James Eric (Jim) GRAY

Poppy

GRAY, James Eric

Service Number: 2199
Enlisted: 17 April 1916
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 46th Infantry Battalion
Born: Portarlington, Victoria, Australia, 1896
Home Town: Drysdale, Greater Geelong, Victoria
Schooling: Portarlington State School, Victoria
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed in action, Epehy, France, 19 September 1918
Cemetery: Bellicourt British Cemetery
Plot IV, Row B, Grave No. 3
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Portarlington War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

17 Apr 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2199, 46th Infantry Battalion
16 Aug 1916: Involvement Private, SN 2199, 46th Infantry Battalion
16 Aug 1916: Embarked Private, SN 2199, 46th Infantry Battalion, RMS Orontes, Melbourne
11 Apr 1917: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 2199, 46th Infantry Battalion, Bullecourt (First), SW right leg.
7 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2199, 46th Infantry Battalion, Battle of Messines
30 Oct 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 46th Infantry Battalion, Belgium
28 Mar 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 2199, 46th Infantry Battalion, Dernancourt/Ancre
8 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 2199, 46th Infantry Battalion, The Battle of Amiens
19 Sep 1918: Involvement Lance Corporal, SN 2199, 46th Infantry Battalion

James Eric Gray - Life Story

Lance Corporal James Eric Gray – 46th Battalion - Service Number 2199
James’s parents William and Elizabeth Gray married in 1878 and had eleven children but lost one at birth being Harold Edgar Gray. William’s oldest son was Herbert William Gray and he was born in 1880. Following Herbert were two more sons and seven daughters. The other sons were Percy Baxter Gray and his youngest son James Eric Gray born in in 1896. In 1890, William’s father died and he inherited the family farm. During the 1890’s, William started to become active in civic duties in Portarlington and was voted in as Shire President in the year of James’s birth in 1896. He was shire president until 1901 which coincided with Federation in Australia.

James grew up in a large family with a strong sense of community through their father’s contributions to both farming and shire duties. After finishing school, he started farming with his brothers at the family farm named Wharparilla in the Parish of paywit. When the war arrived in 1914, he was an 18 year old and was listed in the electorial rolls of that year as a farmer at Paywit. Paywit was an area of Bellarine bordered by Drysdale, Swan Bay and between St Leonards and Portalington. His father was 65 at the start of the war and his older brothers were past their 30’s. William was already thinking about the future as he had purchased another home in Canterbury in Melbourne at 4 Maling Road.

During the war, William was asked by the shire to serve as Shire President for a second term in 1916 to 1917. James had enlisted in April 1916. He left for service on the Orontes which departed from Melbourne on 16th August 1916. Also on the Orontes was his younger 2nd cousin named Frederick who lived at Drysdale. Frederick Gray’s grandfather was James’s grandfather’s younger brother. He arrived in France on 23 November 1916 as Pte 2199, as part of the 46th Batallion reinforcements. Frederick was Pte 2197 and was also sent to be part of the 46th Battalion reinforcements.

The 46th Battalion was formed on the 14th February 1916. It drew most of its experienced personnel from the 14th battalion which were a Victorian unit that had served at Gallipoli in 1915. It moved to France in June 1916 where for the next two and a bit years it took part in fighting along the Western Front. It fought in battles at Somme (1916 & 1918), Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines (1917) and Ypres (1917), Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Ancre (1918), Hamel, Amiens, Albert (1918), Hindenburg Line, Epehy, and Flanders (1916-1918).

On 11 April 1917 the Australian 4th Division which included the 46th Battalion, assaulted the Hindenburg Line in the First Battle of Bullecourt. The attack was hastily planned and mounted and resulted in disaster. Tanks which were supposed to support the attacking Australian infantry either broke down or were quickly destroyed. Nevertheless, the infantry managed to break into the German defences. Due to uncertainty as to how far they had advanced, supporting artillery fire was withheld, and eventually the Australians were hemmed in and forced to retreat. The two brigades of the 4th Division that carried out the attack, the 4th and 12th, suffered over 3,300 casualties; 1,170 Australians were taken prisoner - the largest number captured in a single engagement during the war.

