MAIN MENU. 35th BATTALION PAGE.
Married: 1912. Woollahra, New South Wales, Australia. Marriage Cert: 16404/1912
Wife: Annie Matilda Gray. nee: Welsh.
Died: 7th June 1917. Killed in Action Messines Ridge, Belgium.
James Gray enlisted with D Company 35th Battalion AIF and was an original member of the Battalion. He left Sydney on board HMAT A24 "Benalla" on the 1st of May 1916, and disembarked at Plymoth, England and to camp at Salisbury Plains on the 9th of July 1916. James was Killed in Action at Messines Ridge, Belgium on the 7th of June 1917 and is commemerated in perpetuity by the Commonweath War Graves Commission at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial Belgium.
7th June 1917.
The 3rd Australian Divisions first major offencive was at Messines Ridge on the 7th June 1917. The Australian 3rd Division was a part of the II Anzac Corps which was allotted to the first assault. The 25th New Zealand, 3rd Australian Division with the 4th Australian Division in reserve. The 4th Division were battle hardened troops who had fought many major battles.The 3rd Australian Division were having problems getting to the "jump off" point. The day before the 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades were bombarded by German Gas-Shells around Hill 63 and Plugstreet Wood. Many of the Aussies were not wearing gas masks, but dispite this they pressed on even though they received 500 casulties.
They made it to the "jump off" point but only just with some of the men from the 9th and 10th going straight over the top without stopping. The mines went up and the attack commenced behind a protective barrage. The II Anzac Corps were attacking on the right with their objective being the southern shoulder of the ridge which included Messines, the Dover and St Yves areas as far south to the east of Plugstreet Wood.
Major General Sir John MONASH's 3rd Division had to contend with a tricky 3 mile approach out of Plugstreet Wood and after the German gas attack, but they were not detered. The 9th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General A JOBSON and the 10th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General W R NICHOLL had just made the jumping off point but some of the men did not stop, going straight into the assault from the approach march.
Their objective lay between St Yves and the Douve. The mines at Trench 127 and Trench 12 at Factory Farm were laid to aid this task. The explosions erupted a few seconds before zero hour and created craters of 200 feet in diameter, completely obliterating the German defence line as the 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades went over the top. The mine crates forced the 9th and 10th Brigades to veer to the left and right which caused some confusion with the main assault. It is testimony to the quality of training that every man knew the ground, tasks and objectives so well.
Private: 1804 John CARROLL 33rd Battalion, rushed the enemy's trench and bayoneted four of the German occupants. He then noticed a comrade in difficulties and went to his assistance, killing another German. He then attacked single handed a German Machine Gun Team, killing all three of them and capturing the gun. He later rescued two of his comraded who had been buried alive by German Shell Fire, and in spite of heavy shelling and machine gun fire he dug them out alive and saved them from certain death. John was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The German foward zone was completely engulfed and taken by the main assault. The two supporting battalions of each brigade then passed the leading battalion to continue the advance. The men were constantly re-supplied and the ridge was taken. There were many German prisoners taken during the offencive. The 3rd Division was well ahead with the 9th Infantry Brigade pushing on beyond Grey Farm, and on the right the 10th Infantry Brigade were veering left towards Septieme Barn north of Douve.
The German resistance was heavy but was generally brushed aside by tanks and artillery before the infantry had to become too involved.The 4th Bavarian Divisions Artillery had mede little impact, but as the day wore on the 3rd Division and later the 4th Australian Division received many casulties from German artillery. (70% of all casulties during WW1 were from artillery).
By 9:00am nearly 6 hours after the assault began the Germans were in dissaray, but there was a major problem as the Australians received less casulties as anticipated and when ordered to dig into the ridge they had so many men, that some could not find shelter. the 35th battalion were dug in around Seaforth Farm.
The second phase of the operation was to take the Oosttaverne Line. The 3rd Australian Division would now be in reserve with the 4th Division attacking. The 9th Infantry Brigade (33-34-35-36Bn) were near Thatched Cottage facing Warneton. The river Lys was to their right and the Plugstreet Wood was now behind them.
Once their objectives were taken the troops consolidated. A barrarge to stop and counter attack was shortnened and caught three battalions which had to retire. By 9:00pm this part of the Oosttaverne Line was abandonded. At 10:45pm General Godley ordered the 3rd and 4th Divisions to retake it. This they did by the early hours of the 8th of June.
The Battle for Messines Ridge during May-June 1917 saw 35 officers and 1,631 other ranks loose their lives.
|33rd Battalion. AIF||8 Officers||382 Other ranks|
|34th Battalion. AIF||10 Officers||378 Other ranks|
|35th Battalion. AIF||5 Officers||431 Other ranks|
|36th Battalion. AIF||9 Officers||421 Other ranks|
|9th Machine Gun Company. AIF||2 Officer||17 Other ranks|
|9th Light Trench Mortor Battery.||1 Officer||2 Other ranks|
Corporal: 2600 George HOLLIDAY 35th Battalion at the MESSINES MEMORIAL erected near Ash Crater to the members of the 35th Battalion, who fell in the battle of Messines on the 7th June 1917. (Australain War Memorial)
James's Memorial Plaque number 339582 was first issued to his wife Annie Matilda Gray on the 17th January 1923. Sold on line auction May 2013 and acquired for the Harrower Collection.
James was a Labourer from Little Street, Carrington, New South Wales where he lived with his wife Annie. James worked for "The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited" Iron and Steel Works at Newcastle.
© Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia)
Under Construction; 25/07/2006-25/03/2017.