|Roll of Honour|
Alfred A. Gentry
Alfred Arthur Gentry was born on 5th August 1889. The son of William and Martha Gentry (nee Savill) who lived in Hall Green Road, Rayne, in one of the houses surrounding the Village Green, at that time part of the Parish of Felsted. William was a blacksmith working at Rayne Foundry. William and Martha were married at All Saints, Rayne on 25th September 1874.
Alfred came from a large family with nine brothers and four sisters. In descending age order they were William, Thomas, Charles, Frank, Elizabeth, Ernest, Burton, Edith, Herbert, Alfred, Alice, Hubert, Lillie and Percy.
Alfred started at Rayne School in December 1895 and remained there until June 1902 when he left to work on Rayne Hall Farm.
Alfred was aged 23 when the war started and enlisted as Private Soldier 12262 in the Essex Regiment at Chelmsford almost immediately.
By 1917 he was serving as Sergeant 53126 in the 235th Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry). In July of that year the Corps joined the 12th Division of the Army at Arras in northern France. Later in the year they were fighting just outside Cambrai . Between 23 and 28 November the Division started advancing but quickly became hampered by the weather conditions and German opposition. By 28th, the advance had halted and although some ground had been gained, it was at terrible cost in terms of casualties.
The Germans had not though simply been content to halt the advance, and on 30th November they launched a devastating attack on the 12th Division positions approaching from three sides. This was one of the first major engagements in the war in which tanks were extensively used. As well as tanks, the Germans also used what was described as “an intense gas barrage”.
During the course of this particular battle – a period of 13 days – there were in excess of 42,000 casualties – dead, wounded and missing on the British side and an estimated similar number by the Germans – a total which is about three times the current population of Braintree.
Alfred Gentry was one of those 90,000 and died on 30th November 1917 aged 27.
As with many who were killed in these major battles, there is no known grave and Alfred is commemorated on the Cambrai memorial where the inscription reads:
“To the Glory of God and to the enduring memory of 7048 officers and men of the forces of the British Empire who fell at the Battle of Cambrai between 20th November and 3rd December 1917, whose names are here recorded but to whom the fortunes of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death”.
Alfred's name does not appear on the Memorial at Felsted, but he is commemorated at Rayne.