Frederick William Gray # 454847 (Pte.)
Frederick William Gray was born in Lyn on September 6th 1895. He was the second child born to his parents John Henry and Smiena (known as Mimmie) her maiden name was Graham. His parents were farmers and after attending high school at Brockville Collegite Institute, Frederick followed in their footsteps and worked on the family farm.
He had a sister Hattie who was one year older than he was and a brother George eight years younger born in 1903.
The war broke out in 1914 and on July 14, 1915 at the age of 19 Frederick decided to enlist and fight for King and Country. At the time of his enlistment he stood 5’4” with blue eyes and light brown hair. He enlisted in Brockville in the 59th Battalion and was later transferred to the 20th Battalion.
After training in Canada the day finally arrived, April 5th, 1916 when he and the rest of his fellow soldiers sailed from Halifax to Liverpool, England. It was upon his arrival on April 11th, that he was transferred to the 20th Battalion.
On June 6th, 1916 he was sent to France to join the rest of the 2nd Canadian division. He would eventually move to the front lines and live in the labyrinths of trenches dug for his safety. He would live like this for the next year and a half, dodging bullets and just trying to stay alive.
In 1918 the war was drawing to a close and the Allies wanted to put on a last big offensive to try and break through the enemy lines and bring the war to a close. Plans were made for what would later be called the Battle of Amiens.
The Battle of Amiens-
“Canadian and Allied troops won a major victory against Germany at the Battle of Amiens between 8 and 11 August 1918. Amiens was the first in a string of offensive successes that led to the end of the of the First World War and culminated in the 11 November 1918 armistice.
The attacking force comprised the Canadian Corps, the British Fourth Army, the French First Army, the Australian Corps and others. In early August, the Allies tricked the Germans by appearing to weaken their front line so that German officers expected no assault. Troops moved to the front lines at night to fool the enemy. False moves were also made in daylight, amid much noise, dust and bogus radio communication.
Secrecy was so important that the soldiers saw the warning “KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT” added to their service and pay book.
The Allies sneaked into position with thousands of heavy and super-heavy field guns, howitzers, more than 600 tanks, and 2,000 aircraft. The Germans were greatly outnumbered and, in the words of German military chief Erich Ludendorff, “depressed down to Hell.” The Germans were protected by three lines of trenches, which were poorly wired for communications and without good dugout shelters.
The Canadian Corps was assigned to hit the German Fourth Army. The attack was scheduled for 8 August at 4:20 a.m. Unlike earlier attacks in the war, the Amiens assault would not be preceded by bombardment. This would keep the assault secret as long as possible.
A Royal Air Force squadron laid smoke screens over the battlefield to hide the attacking Canadians. A heavy mist also concealed no man’s land as the attack grew nearer on that moonless night. At exactly 4:20 a.m., 900 Allied guns opened fire and the infantry headed toward the German lines. Tanks roared across the battlefield and planes droned overhead.
The Germans were entirely unprepared for this scale of attack and many surrendered at the first chance. Allied soldiers fought through woods to clear German machine-gun positions and take prisoners. The tanks lagged behind, struggling across boggy terrain and in thick fog. Canadian forces captured several key targets and pressed forward amid waves of German prisoners being marched back behind Allied lines.”(The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Unfortunately Pte. Frederick Gray was wounded with a gunshot to the head during the first day of the attack on August 8th. He was removed to Base Hospital No. 6 in the nearby city of Rouen.
In the First World War the city was safely behind the lines and became a major logistics centre with numerous base hospitals. Commonwealth camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen. A base supply depot and the 3rd Echelon of General Headquarters were also established in the city.
Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for the duration of the war.
On the champ de courses on the outskirts of Rouen, the British established
Nos.5, 6, 9, 10, and 12 General Hospitals
Nos.1, 3, 8, 11, and 12 Stationary Hospitals
Whether Pte. Gray ever regained consciousnesses or not we will never know. What we do know is that he lay in a hospital bed at No 6 Base Hospital for 32 days until he died on September 9th. Just a few days after his 23rd birthday.
He was laid to rest in St. Sever Cemetery and Extension long with his fellow soldiers who died on that battlefield.
(We have no photo of his grave marker)
St. Server Cemetery
The St. Sever Cemetery and Extension (Rouen) is situated about 3 kilometres south of Rouen Cathedral and a short distance west of the road from Rouen to Elbeuf. If travelling from Elbeuf or Caen on the N.138, follow Avenue Des Canadiens right down to the roundabout. Then take the fourth exit into Rue Stanislas De Jardin, and the cemetery lies 150 metres on the left. The CWGC signpost is located at the entrance of the cemetery. The cemetery covers an area of 49,885 square metres. The War Stone is on the boundary of the original Cemetery and the Extension, facing the City of Rouen War Memorial. The Cross is raised on a terrace on the further side of the Extension. The Chapel, cruciform and surmounted by a dome, is in the middle of the Extension.
During the Second World War, Rouen was a hospital centre and the extension was used for the burial of Commonwealth servicemen, many of whom died as prisoners of war during the German occupation. There are 332 Canadians buried here from the First World War and 38 Canadians from the Second World War. The extension was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.