Walter Gray

Born: 1898
Died: 3.5.1917
Service number: 200896
Rank: Private
Regiment / Service: Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Youngest son of Joseph and Susan Gray of Prospect Place, Bolus Lane, Outwood.

War Service 

Due to the absence of his service record it is not clear whether Walter enlisted, or was conscripted, into the army during the First World War. However, he was posted to the 2/4th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. On 13 January 1917, the 2/4th Battalion, along with the 2/5th KOYLI, attached to 187th Brigade, 62nd Division, sailed to France.

After a month of railway construction work and trench familiarisation exercises, on the 20 February, the 187th Brigade went into the line, with the 2/4th KOYLI in reserve at Mailly Wood East. The weather was very bad and ground conditions atrocious, such that relief from the front line was taking place every 48 hours.

The German Army was now showing signs of retiring from this section of the line and, on 25 February, the Brigade began a forward movement, towards Puisieux and Beauregard Dovecot. The 2/4th KOYLI was in support of an attack by 2/5th KOYLI, east of Serre. The enemy artillery was at this time causing problems for the forward battalion and the 2/4th KOYLI was ordered forward.

Three companies moved to support the 2/5th KOYLI, but progress became very difficult due to heavy enemy shelling, and the two KOYLI battalions were ordered to hold the line they had gained. For much of the following day, the 2/4th KOYLI was pinned down, but at 17.00 hrs. both battalions were relieved.

The Battle of Arras started on the 9 April 1917, with the 2/4th KOYLI in reserve. However the battalion was not required and spent the rest of the month between tours in the line and practicing for the planned attack at Bullecourt.

During the evening of 2 May, the 187th Brigade suffered casualties from enemy artillery fire when assembling for the attack and as a consequence, assembled short of the planned line. At 03.45 hrs on 3rd May, the creeping barrage commenced, but on reaching the enemy lines the assault troops found much of the enemy wire was still intact. The KOYLI battalions were ordered forward, and some groups succeeded in going through the wire into the first trench, but were driven out of the second trench by enemy bombers. Other groups reached the front line, but could not get through the wire and had to seek shelter in shell holes and hold the first trench. To maintain their positions, the assaulting troops were supplied with ammunition by 2/4th KOYLI, delivering across “No Mans Land”. A second attack was made at 21.00 hrs, by stragglers and men from 2/4th and 2/5th KOYLI, but this attack was stopped by heavy enemy fire.

The 2/4th KOYLI incurred 130 casualties during these attacks, one of whom was Private Walter Gray. He was taken to the Casualty Clearing Station at Achiet-Le-Grand, a village 19km south of Arras, but died from his wounds. He was buried in the Achiet-Le-Grand Communal Cemetery, which now contains 1424 burials from the First World War, of which 200 are unidentified.

Family Life

Walter Gray was the youngest son of Joseph and Susan Gray of Prospect Place, Bolus Lane, Outwood, his father was a coal miner. He was born on 12 April 1898 and baptised shortly afterwards at St Mary Magdalene Church, Outwood. Soon after the birth of Walter, their youngest child, the family moved to Marshall Street at Stanley Lane End. However, by 1911, the family had returned Prospect Place and his father was working as a screener at Lofthouse Colliery. At this time, Walter was attending school and his brothers were working at local collieries.

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