Louis Gray ‘Gray’ Faiers (sometimes ‘Lewis’, sometimes ‘Faires’) was born and raised in Chelmsford and worked as a fishmonger before the war. In the conflict he served as a mechanic with the Royal Air Force. He was killed in August 1918 with three others when their airship failed to return from a patrol over the North Sea. His home was in Moulsham Street.
FAIERS, LOUIS GRAY,
Corporal, Coastal Airship No. XXV, Royal Air Force
The 196 feet-long airship was last heard of at 18.40 hours on 31st July 1918, 60 miles north-east of Aberdeen, Scotland. Together with other airships she had been searching for a reputedly damaged German U-Boat. It is believed that Louis’ airship found the U-Boat which was unable to dive so attacked the airship, bringing her down in the sea. Subsequently a propellor from the airship was found at that position, but there was no sign of Louis and the other crew: Captain Harry Robert Hopperton, Aircraftsman 1st Class 205781 Arthur Groves Groves, and Air Mechanic 2nd Class 245168 Edward Kiddle Adkinson. All were presumed killed on 1st August 1918.
Louis was born in Chelmsford on 18th February 1892. He was the only son of the hairdresser Lewis (sometimes ‘Louis’) Gray ‘Gray’ Faiers and Rose Emma Faiers (nee Perry) who had married in 1891. His father had been born in Chelmsford in 1871 the son of a hairdresser; his mother in Hatfield Peverel in 1875.
Louis’ three siblings, all Chelmsford-born, were sisters Edith May Faiers (who was christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 31st January 1894 at which time her father was a hairdresser living at Cable’s Yard off Moulsham Street, Chelmsford); Florence Eleanor Faiers (who was born in 1896 and christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 6th March 1896 at which time her father was a hairdresser living in Moulsham Street, Chelmsford); and Ada Rose Faiers (who was born in 1899
christened at St John’s Church, Moulsham on 14th June 1899 at which time her father was a hairdresser living at 23 Moulsham Street, Chelmsford). Edith died in 1895, aged 2.
The 1901 census recorded nine year-old Louis living with his parents and two surviving sisters at 23 Moulsham Street. His father was a self employed hairdresser.
A decade later the 1911 census found 19 year-old Louis living with his parents and two surviving sisters at the same address. Louis was a fishmonger; his father a self-employed hairdresser; his mother a self employed dressmaker; and his sister Florence a work girl.
Between 1909 and 1913 Louis served as a Territorial soldier in the Army Service Corps (Essex).
His father died late in 1913, aged 42.
On 23rd August 1915 Louis joined the Royal Navy for four years plus four in the reserve. At the time he was five feet four and three-quarter inches tall with a 37.5 inch chest. He had brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. His previous employment was as a cable jointer. He was given the service number F7889 and posted to the Royal Naval Air Service at the Royal Navy Air Station Kingsnorth in Kent as Aircraft Mechanic 2nd Class.
He moved from there to Royal Navy Air Station East Fortune with effect from 19th November 1916, achieving promotion to Aircraft Mechanic 1st Class from 30th April 1917. East Fortune had been established by the Admiralty as a base at which to station airships for carrying out sea-lane patrols over the North Sea,.
Harry was later promoted to Leading Mechanic and was given the new service number 207889 when the Royal Navy Air Service was absorbed into the Royal Air Force from its creation on 1st April 1918.
On 31st July 1918 he was one of four crew members on board the Coastal Airship No. XXV, which set off that day on a patrol mission from R.A.F. Longside over the North Sea. The airbase was the former Royal Navy Air Station at Lenabo near Peterhead, Scotland, the most northerly in the country which had become known as R.A.F. Longside when the Royal Air Force was had been created from the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Navy Air Service
The recovered propellor now forms, along with flags from the air station, part of a memorial to the four men at the Anglican church in Longford. close to the now abandoned former R.A.F. LongsideOn 16th August 1918 the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“Corpl.-Mech. Lewis G. Faiers, R.A.F., only son of Mrs. R. E Faiers, of 23 Moulsham-st., Chelmsford, is reported as missing from Aug. 1. In a letter received from his station he is stated to have left for patrol duty in perfect weather and not returned.”
Louis is commemorated on the Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton, Hampshire, on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford, by the Chelmsford Parish Great War Memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral, and the Moulsham Parish Memorial, St John’s Church, Moulsham. The Hollybrook Memorial commemorates by name almost 1,900 servicemen and women of the Commonwealth land and air forces whose graves are not known, many of whom were lost in transports or other vessels torpedoed or mined in home waters.
The 1918 register of electors listed Louis’ widowed mother at 23 Moulsham Street. She eventually died at a daughter’s home in Birmingham in 1950, aged 75. Louis’ younger sister, Ada Rose, married Lancelot Blackwell in July 1921, but died, aged 22, in Leicester on 11th February 1922 from pneumonia following influenza.
23 Moulsham Street, which stood on the eastern side of the street almost opposite Friars’ Place, was demolished in the late 1960s when Chelmsford’s inner relief road, Parkway, was cut through its site (see map extract).
Acknowledgement to Mike Townsend