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The Gray brothers

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Arthur, Oberlin, Henry and Oliver Gray. Thomas Gray in front. Photo courtesy Coralie Myer.
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Oberlin Herbert Gray
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Sergeant Oberlin Benjamin Gray

Frederick Simmons Gray and his wife, Bethia (nee Pudney), of Grasmere, North Bruny Island, had five sons who enlisted for World War One.  Bethia died soon after the outbreak of war in January 1915 and never knew of her sons’ fates.

The Grays listed their religion as “Society of Friends”.  Quakers believe in pacifism so it is interesting to note the Grays enlisted with the medical corps.

Oberlin Herbert Gray

Oberlin Herbert Gray was a farmer and enlisted at the age of 24 on 31 December 1914.

Private Gray served as a stretcher bearer at Gallipoli in 1915 and was admitted to hospital with influenza in 1915. On 2 February 1916 he was invalided to the Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis, in Egypt, for three months, and was invalided home.

Private Gray was joined by his brother, Frederick 'Oliver' Gray, at the Broadmeadows Camp, in Melbourne. They arrived in France in January 1917.

Private Gray served with the 3rd Field Ambulance in France and was wounded in action in May 1917. He was also wounded in action in August 1918 and suffered a fractured skull. As Private Oliver Gray was also with the 3rd Field Ambulance, he was with Oberlin when he was hit by a shell in the head.

Oberlin did not recover consciousness and died at 4am on 24 August 1918.  Oliver arrived at 7:30pm and was too late for the burial which had taken place at 4pm.

Private Oberlin Gray is commemorated in the Daours Communal Cemetery, in France.

Private Oberlin Gray kept a journal which has been donated to the Australia War Memorial.

Frederick Oliver Gray

Frederick Oliver Gray (known as Oliver), born in 1895, enlisted on 23 May 1916 and, like his brother Oberlin, served with the 3rd Field Ambulance on the Western Front in France. 

Private Gray, was awarded the French Legion D'Honneur: Medaille Militaire, for exceptional courage and devotion attending the wounded men at Lagincourt, on 15 April 1917.

Private Gray returned to Australia in 1919 and returned to farming on Bruny Island and wrote two books about his Bruny Island recollections.

Thomas Edward Gray

Private Thomas Edward Gray, born in Fielding, New Zealand, was a 19-year-old farmer from Bruny Island when he enlisted with the Army Medical Corps at the age of 19 on 23 May 1916, the same day as his brother, Oliver Gray.  Private Gray listed his religion as “Society of Friends”.

Meningitis was prevalent in the Claremont Camp.  Private Thomas Gray volunteered to nurse a case. Private Gray contracted cerebral spinal meningitis and died prior to embarkation at the Hobart General Hospital on 19 June 1916. Private Gray’s father was at the hospital when his son died.

Arthur Plester Gray

Private Arthur Plester Gray returned from World War One with a wife, Lena, of England, and operated the Gray Brothers farm with his brother, Oliver, at Killora on Bruny Island.

Arthur and Lena had a son Oberlin Benjamin Plester Gray, who was born on 1 May 1921. Oberlin was educated at the Friends School, in Hobart, and later worked as a clerk for the Department of Agriculture.

Oberlin enlisted in World War Two with the RAAF on 22 May 1941. Sergeant Gray was a wireless operator and air gunner.

Arthur and Lena Gray received official advice that their son, Sergeant Oberlin Gray, was missing presumed dead in air operations on 23 April 1942 at the age of 21.

Arthur died on 17 March 1949.

Henry Gray

Private Henry Gray returned from the war and lived at Lymington, near Port Cygnet.

References

Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 - 1954), “Late Mr F S Gray, Well-known resident of Bruny Island”, Tuesday 28 February 1933, page 6.

Gray, F.Oliver Recollections of North Bruny Island, published by Richard Lord and Partners, Taroona (1978)

Acknowledgement

Bruny Island Historical Society