This started out as one of my usual chasings of photos showing the number 106 in honor of ds106, but I am finding a lesson that you can keep peeling back layers of a story, find interesing bits, but maybe never get there.

So I was doing a stroll on a lovely day in Hobart, crossing the open parkland known a “The Queens Domain”- when I oticed the memorial plaques to fallen soliders, the Soldiers Walk. Each one had an ID number, and I seemed to be in an area that would reveal one bearing a 106.

I found it.

Tree #106
Tree #106 flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

The 106 refers to the tree planted in a fallen soldier’s name. Tree #106 is for Kenneth Gavan Ray, who died in France in 1916. That link I found does not have any story data, just some meta data.

The plaque itself reveals more about Kenneth Ray- I decided to read it out loud to go with this photo:

In Memory of Kenneth Gavan Ray
In Memory of Kenneth Gavan Ray flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

What we find there is that Kenneth tried to go into the war early, and was turned back for being too young, but apparently he was persistent enough to have his parents approve his going off to war. In fact, three of his brothers were there as well, and all four brothers ended up in the same unit.

There seems to be some fuzziness about Kenneth’s death- he was first reported missing, and it took some time until the army confirmed his death.

With some googling, I came across some scanned records from the Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau files that lifted even more light but leads to more questions. It’s an interesting mix of reports following the apparent death of Kenneth Gavan Ray.

He was wounded in the leg, just west of Posieres on 5,8,16. The S/B’s reached him; I saw them taking him away to the dressing station. Afterwards I went to my dug-out and told his younger brother about the occurrence. He got his two older brothers (all 4 were in the 13th Field Co.) and I went with them to the dressing station. The wounded man, we were told, had not arrived. We searched for him but there was no trace at all. Shells were falling heavily. He must have been blown to pieces and the S/B’s with him. He belonged to No. 4 Section.

Reference: Pte. P. Htser 5565 No. 1 Sec. 26 Ge, Staples. 23.9.16

Apparently there was none of this not allowing families to serve in the same unit- all four Ray brothers were in the same unit. I am not sure what “S/B”s are.

Fair, about 5ft 8.1.. stone, 24 years old, clean shaven, he had three brothers in the 13th Fls. Coy. wer trying to get up to the front lines to relive troops who had no communication. Enemy shelling terrific, whizz-bangs and high explosives everywhere. Sert. Spence of the 13the Fold coy told informant after, that Ray had been picked up by the stretcher bearers, taken to first dressing station near the Chalk Pit. He was very badly wounded an died there soon after. His pay book was sent back to there 13th Fold. Coy. Orderly room.

We get some physical description of Ray, but also some discrepancy with the previous report. Is there a body or not?

I had a brother, K.G. Ray in the company, and there was no other Ray and no Toy in the company. He was missing on the night of August 4th (but reported I think on Aug. 5th) at the Mouquet Farm near Posiers. Next day I got information from the AMC that he had died, and shortly afterwards that the Sappers of the 4th Field Coy had buried him just outside the Dressing Station at Posiers. I was shown some of his things so I know this is true.

Informant: Sapper S. L. Ray. 1629. No 32 Stat. Hosp. BOULOGNE 16.6.17

The brother confirms the death and that his own troop had indeed buried Kevin Gavan Ray on the battlefield.

This must be a mistake for Ray. There was a Ray in the company with initials K- we called him Ken – who was mising. A brother of his in the same company told me that he was killed – that he had found his steel helmet with a hole s
through it.

Inf: Sapper C.B. Wishart. 44438. No 32 Stationaty. BOULOGNE 9.6.17

This last report apparently had the death list as “Ray” and not “Roy”

So much unknown here, but this is what we known of the solider marked by tree #106.

It Was Supposed to be Singular
It Was Supposed to be Singular flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

No “lest we forget” around this blog!

Update: June 27, 2020

I was so excited to see a comment from Ben, see below, who was doing research on Kenneth Ray, that I am looking at this post again. Also, the Soldiers Memorial site, which was not around when I wrote this, has a ton of information, including a Google map of all of the markers under Find a Soldier.

Locating Kenneth Ray’s marker in Google Maps

Listed under his information:

Tree 106. Spr Kenneth Gavan Ray

Final Rank: Spr
Final Unit: 13th Field Coy Engineers
Regt Number: 4932
Date of Death: 4/08/1916
Cause of Death: Killed in Action
Age at Death: 21
Awards/Citations:
Enlistment Date: 9/06/1915
Enlistment Unit: 1st Aust General Hospital
Enlistment Rank: Private
Place of Enlistment: Hobart
Native Place:
Next of Kin: Father: Mr F C Ray
Home Address: 17 Quayle St
Sandy Bay
Schooling: Albuera St State School
Occupation: Carpenter
Place of Work:
Religion: Church of England
Remarks:
Cemetery/Memorial: Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France
Honour Boards Tas: Albuera St Primary School; Hobart Town Hall; St George’s Church
AWM Roll of Honour: 24
Council Tree Number: 81
Planting: 3/08/1918


Featured Image:

Tree Number 106
Tree Number 106 flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

Comments

  1. Hello! I wish to give a huge thumbs up with the excellent info you have here about this post. I’ll be coming back to your blog site for much more soon.

    Reply from the Dog: Why thank you “Gerald” for the heartfelt and original reply. I can tell that this came from a real genuine purpose. For that reason I removed the link you added to a twitter account for some retail site because it seemed totally unrelated to your compassionate reply. I am sorry that a stray link got into your comment. It is people like you that make the internet a warm space.

    AKA: Middle finger salute, spammer.

  2. What incredible serendipity! I’ve been doing research into a poet named Oscar Walters, who was from the same unit as Ken Ray and wrote a eulogy for him, and my search for more information about Ray has led me straight to this post. I am astonished that of all the trees in this walk, Ray’s happened to be #106, and so you happened to take a photo of it.

    Walters’ poem for Ray can be found on my website, at https://benwilburs.github.io/westraliana/owalters/poems/kenray.html. I have borrowed your photo of Ray’s plaque.

    P. S. S/B means ‘stretcher bearer’.

    1. Hi Ben,

      Thanks for sharing this info related to my almost accidental discovery of Ken’s marker, just from a bit of a curiosity walk I took while visiting Hobart in 2011. These kinds of serendipity that happen via the web makes me feel better about the world. Thanks for sharing information to about Oscar Walters.

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