australia

Summary from AWM:  Note he was of the pacifist Quaker faith

Collection relating to the First World War service of 2552 Private Oberlin Herbert Gray, 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, Gallipoli and France, 1915 to1918. There are six diaries in the collection, with entries beginning on 31 January 1915 (pre-embarkation) and ending on 22 August 1918. Oberlin Gray was killed in France two days later, on 24 August, having almost survived the whole war. His brother, Private Frederic Gray, was with him when he was killed, and the final page of the final diary was written by Fred, explaining what happened. Both brothers served alongside as stretcher bearers, in Gallipoli and France. They chose to join the medical corps, as the family were Quakers, and conscientiously weren’t able to ‘take up arms’, however they still wanted to serve.

There’s a particularly interesting entry in Oberlin’s second diary, written on Wednesday 19 May 1915, referring to Simpson and his Donkey:

‘At 4.30 dawn, roar and boom of heavy guns, a tornado of sound. Shells falling over all the hills, bursting above us and showering earth in all directions. Machine guns, rifles. Explosive bullets. Big naval guns firing and the boom of guns on the hills and from Turks. At 5.45 called to go out with stretcher, a fresh burst of firing - many shells falling in sea and sending up huge clouds of spray. Up Shrapnel Gully where machine gun was playing, shells bursting everywhere, a miracle we weren't touched. One chap 3rd FA [3rd Field Ambulance] shot in wrist. Some dead lying about, many wounded, a hell of firing and noise. Working hard for some hours. One poor chap with arm torn off at shoulder, they bear their wounds bravely. Turks nearly through left wing, great slaughter among them. Very warm day. On second trip up a hail of shots from machine gun - one of 3rd FA with a small donkey wearing red cross going up, smiling. He has done a lot of work. On next trip up he was shot through the heart. Simpson - saw him lying with a smile on his face. Later after dark at an open grave, the chaplain read the funeral service, Church of England. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” A lot of the AMC there - a number of wounded today and a number of others buried also - 30 killed and 50 also wounded today - much shelling into trenches. Had dinner and up again, get back at 5:30. Two wounded Turks - they are trying to get information from them. Later went down to beach for water - much firing - didn’t get to sleep till midnight.’

Oberlin’s diary entries are highly detailed, and he wrote daily, for three and a half years. In his sixth diary, during the days preceding his death, Oberlin details his marches through Corbie and up the Somme valley. His final entry on Thursday 22 August 1918 is distinctively brief, reading ‘warm and sunny’. The following page, Friday 23 August, has been completed by Fred, Oberlin’s brother: ‘Oberlin was wounded severely in the head (compound fracture) and also left side just above the hip. I was a few yards from him when the shell burst and was with him instantly … I applied first field dressings and carried him out. I was with Oberlin up until the time he was put onto an ambulance cab 1½ hours later. He did not recover consciousness … I obtained permission to leave my post (12 Batt) and at 7.30 pm arrived at no. 55 CCS [Casualty Clearing Station], too late to be in time for the burial which had taken place at 4pm. Oberlin passed away without regaining consciousness. He suffered no pain whatever. I have never seen a more peaceful expression as was his when I saw him last. The dear boy is buried at Daours Plot 6 Row B No. 10 grave.’

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Biography contributed by Sharyn Roberts

Son of Frederic S and Bethia GRAY of North Bruny Island, Tasmania.