Two sons lost on one day


Payne Brothers

Two sons lost on one battlefield on one day. A tragic enough story - but it meant mum Ellen had lost a total of three of her four sons in the Great War in just eight months.

Sgt Albert Payne and Cpl Nathan Payne , of the 1/5th Bedfords, both perished at Gallipoli on the fateful August 15th, 1915. Pte Harry Gray, their older brother, had died in hospital in Edinburgh the previous January as a result of wounds sustained on the battlefield jn October 1914, and he was buried in a funeral with military honours at the Church Cemetery in Crawley Green Road, Luton. All three are included on the Luton Roll of Honour under the name of Payne.

It was newspaper reports that revealed the fraternal links between the Paynes and a Gray. All three had the same parents - Walter and Ellen - but the family had at various times used the surname Gray and the maternal grandmother surname of Payne.

The story of the surnames went back to the 1850s. Humphrey Gray, a London-born musician, was occupying a cottage at Bailey Field, Chase Street, Luton. His housekeeper was Emma Payne, a young and single bonnet sewer with two young children, aged four and two. At the time of the 1861 Census, Humphrey was aged 30 and Emma was 22 - and, whether or not he was the father of the first two children, Humphrey was by then the father of an illegitimate one-month-old boy, Walter Payne. The couple did eventually marry at the end of 1862 and the children's surnames were changed from Payne to Gray.

Gray remained the family name throughout the remainder of the 19th century, continuing after Humphrey died in the spring of 1897, aged 68. The name Gray still appeared alongside the by then family address at 2 Beech Road, Luton, in the 1911 Census and in a 1913 street directory, but by 1915 had reverted to Payne, by which surname Albert and Nathan appear in military records.

Pictured, left to right above: Nathan Payne, Albert Payne and Harry Gray.

Ultimately, Ellen appealed to the Queen to have her only remaining son bought home.