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Frank Home Reay (1885-1917)

Sunderland man served with 18th DLI

Frank Home Reay was born in 1885 in Sunderland to Julius Mark William Reay and his wife Hannah (nee Home). His father, Julius M. William Reay, had been born in Germany in 1861, but was a “British subject by Parentage” according to the 1901 Census.

At the time of his birth, Frank had one older brother, John H. Reay, but eventually had three brothers and one sister.

After completing his education, he worked as a brewery clerk. As his father was in the hotel trade this was perhaps not a surprising choice. By 1911, his father was manager of the Bridge Hotel, High Street, Sunderland, where all the family lived. Whether Frank was employed at this hotel is unknown. His older brother John Home Reay was a barman. Before the war Frank was well-known as a member of the Sunderland Harriers and as a cross-country runner (see obituary and “Related material”).

Frank joined the Army on 3 November 1914 as a private. He was also the secretary of the Sunderland Athletes’ Volunteer Force for the first few months after war was declared. The president of the national body was Earl Lonsdale and the Honourable Secretary was T A Edge, a racing cyclist. In a letter which appeared in the Sunderland Echo (15 October 1914), Frank explained the purpose of the Athletes’ Volunteer Force:

“The objects of the movement are drill, rifle-shooting, and route marching, to be held as often as possible.”

He married Louisa Featherstone on 24 March 1915 at Saint Thomas’ Church in Sunderland. A son, Francis Home Reay, was born in 1916.

By 19 November 1915 he was an acting lance corporal, being promoted to corporal on 15 July 1916 and sergeant on 2 August 1916.

Frank was killed in action on 18 May 1917.

His name is remembered on Page 35 of the Book of Remembrance 1914 – 18 Holy Trinity. The Book is currently located at The Donnison School Heritage and Education Centre, Church Walk, Sunderland SR1 2BJ.

The following obituary appeared in the Newcastle Journal, 30 May 1917:

Death of Sergt. Frank H Reay

The death in action is reported of Sergt. Frank H Reay of the DLI, who was killed on the 18th inst. at the age of 31. Sergt. Reay, prior to the war, was employed at the North-Eastern Breweries, and was a well-known athlete.

From July 1, 1903, to the end of June, 1912, he took part in about 150 races. he own the North Mail Cup – a road race of about 14 miles – on two occasions, and in one of these races accomplished perhaps his finest feet, doing the distance in 1 hour 13 minutes 17 1/2 seconds. He ran second in the North-Eastern Cross Country Junior Championship of five miles, and, later, twice won the senior championship – distance 9 miles – in 49 minutes 14 3.5 seconds, and 52 minutes 40 3.5 seconds respectively. He also took part in the ten miles’ championship of England at Stamford Bridge, covering the distance in 56 minutes 40 seconds, and finishing eighth. Other successes included the championship of the Sunderland Harriers sports, and the Heaton paper chase (a scratch event). Altogether he won nearly 100 prizes. On joining the Army, Reay competed in six races while training in this country, three being individual efforts and three with teams. twice he was placed first, twice third, and twice fourth, and on each occasion he started from scratch. While in France he gained three prizes, one for winning the regimental cross-county championship, and another for being first in the brigade cross-county championship. Reay was the founder of the Sunderland Athletes’ Volunteer Unit, and, as its secretary, took a keen interest in the work. He leaves a widow, a daughter of Captain Featherstone, of Sunderland.

Civil Parish: Sunderland

Birth date: 12-Dec-1884

Death date: 18-May-1917

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 16 Elgin Street, Sunderland (1891, school admission register)
Bridge Hotel, High Street, Sunderland (1911 census)
27 Eden Vale, Sunderland (1917, army service record)

Education: Bishopwearmouth Church Of England School (Bishopwearmouth Church Of England School, E.SU53/4/1)

Organisation membership: Sunderland Harriers (Newcastle Journal, 1915 – see “Supporting Materials” below)
Secretary to Sunderland Unit of Athletes’ Volunteer Force (Sunderland Echo, 29 October 1914)

Employment: Traveller (1914 army service record)

Family: Parents: Julius Mark William Reay, Hannah Reay
Siblings: John Home Reay, Eleanor Lavinia Reay, Mark William Reay, Osmond Reay (1911 census)
Wife: Louisa Reay (married 24 March 1915, Army service record)
Son: Francis Home Reay (born 5 January 1916, Army service record)

Military service:

Attested Sunderland: 3 November 1914
18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry
Service number: 18/1040
Disembarked Egypt: 22 December 1915
Disembarked France: 11 March 1916
Promoted acting lance corporal: 19 November 1915
Promoted corporal: 15 July 1916
Promoted sergeant: 2 August 1916

Medal(s): 1915 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Memorial(s): Book of Remembrance 1914 – 18 Holy Trinity, Sunderland (The Donnison School Heritage and Education Centre, Church Walk, Sunderland SR1 2BJ)
Arras Memorial, France

Gender: Male

Contributed by Ethel Farrow