He was the son of Edward Gay of Oxford and Aldborough Hall, Norwich and Ellen Gay, daughter of Thomas Nelson Waterfield of the India Office. He came to Winchester from the Oxford Preparatory School, and went up to New College in 1901. He left the University in 1903 for Ceylon and spent the next five years there in business as a tea and indiarubber planter, returning to England in 1909 to take up poultry farming. In 1912 he married Margeret Esson of the Manor House, Wickmere, Norwich.
In the first week of the war he joined the 5th Battalion Norfolk Regiment, a pre-War Territorial Force Battalion whose men were recruited from the north, west and east of the county. Two other members of the battalion were Wykehamists: Second Lieutenant Randall Burroughes (C1910-1913; killed in action 12/8/1915 – see individual entry) and Captain Samuel James Paget (Coll.1908-1914).
The battalion is also known as the “Vanished Battalion”, because of its disappearance on August 12th 1915, when 267 officers and men ‘vanished’, including Burroughes, two of his Cubitt cousins, Gay, and the commanding officer: all were presumed to have been killed that day. It wasn’t until 1919 that their bodies were found and even then it was difficult to determine what had happened. The view of the officer commanding the Graves Registration Unit wrote on 23rd September 1919 that “We have found the 5th Norfolks – there were 180 [bodies] in all; 122 Norfolks and a few Hants and Suffolks with 2/4th Cheshires. We could only identify two: Privates Barnaby and Cotter. They were scattered over an area of about one square mile, at a distance of at least eight hundred yards behind the Turkish front line. Many of them had evidently been killed in a farm, as a local Turk, who owns the place, told us that when he came back he found the farm covered with the decomposing bodies of British soldiers, which he threw into a small ravine. The whole thing quite bears out the original theory that they did not go very far on, but got mopped up one by one, all except the ones who got into the farm.” The verdict of military historians is that the 5th Norfolk Battalion had simply pressed on into unknown territory where they were vulnerable to Turkish sniper fire.
Gay is commemorated on Panel 42 of the Helles Memorial at Gallipoli.
Further information about the 5th Norfolks and their role at Gallipoli can be found at: https://stevesmith1944.wordpress.com/2015/07/29/the-15th-battalion-norfolk-regiment-at-gallipoli/
- Surname: Gay
- Forenames or initials: Edmund
- House: F
- Years in School: 1897-1901
- Rank: Captain
- Regiment: Norfolk Regiment
- Date of Birth: 16th July 1883
- Date of Death: 12th August 1915
- How Died: Killed in Action
- Location in War Cloister: Outer A6
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: Helles Memorial