Thursday, 15 January 2015

Funeral of a Luton Hero

Friday 15th January 1915: Private Harry Gray, the son of  Mr Walter Gray of 2 Beech Road, Luton, was buried at Luton today. He died in Edinburgh Military Hospital on Sunday from a bullet wound to the head received while serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment on 18th October, having born the sufferings of the past three months with heroic fortitude.[1] The house surgeon at Deaconess Hospital, Edinburgh described Private Gray as “just splendid”. He had undergone three operations while at the hospital, for all of which he declined the use of anaesthetics. He appeared to be recovering and was sent to a convalescent home, but grave symptoms developed and he was sent back to hospital. His mother and sister were present when he died.

The 23rd Battalion of the County of London Regiment provided full military honours for Private Gray’s funeral, with a firing party, trumpeters, and bearers. Two hundred members of the battalion marched in the procession. They were accompanied by the band of the 5th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. Unfortunately it was not possible to find a gun-carriage to convey the coffin. The procession, with the band playing the Dead March, left Beech Road just before three o’clock. A large crowd gathered and lined the route through the centre of town. At the military headquarters the guard turned out with fixed bayonets. As the coffin was lowered into the earth three volleys were fired over the grave and the firing party stood with fixed bayonets while the Last Post was sounded.

Private Gray had served with the Royal Garrison Artillery for 12 years, spending almost the entire period on foreign service. About 12 months ago his period of service expired and he was attached to the 1st Beds Special Reserve. He was called up on August 8th and in mid-September fought in the retreat towards Paris. On October 17th his rifle was smashed in his hands by a German shell but he was unhurt. The next day he received his fatal wound.

Source: Luton News 14th and 21st January 1915

[1] 18th October was the day on which the 2nd Bedfords suffered their first casualties of the war while advancing on the village of Geluwe. The newspaper first gives the date Private Gray was wounded as 17th October but later makes it apparent it was on the 18th. 

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