Joseph Bray’s WWI medals and ephemera

picture of Joseph Bray

Prescot Museum holds collections of objects and ephemera relating to numerous soldiers from the local area, one of whom is Joseph Bray. The photographs of him, his medals, memorial scroll and a letter he sent home to his mother are poignant reminders of the sacrifice made by so many young men for their country.

Joseph Bray lived with his parents and siblings at 26 Cross Street, Prescot. On 24 May 1915 he attested into the 11th Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment in Prescot. Despite being 5’ 1” and weighing 102 pounds, he claimed that he was 19 years and 1 month.

After months serving on the field, it was discovered that he was underage and he was sent back to England; his date of birth was 4 August 1898 so he had been 16 at the time of enlisting. When he enlisted, only those aged 19 and over could fight abroad. This rule was later relaxed to meet the need for troops overseas.

This set-back did not deter Joseph Bray. He transferred to the Herefordshire Regiment on 18 December 1916, then to the Monmouthshire Regiment later that month. He was posted to Rouen, France, on 20 July 1917, then in the following March he joined the South Wales Borderers.

His Battalion then moved to Belgium to be part of the last allied advance at Ypres, and on 15th October 1918, Joseph Bray was wounded in fighting to claim the village of Salines; he died later that day, aged 20.

Joseph Bray was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. As Joseph changed regiments numerous times, his Memorial Scroll lists him as being in the Monmouthshire Regiment, whereas his grave lists him as being in the South Wales Borderers, in which he was serving when he was killed.

Whilst on the battlefield, he found a book containing the poignant poem, “Missing – believed killed”, which he transcribed and sent to his mother. It has been identified as by Australian Sapper Louis George Gothard, 2nd Draft Field Engineers, published in 1917 in New Zealand at the Front.