Cecil Arthur Bray was born at Bourke NSW, on 3 April 1890. Abandoned by his parents and raised as a foundling, he grew up in government welfare homes and foster families. His fortunes began to change when as a teenager he was fostered by a wealthy Coogee chemist, a Mr Alexander. At age 18, Bray joined the new navy. He was chosen for submarine service and joined the commissioning crew of the AE2 in 1913, after training in Portsmouth.
Bray developed an affinity with his captain, Dacre Stoker, and the two stayed in touch throughout their lives. A hard-working and trustworthy prisoner, Bray was bizarrely given a reference by the German Construction Company at the end of his time in Turkey. During his incarceration, he kept an illustrated diary. In it he noted that in the name Belemedik, ‘Bele’ stood for ‘No’ and ‘Medik’ for ‘Place’. He thought the name appropriate for the desolate prison high in the bleak Taurus Mountains. His work was hard and tedious, and like nearly all the prisoners he contracted malaria which remained with him throughout his life.
Prison life revolved around obsessions with food, which was always in short supply. Bray befriended the local hill people and was able to obtain extra cheese and yoghurt to supplement his diet. Impressing his German supervisors with his work ethic, Bray was put in charge of some of the camp’s electrical systems, which included setting up a cinema. He ended up with a team of Turkish workmen under him who had to address him as ‘Bray Effendi’, a title of respect. Bray’s prisoner of war experience demonstrated resilience under extreme conditions.
Bray returned to Australia in 1919 and had no hesitation in re-enlisting in the navy. He stayed with submarines, and went again to England in 1925 for specialist training as a crew member of the then new generation of RAN submarines, Oxley and Otway. He came back to Australia as torpedo coxswain on Oxley in 1928, staying with her until compulsory retirement at the age of 40. In 1930, he joined the Naval Dockyard Police. Always patriotic, at the outbreak of WWII he re-enlisted as a naval regulating officer, serving at the Brisbane Naval Department until
Bray was one of Australia’s longest-serving submariners. Because of this long service and accumulated knowledge, the elderly Bray, like Stoker in Britain, was often sought out by writers and researchers wanting details of naval history, language and procedures. He became the unofficial expert for the ABC, and took part in a radio play.