Suffering from rheumatic fever and wounded in the backside by a sniper’s bullet, Joseph Gray, the author’s great-grandfather, was invalided out of the army in 1916. A private in the 4th (Dundee) Battalion of the Black Watch, he returned to Dundee, where – after art school in South Shields – he had worked as an illustrator for the Dundee Courier before enlisting at the outbreak of war. He became ‘official war artist’ of The Graphic (a popular rival to the Illustrated London News), where his sketches ‘brought to life what was happening in the trenches’.
Gray had been at the battles of Neuve Chapelle, Festubert and Loos in 1915, which he described vividly in a series of articles published in the Dundee Advertiser the following year. The newly founded Imperial War Museum bought seven pen-and-ink sketches ‘drawn in the firing zone’ and commissioned