Trooper 3430 Francis Harry Ray
'A' Squadron, 1st Life Guards
Trooper Ray was the son of Eliza Ray, of Hungerford and he was born in Romsey, Hampshire.
On the 5th April 1918 his regiment was under canvas near Etaples and there on the 19th they were bombed by AEG bombers of Bogohl (Bomber Squadron) 6 of the Imperial German Army Air Service. He was wounded in this bombing action and on the 20th he died of wounds. He is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
Newbury Weekly News reported:
Pte F.H. Ray, only son of Mr and Mrs Ray, of Lower Denford Farm, near Hungerford, lost his life in the enemy air raid when bombs were dropped on a large group of hospitals far outside the battle area in France, and the hospital tents were swept with machine guns, a deed of savagery which is described as one of the most horrible episodes of the war.
The deceased joined the 1st Life Guards in November 1914 and was breaking in horses at Hyde Park Barracks until April 1916, when he went out to France and has since been sniping. He was a fine fellow, standing 6ft 2in, and had declined promotion. He was to have been married to Miss Bunce, of High Wycombe, on his next leave.
- Cap Badge of the Life Guards
- The CWGC headstone for Trooper Ray
On 10 March 1918, the regiment was detached from 7th Cavalry Brigade, with which it had served from August 1914. It was formally dismounted, and converted into the No 1 (1st Life Guards) Battalion of the Guards Machine Gun Regiment.
It was while this unit was being trained at the base camp at Etaples that it was hit by an enemy air raid – on 19 May 1918. The raid lasted from 10.30pm to 1am on 20 May. Shortly before midnight, two bombs fell on the Life Guards tented camp. No fewer than 42 men were killed, and 83 wounded from the Life Guards in this incident.
The War Diary reads:
5.4.1918 – Regiment went under canvas about a mile outside Etaples.
19.5.1918 – Air raid over Etaples and district commencing 10.30 pm and lasting until 1.0am on the 20th. Shortly after midnight 2 bombs fell in the camp causing the following casualties. 42 Killed, 91 wounded (All named including trooper Ray)
[The total casualties numbered 300 with a number of Canadian nurses also getting killed]
Points of Interest:
Etaples was an area well known to troops who entered France because it housed an area known as 'The Bullring'. This was a toughing up area for troops going to the front line. The general idea was that it would prepare them for the rigours of trench life. The instructors wore yellow arm bands and were nicknamed 'Canaries'.
This backfired towards the end of the war when there was a major mutiny at the camp that became famous due to a character known as the 'Monocled mutineer, Percy Toplis. Toplis was later shot dead by Police in the North of England. Etaples was also a rather sad place because it housed many military hospitals who treated the wounded before they were shipped back to England. Unfortunally many of the wounded succumbed to their wounds and were buried at Etaples cemetery which became one of the biggest in France. The soldiers were in many cases unable to get their tongue around the name of Etaples and called it 'Eat Apples' .