A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

Ernest Wray was born in the June Quarter of 1892 at Back Lane, Preston, Herts.  


He was four when he started school and was so young that he needed ‘a time longer in the baby class’.  He was able to write well but sometimes found school a little tedious. On a summer’s day on 26 July 1899 he was punished along with his cousin Willie Currell ‘for truant playing on Friday afternoon.  This is a rare fault in this school’.






Above, Ern aged 22

Hitchin war memorial


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Ernest Wray

In September 1915, the Hitchin Parish News reported, ‘The first Preston lad to die for his country is Ernest Wray, who was killed instantly in action in France on the 24 August. Very sincerest sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Wray who are old inhabitants of Preston... Bob (Wray) was with his brother in France serving with him side by side, and was present at Ernest’s funeral.


More details of Ernest’s war are given in The 2nd Bedfords in France and Flanders 1914 -  1918. On 12 March 1915 at Neuve Chapell, the German forces had captured a section of one of the Allied trenches. A counter attack was launched by one officer and twenty men but this failed and all but two of the party were killed or wounded. Ernest was one of those two. On the day he died, his Company was at the front line east of Festubert. In the evening of 24 August, ‘B’ Company of the Beds relieved ‘A’ Company of the 8th Devons in the trenches. It was evidently during this operation that Ernest was killed.

One can only imagine how his parents, Alfred and Emily,  felt when the notification of their son’s death was received (see below).  Ernest had been killed in action on 24 August 1915 and was buried at the Military Cemetery, Bethune (Map Ref X6A72).

He left school on 26 June 1903, aged eleven and, like some of his brothers, found work as a gardener. In the 1911 census, he was included in the household of his aunt, Phyllis Jenkins and her husband, Herbert. He was still working as a domestic gardener.

Almost as soon as World War One broke out, on 5 September 1914, Ern quickly enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment No 17002.  The entry in his soldier’s Small Book shows him as 5’ 8 3/4’’ tall, with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair.  He gave his religion as, Church of England.