Major Richard Leithe DRAY (85638)

Major Richard Leithe Dray M.C. wargrave

Major Richard Leithe Dray, M.C. and Bar

ASSISI WAR CEMETERY, Italy - Grave ref. IX, B, 8

Killed in action on the 3rd July 1944.
Major Richard Leithe Dray was from Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire.
(gravestone photo provided by Chris Owen - his mother was a cousin of Major Dray)

Captain Richard Leithe Dray M.C.

Richard Leithe Dray was born in Beirut, Libya on the 3rd October 1918 the son of Arthur Righton Dray, a Doctor of Medicine and Dentistry, and Gretel Dray (nee Leithe).

Richard was commissioned in to the Worcestershire Regiment on the 26th January 1939, as a Second Lieutenant and was posted to the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 1st January 1941 and when with the Battalion to Sudan and Eritrea - during this time he was awarded the Military Cross (London Gazette date 16th April 1942). He was appointed Adjutant and given the rank of Temporary Captain on the 17th June 1941.

In August, 1941, moved with the 1st Battalion to the Western Desert via Egypt. He was then involved in the defence of Tobruk in June 1942 before it fell to the Germans.

A small nucleus Battalion Headquarters was re-opened at the Infantry Base Depot at Geneifa, of those who managed to escape which included Captain Richard Leithe Dray and he was awared a Bar to his Military Cross (London Gazette date 29th September 1942).

He reurned to the U.K. with a small cadre of men and was involved in the re-birth of the 1st Battalion when the 1st January 1943 at Pinner near Harrow the 1st Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment was reborn when the small cadre of two officers, including Captain R. L. Dray, and ten men from the original battalion marched into the centre of the men of the 11th Battalion carrying their Colours. The 11th Battalion was now disbanded and so became the new 1st Battalion.

Shortly afterwards he was transferred to the British 8th Army in Italy with the rank of Major. He was killed on the 3rd July 1944, during the captured of the Italian town of Assisi, situated in the mountainous region.

Below are his citations for his Military Cross and Bar to his Military Cross.

T/Captain Richard Leithe Dray citation for Military Cross (London Gazette date 16/04/1942)

"During operations in ERITREA up to KEREN Captain R. L. Dray was performing the duties of Intelligence Officer and Acting Adjutant. He always kept himself well informed not only of the dispositions of the Companies of the Battalion but also of the whereabouts of the Battalion's of the Brigade and ensured that this information was passed on to Companies, mostly by his personal presence in the Company areas. This entailed covering very long distances on foot, frequently under fire, exposed to risk of encountering enemy posts whilst travelling alone. At Barentu, Captain Dray accompanied the leading Company in its advance round the right flank, in order to ascertain the extent of advance made. At dusk he attempted to return alone over difficult country to report to Battalion H.Q. the situation in the neighbourhood of the White House.
At KEREN continually under heavy fire Captain Dray, visited forward Companies to find out the situation and later personally carried water forward and led water parties forward to the companies, at considerable personal risk.
His frequent presence when signal communication with Battalion HQ. was impossible and Companies became separated did much to ensure co-operation and promote confidence in those who on occasions felt isolated in the field of Battle. During the battle for AMBA ALAGI this young officer was again acting as Adjutant to the Battalion. On the 5th, May 1941 when the Bn. lay all day in very exposed position, in full view, and within easy range of enemy mortars and machine guns, he displayed great courage and coolness in maintaining contact with Companies carrying out reconnaissance’s, and later in searching for wounded and missing. Throughout the campaign this Officer has displayed tireless energy, complete disregard for danger and devotion to duty of a very high order."

Lieut. Richard Leithe Dray M.C. & Bar

Lieut. Richard Leithe Dray M.C. & Bar (1942)

Richard Leithe Dray's Military Cross & Bar

Richard Leithe Dray's Military Cross & Bar
(photo provided by Chris Owen)

T/Captain Richard Leithe Dray citation for Military Cross (London Gazette date 24/09/1942)
"On June 14th 1942, at point 187, the Battalion (With attached troops) 65 tanks, with some 40 more in reserve and supported by an unknown quantity of M.E.T. and Field and medium artillery, the position was continuously under heavy fire. Captain Dray was Adjutant of the Battalion, he displayed great coolness and devotion to duty throughout the day. In the evening when orders were going out for a withdrawal, as time was short, and telephone lines had been cut, he personally went round in a truck under very heavy fire, visiting Company Commanders and others, and giving them their orders. Later he shepherded most of the Battalion out of the position. His courage and devotion to duty contributed in no small measure to the force being able to make an orderly withdrawal and to so many getting away."

"In continuation of the attached citation Captain R. L. Dray M.C., 1st Bn. The Worcestershire Regiment. I wish to report the initiative, and determination shown by this Officer after the fall of TOBRUK.
On 21st June 1942, this officer collected various 'Key' men of Battalion Headquarters including such personnel as the R.S.M., Orderly Room staff, (With important documents), the Officers' mess Corporal, and members of the Carrier platoon and Signal platoon, making a total of 14 in all.
He put them into a lorry and escaped with them from TOBRUK, where they finally joined up
with the 7th Motor Brigade.
It is entirely due to this officer's courage and determination that these very useful personnel of the Battalion got away at all."

Lieut.-Colonel., Commanding 1st Bn.The Worcestershire Regt. (Abbassia 2/8/42)