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Arthur Wray

Arthur Wray was born in the last quarter of 1894 in Hovingham, and his birth registered at Malton. He was the eldest son of John Robert and Mary (nee Butler) Wray who married in the Malton area in the second quarter of 1894.  Arthur seems to have been brought up by his maternal grandparents who lived in Hovingham. There seems no obvious reason for this. His parents were resident in Brown’s Yard, behind 74 Castlegate, although John was a serving soldier completing three terms of service between 1885 and 1901,  and it may be that Arthur proved too much for his mother to cope with as a single parent!  He evidently remained with his grandparents even when his parents and younger siblings had moved to 66 Old Malton Gate. In the 1901 census we find the Butlers living at the Malt Shovel Inn in Hovingham with their young grandson.

Census 1901 – resident at Malt Shovel Inn, Hovingham
BUTLER, Thomas, Head, Married, M, 52, Bricklayers Labourer, York Yorkshire,
BUTLER, Rhoda, Wife, Married, F, 51, , Rillington Yorkshire,
WRAY, Arthur, Grand Son, , M, 6, , Hovingham Yorkshire,

 Arthur was still living with his grandparents in Hovingham in 1911.

Census 1911 – resident at Hovingham
BUTLER, Thomas, Head, Married 40 years, M, 62, Labourer General, Yorks York,
BUTLER, Rhoda, Wife, Married 40 years, F, 61, , Yorks Rillington,
WRAY, Arthur, Grandson, Single, M, 16, Gardener Domestic, Yorks Hovingham,
STEVENTON, Alfred Harry, Boarder, Single, M, 24, Platelayer, Yorks Huddleston cum Lumby,

At the outbreak of war, Arthur was living with his grandmother in Hovingham where he was known as an athlete, playing football for the village team, “a fine steady young fellow, over 6 foot in height, who was held in great respect by all who knew him.”  He was then working as under-gardener for Sir W. R. A. Worsley at Hovingham Hall and joined the Yorkshire Regiment a fornight later.  He was assigned to the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment which was formed at Richmond on 26 September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Third New Army, and in October attached to 69th Brigade, 23rd Division. They moved to Frensham and in February 1915 went on to Folkestone and Maidstone in Kent, engaged on building defences to the south of London.

On 26 August 1915 they landed at Boulogne. On 5 September they were moved to the Merris-Vieux Berquin area, where trench familiarisation began and took responsibility for a front line sector for the first time nine days later, taking over between Ferme Grande Flamengrie to the Armentieres-Wez Macquart road. At this time, 23rd Division was holding the front at Bois Grenier and remained in this area for a considerable time. The Division was relieved after a lengthy five month spell in the front line by 34th Division, between 26 January and 8 February 1916. After a certain amount of confusing movement, Divisional HQ was established at Blaringhem and the units concentrated around Bruay.

On 3 March 1916 orders were received to relieve the French in the Carency sector. Mid March saw 69th Brigade taking over the Angres front. On 21 May the German attack on Vimy Ridge inflicted serious losses on the Division  and on 11 June they were relieved and moved to Bomy. Intensive training commenced. Thereafter the Division took part in the Battle of Albert in which the Division played a part in the capture of Contalmaison.

During this battle the Captain to whom Arthur was batman, Captain Attley, was killed and one of his fellow-officers later wrote to Mrs Butler:

Dear Mrs Butler – I thought I might be able to come and see you so did not write. I want to write and tell you how glad I am that your grandson camee through the July battle safely. He was my orderly in the attack as I took command of the company after Captain Attley was killed. Arthur Wray came to me just as I fell and tended my wounds, bandaged me up and helped me back to the dressing station. He was most brave during the tiem he was under fire, and I cannot help but think that I might not have come back at all if it had not been for your grandson. I am sure you will be very proud of him. He was one of the best soldiers in the battalion and I hope he will be in the company I am posted to when I return to France. Of course I have written to Arthur Wray myself about his gallant conduct and brought his name before the Commanding Oficer, but I also wanted to write and tell you about him. I know Captain Attley always thought him a very fine soldier. Believe me Mrs Butler, your sincerely L.M. Tinkler, 2nd Lieut. 9th Yorks. Regt.

The battalion also took part in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, the Battle of Pozieres and the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.  the Battle of Morval and the Battle of Le Transloy. This last  battle, which opened on 1 October, began well with the capture of Eaucourt L'Abbaye as well as an advance along the Albert-Bapaume road towards Le Sars. The advance was resumed on 7 October and Le Sars was taken by the British 23rd Division.  The war Diary records the Battalion making an attack on Le Sars which was “entirely successful” and in which they suffered casualties of 17 dead, 9 wounded and 10 missing. It was in this advance that Arthur Wray was killed on 7th October 1916.  

His grandmother received an account of his death from Lieutenant Fred Smith whose batman he was:

Dear Mrs Butler – It is with profound regret that I make known to you the death of your grandson Arthur on the 7th inst., when the battalion attacked and captured successfully a very important village. I’ll tell you the story from the beginning because Arthur has been my servant ever since I came to the battalion which was shortly after the death of Capt. Attley, whose servant Arthur was. We had got into the village, my servant and a platoon of men, and were digging ourselves in. Two or three times, I stopped all from digging to fire on the Germans. On one of these occasions Arthur shot one big fellow through the head so that he fell dead on the spot. Arthur turned to me (I was sitting on my heels beside him) and said “I got him that time. Sir.”  Later in the day, at 4.50 or 5 p.m. the Germans started shelling…. Arthur was the first person I saw. He was crouching, as we all do, low in the trench, nothing apparently wrong with him. I went to him and shook him. I called him by name, but the dear fellow did not hear my words. Mrs Butler, you cannot imagine my feelings. I sat down beside him and cried, yes, cried loud and long. My heart was bleeding for your departed grandson and my most treasured companion. I shall be a Minister of God’s Word if He spares me when the war is over, so I exercised the ministry which every man holds and commended his soul to the Creator of him whose son Arthur was, in these word: “May God forgive you your sins, may God bless you, dear lad, and receive your soul into Paradise.” Arthur’s deathw as instantaneous: he had not struggled in the least. The piece of shrapnel which caused his death went into his neck and broke his spinal column and his windpipe. Mrs Butler, be assured how deep my sympathy is. Let me also assure you of the sympathy of everyone who knew Arthur. His platoon and his company really miss him. I hope I shall hear from the grandmother of the best lad I knew. I remain, yours sincerely Fred Smith 2nd Lieut.

Arthur Wray is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, and on the War Memorial at Hovingham as well as those of Old Malton.