James’s lost his cousin Frederick in this battle as he was killed on this day. This area was named the Hindenburg Line that the Germans had retreated to in February and March of 1917. It was a tough place to do battle as it was open with no element of surprise in which the Germans were in trenches. The attack had little chance of success and the 46th were forced to withdraw with heavy casualties. James Gray had survived but with so much fighting to come, time was against him.

The 46th then switched to the Ypres sector in Belgium where they took part in battles of Messines and Passchendaele. The 46th rotated in and out of the front line throughout the winter of 1917-18. In the spring of 1918, it played a role in turning the great German offensive by defeating attacks around Dernancourt in the first days of April. During the Allied offensive that commenced in August, the 46th also played an active part, fighting in the battle of Amiens on 8 August and in the battle to secure the Hindenburg “outpost line” on 18 September.

It was during this Battle of Epehy on the Somme and in the same fields as his cousin had died that James’s luck ran out. He survived the first day of the assault on September 18. The two Australian divisions achieved complete and dramatic success. These two divisions, the 1st and the 4th, had a strength of some 6,800 men and in the course of the day captured 4,243 prisoners, 76 guns, 300 machine guns and 30 trench mortars. They took all their objectives and advanced to a distance of about three miles (5 km), on a four mile (6 km) front. The Australian casualties were 1,260 officers and men (265 Killed, 1057 Wounded, 2 Captured).

During the second day of this offensive, James’s was killed. The exact circumstances are unknown but he was killed at what was named Hudson’s Post. This name may have been the name of the lookout and he may have been on overnight watch and most likely named after the officer in charge of the Post. There is no landmark near the village of Epehy with this name. He was killed after surviving the best part of two years.

Within days, the 46th Battlion was removed from the front line and had no further action during the war before November 11th when the Germans signed the Armistice and the war came to an end. After almost two years of conflicts, James succumbed within sight of the end. One of so many tragic stories of our young men during the great war. He was buried at the age of 22½.
His grave is located at Plot IV, Row B, Grave No. 3 , at the Bellicourt British Cemetery, Bellicourt, Aisne, France. He is also listed alongside his cousin Frederick William in panel number 141 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

His father William, retired to live out his years in Canterbury with his wife and five of his daughters. He left the farm to his two sons who had been working it since 1900. William Gray died in October 1921 at the age of 72 and was buried at the Box Hill Cemetery. His wife lived on for another eight years and was buried next to William. His eldest son Herbert had two sons. Herbert Donald and James Eric Gray who was born in February 1921.

A fitting tribute in the year his father died to name his youngest son after the son his father lost. James Eric Gray (the 2nd) passed away in 2010 as an 89 year old. James Eric Gray who was killed in the war may well have lived as long if he hadn’t volunteered for “the war to end all wars”. He was one of over 60,000 Australian killed during World War 1.

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Biography

Private James Eric Gray – 46th Battalion - Service No: 2199

James’s parents William and Elizabeth Gray married in 1878 and had eleven children but lost one at birth being Harold Edgar Gray.  William’s oldest son was Herbert William Gray and he was born in 1880. Following Herbert were two more sons and seven daughters.   The other sons were Percy Baxter Gray and his youngest son James Eric Gray born in in 1896.   In 1890, William’s father died and he inherited the family farm. During the 1890’s, William started to become active in civic duties in Portarlington and was voted in as Shire President in the year of James’s birth in 1896. He was shire president until 1901 which coincided with Federation in Australia.  

James grew up in a large family with a strong sense of community through their father’s contributions to both farming and shire duties.   After finishing school, he started farming with his brothers at the family farm named Wharparilla in the Parish of paywit.   When the war arrived in 1914, he was an 18 year old and was listed in the electorial rolls of that year as a farmer at Paywit.   Paywit appears to be the area of Bellarine bordered by Drysdale, Swan Bay and between St Leonards and Point Lonsdale. His father was 65 at the start of the war and his older brothers were past their 30’s. William was already thinking about the future as he had purchased another home in Canterbury in Melbourne at 4 Maling Road.

During the war, William was asked by the shire to serve as Shire President for a second term in 1916 to 1917. James had enlisted in April 1916.   He left for service on the Orontes which departed from Melbourne on 16th August 1916.   Also on the Orontes was his younger 2nd cousin named Frederick who lived at Drysdale. Frederick Gray’s grandfather was James’s grandfather’s younger brother.   He arrived in France on 23 November 1916 as Pte 2199, as part of the 46th Batallion reinforcements. Frederick was Pte 2197 and was also sent to be part of the 46th Battalion reinforcements.

