The AIF Project

William Fennell BRAY

Regimental number88
Place of birthBallarat, Victoria
SchoolPrince of Wales State School, Northcote, Victoria
ReligionChurch of England
OccupationRailway storeman
AddressButler Street, Northcote, Melbourne, Victoria
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation28
Next of kinMother, C Bray, Butler Street, Northcote, Melbourne, Victoria
Previous military serviceServed for many years in the Victorian Militia.
Enlistment date22 February 1915
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name23rd Battalion, A Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/40/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A14 Euripides on 10 May 1915
Rank from Nominal RollCorporal
Unit from Nominal Roll23rd Battalion
FateKilled in Action 20 March 1917
Place of death or woundingBapaume, Somme Sector, France
Date of death20 March 1917
Age at death29.10
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: Charles and Caroline BRAY. Born in Victoria
Family/military connectionsBrother: 2801 Pte Albert Edwin BRAY, 60th Bn, returned to Australia, 23 July 1918; Cousins: 2060 Pte Albert Victor BRAY, 2nd Machine Gun Company, killed in action, Flers, France, 9 November 1916; 1330 Gunner William CAM, 6th Field Artillery Brigade, killed in action, 25 September 1917.
Other details

Statement, Red Cross File No 0510906L, 145 Pte J.A. HENRY, A Company, 23rd Bn (patient, 5th Southern General Hospital, Portsmouth, England), 13 November 1917: 'I saw Bray blown to pieces by a shell in front of Noreuil, nr. Bullecourt on March 20th. I know it was 3 days after we went through Bapaume on St. Patrick's day. It was in the open field and we were driven back, but in any case burial would have been impossible as the shell landed right on him.'

Second statement, 3872 Pte W.F. MELBOURNE, 23rd Bn, 18 May 1917: 'I knew all these men [BRAY and four others] quite well. They were all in a dugout just above Bapaume really two miles in front of a spot where the Germans began to evacuate. A mate of mine named Pte George Thompson was with them. He left them at 12 o'clock midday. When he left he discovered that the dugout was very nearly surrounded by Germans, but he just managed to escape. Our own men then saw the Germans close in and take all these men prisoners.'

Third statement, 5371 Pte T.H. HOBAN, 23rd Bn (patient, 2nd London General Hospital, Southall, England), 3 August 1917: 'He was left by himself at an advanced post at Noreuil covering a retreat and is almost certainly a prisoner of war. I was at the next post. Pte. Lawrence of the same Coy. A. was with Bray at the time and gave us this information.'
SourcesRed Cross File No 0510906L

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