The Men from Hyde – Harry George Gray

Harry George Gray lived in 9, Monks Road Winchester at one point, and was born in 1896. He had five brothers and a sister. In civilian life he had worked as a hairdresser.

He is listed on the Thiepval Memorial and his body has not been found. Harry joined the Rifle Brigade on October 4th 1915,number 13931. He appears to have died in the heavy fighting in the Flers-Courcelette area of the Somme, with the 20th Light Division.  He was wounded in June 1916 but returned to action. By 7th October 1916 the Army records say that he was “accepted as dead”.  The Army wrote to his mother with a “Missing Man form” saying that : “No evidence of material value has been received which would indicate that he is not dead”

By this stage all British servicemen were required to wear two octagonal compressed fibre identity tags, one green and one red, with the name, service number, regiment and abbreviated code for religion. This tag had not been found by the time the Thiepval memorial had been built, nor has it been found since.

The two most imposing British war memorials, the Menin Gate and Thiepval, contain a total of around 120,000 names of soldiers whose bodies have never been identified to this date.  For the French and German armies it is the battlefield of Verdun that holds a comparable record of the destruction of complete human beings.

The final twist to Harry’s story is that the Army inscribed the wrong initials on the Campaign medal sent to his mother. She sent it back to the War Office.

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