Samuel George Bray

Date of birth: 24 January 1891
Place of birth: Southampton
Service No.: 3682A
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Vessel: HMS Bulwark
Battalion: Royal Navy Reserve
Died: 26 November 1914, aged 23 years
Commemorated: Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Life before the War

Samuel was probably the third of 6 siblings born to Samuel and Ellen Ruth J. Bray (nee Payne), who married in Southampton in 1887.

One of the children probably died very young, and there is no obvious record of this sibling.

Samuel Snr. was a mariner and was born in Falmouth in 1861. Unfortunately he died at sea in September 1898.

Ellen was born in Southampton in 1864 and she led an eventful life after Samuel’s death. She was to be found in St. Mary’s with her 2 youngest children at the 1901 Census.  At the same time, a Thomas Henry Denton was living with his parents in Southampton, having been born in the city in 1856.

By the 1911 Census, Thomas is living at 40 Endle Street with Ellen as his “housekeeper”. As well as Ellen’s 2 youngest, there is also a child christened Thomas Denton Bray ! He was born in 1901, and it can be assumed that he was the result of a liaison between Thomas Denton and his housekeeper.

They had another son in 1903, George, but he unfortunately died at the age of just 3 years.

Thomas died in the city in 1927, and Ellen passed away in 1943.


  1. Beatrice Mary J.   b. 1888 Southampton   d. 1897 Southampton
  2. George Ernest   b. 1889 Southampton   d. 1890 Southampton
  3. Florence Eliza   b. 1895 Southampton   d. 1963 Winchester   Married Arthur E. Davies in Southampton in 1918. Married a Mr. Fowler in Southampton in 1944.
  4. William Henry   b. 1898 Southampton   d. 1971 Southampton   Married rose E. Jones in Southampton in 1919

War Service

Bulwark was a London class battleship, which entered service with the RN in 1902. She sailed with the Mediterranean fleet until 1907 before coming home to home waters.

In 1912, the vessel was refitted and immediately became part of the 5th Battle Squadron.

At the outbreak of war, the Squadron was attached to the Channel Fleet, patrolling the English Channel.

On 26 November, when anchored off Sheerness, a “large internal explosion” destroyed the vessel, killing 736 men. 8 of the fourteen survivors died later in hospital, between November 1914 and January 1918.

After an exhaustive enquiry it was decided that the explosion was caused by over-heating cordite charges that had been placed adjacent to a boiler room bulkhead.

Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 22.10.15

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