The 46th Battalion was formed on the 14th February 1916.   It drew most of its experienced personnel from the 14th battalion which were a Victorian unit that had served at Gallipoli in 1915. It moved to France in June 1916 where for the next two and a bit years it took part in fighting along the Western Front. It fought in battles at Somme (1916 & 1918), Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines (1917) and Ypres (1917), Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Ancre (1918), Hamel, Amiens, Albert (1918), Hindenburg Line, Epehy, and Flanders (1916-1918).

On 11 April 1917 the Australian 4th Division which included the 46th Battalion, assaulted the Hindenburg Line in the First Battle of Bullecourt. The attack was hastily planned and mounted and resulted in disaster. Tanks which were supposed to support the attacking Australian infantry either broke down or were quickly destroyed. Nevertheless, the infantry managed to break into the German defences. Due to uncertainty as to how far they had advanced, supporting artillery fire was withheld, and eventually the Australians were hemmed in and forced to retreat. The two brigades of the 4th Division that carried out the attack, the 4th and 12th, suffered over 3,300 casualties; 1,170 Australians were taken prisoner - the largest number captured in a single engagement during the war.

James’s lost his cousin Frederick in this battle as he was killed on this day.   This area was named the Hindenburg Line that the Germans had retreated to in February and March of 1917. It was a tough place to do battle as it was open with no element of surprise in which the Germans were in trenches. The attack had little chance of success and the 46th were forced to withdraw with heavy casualties.   James Gray had survived but with so much fighting to come, time was against him.

The 46th then switched to the Ypres sector in Belgium where they took part in battles of Messines and Passchendaele. The 46th rotated in and out of the front line throughout the winter of 1917-18. In the spring of 1918, it played a role in turning the great German offensive by defeating attacks around Dernancourt in the first days of April.  During the Allied offensive that commenced in August, the 46th also played an active part, fighting in the battle of Amiens on 8 August and in the battle to secure the Hindenburg “outpost line” on 18 September.  

It was during this Battle of Epehy on the Somme and in the same fields as his cousin had died that James’s luck ran out.   He survived the first day of the assault on September 18. The two Australian divisions achieved complete and dramatic success. These two divisions, the 1st and the 4th, had a strength of some 6,800 men and in the course of the day captured 4,243 prisoners, 76 guns, 300 machine guns and 30 trench mortars. They took all their objectives and advanced to a distance of about three miles (5 km), on a four mile (6 km) front. The Australian casualties were 1,260 officers and men (265 Killed, 1057 Wounded, 2 Captured).

During the second day of this offensive, James’s was killed. The exact circumstances are unknown but he was killed at what was named Hudson’s Post. This name may have been the name of the lookout and he may have been on overnight watch and most likely named after the officer in charge of the Post. There is no landmark near the village of Epehy with this name.   He was killed after surviving the best part of two years.      

Within days, the 46th Battlion was removed from the front line and had no further action during the war before November 11th when the Germans signed the Armistice and the war came to an end. After almost two years of conflicts, James succumbed within sight of the end. One of so many tragic stories of our young men during the great war.   He was buried at the age of 22½.  

His grave is located at Plot IV, Row B, Grave No. 3 , at the Bellicourt British Cemetery, Bellicourt, Aisne, France. He is also listed alongside his cousin Frederick William in panel number 141 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

His father William, retired to live out his years in Canterbury with his wife and five of his daughters. He left the farm to his two sons who had been working it since 1900.   William Gray died in October 1921 at the age of 72 and was buried at the Box Hill Cemetery. His wife lived on for another eight years and was buried next to William. His eldest son Herbert had two sons.   Herbert Donald and James Eric Gray who was born in February 1921.  

A fitting tribute in the year his father died to name his youngest son after the son his father lost. James Eric Gray (the 2nd) passed away in 2010 as an 89 year old.   James Eric Gray who was killed in the war may well have lived as long if he hadn’t volunteered for “the war to end all wars”.   He was one of over 60,000 Australian killed during World War 1.

Read more...