ONE hundred years ago this week British soldiers were steadily advancing acrosi Northern France and Flanders in the heat of battle.
However a halt to the conflict seemed light years away as the Germans, despite being short of supplies and hit by desertions, continued to put up stiff resistance.
Redditch man Charles Edward Ray was a war hero who rose through the ranks to become a Sergeant in the 2/8th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
This unit was disbanded in February 1918 and its soldiers transferred to the 2/6th Battalion and the 24th Entrenching Battalion.
It is likely that Charles, as an experienced soldier, would be moved to the former, which saw combat in the Battle of the Selle, a dangerous river crossing which took place from October 17-25 after the Allies had captured Cambrai.
He is recorded as dying on October 29 and is buried in Plymouth Road cemetery, which suggests that at some point he was wounded and transported back to Britain for further care.
He’d been born in 1890, the eldest of James Edward and Annie Elizabeth Ray’s three children.
His parents had their own draper’s shop at 2 Market Place in Redditch, but by the 1911 James while still listed as a draper is recorded as being out of business.
The family were living as boarders at 116 Birchfield Road, later moving to 108 Oakly Road at Mount Pleasant.
Charles travelled to Birmingham to enlist and during his service, as well as being promoted, was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in battle.
He is remembered today on the Redditch War Memorial and at St Stephen’s Church.
Albert Victor Bates served as a Private with the 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment.
Born in 1899 in Wednesbury, then in Staffordshire, he was one of Henry and Laura Newman Bates’s four children.
By the 1911 census the family were living at 45 Marsden Road, Albert was still a schoolboy although helping out at the cycle works where his dad was a toolmaker.
Although it isn’t known when he joined the 2nd Devonshires, it was a unit which had been overwhelmed by a massive German attack back in May which led to the brigade it was part of losing 551 killed and wounded.
By late October the re-built battalion was back in action, fighting towards the River Scheldt as part of the attack on Valenciennes.
Albert was killed on October 31 and is buried in the Odomez Communal Cemetery, just north east of Valenciennes, and is remembered today on the Redditch War Memorial.
With thanks to:
Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes.