Walker Murray

Born: 1892
Died: 26.4.1918
Service number: 27373
Rank: Private
Regiment / Service: King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of Walker and Sarah Murray of Low Street, Brotherton and husband of Bertha Lea (formerly Murray) of 14, School Street, Fryston, Castleford.

War Service

Walker Murray enlisted in the 3rd battalion of the KOYLI. This was a reserve battalion formed in August 1914 in Pontefract. It was a depot/training unit and moved on mobilisation to Hull then to Withernsea in April 1916. went on to Hedon in October 1916, Pocklington in June 1918 and finally Patrington in August 1918, as part of Humber Garrison.

However, the CWGC data shows that at some stage he was transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion. Formed at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of K3 and attached to 64th Brigade in 21st Division which landed in France on September 1915.

Two pieces of information suggest that Walker would not have been with the 9th bat when they went to France in 1915. Firstly, his medal entitlement does not include the 1915 Star and, secondly, he married Bertha Saunders in the second quarter of 1916 (April – June).

Actions the 21st Division involved in:

1916

  • The Battle of Albert*
  • The Battle of Bazentin Ridge*
  • The Battle of Flers-Courcelette*
  • The Battle of Morval* in which the Division captured Geudecourt
  • The Battle of Le Transloy*
  • The battles marked * are phases of the Battle of the Somme 1916

1917

  • The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line
  • The First Battle of the Scarpe**
  • The Third Battle of the Scarpe**
  • The flanking operations around Bullecourt**
  • The battles marked ** are phases of the Arras offensive 1917
  • The Battle of Polygon Wood***
  • The Battle of Broodseinde***
  • The Second Battle of Passchendaele***
  • The battles marked *** are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres
  • The Cambrai Operations

1918

  • The Battle of St Quentin+
  • The First Battle of Bapaume+
  • The battles marked + are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918
  • The Battle of Messines=
  • The Second Battle of Kemmel=
  • The battles marked = are phases of the battles of the Lys 1918

The Battle of the Lys was the second of General Ludendorff's offensives of 1918, designed to win the war before the ever-increasing number of American troops in France could enter the fighting. His first effort, the second battle of the Somme (21 March-5 April) had threatened drive a wedge between the British and French lines, but the situation had been restored after the appointment of General Foch as overall

Allied commander on the Western Front.

The River Lys formed the boundary between General Horne's First Army (south of the river) and General Plumer's Second Army (north of the river). The German plan was for General Quast's Sixth Army to attack south of the Lys on 9 April, and drive north west to the rail centre at Hazebrouck, while General von Armin's Fourth Army would attack between the Lys and Ypres.

The battle was preceded by a well planned artillery bombardment, lasting from the evening of 7 April until 4 am on 9 April. Once the bombardment was over, Quast's army attacked. The brunt of their attack fell on the 2nd Portuguese Division, close to Nueve Chapelle, which collapsed under the strain, retreating five miles. Horne was forced to pull his entire line back to prevent a gap developing.

On 10 April von Armin's Fourth Army launched their attack. The village of Messines changed hand yet again, having been fought over in the three battles of Ypres. The Germans were only five miles from Hazebrouck. Haig requested reinforcements from the new Allied commander, but Foch was unwilling to move troops north, and was also having some problems with Pétain, whose would have had to provide the reinforcements.

On 11 April Haig issued his famous "backs to the wall" order –"with our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each of us must fight on to the end".

Perhaps more important was the arrival of reinforcements in the shape of the 5th and 33rd British Divisions and the 1st Australian Division. On 14 April Foch was promoted to General-in-Chief of the Allied Armies, giving him enough authority to move French units to the Lys.

Despite this help, Plumer was forced to withdraw from the Passchendaele Ridge. On 25 April the Germans achieved their last major successes of the battle, capturing Mount Kemmel.

It is highly probable that Walker Murray, presumed dead on 26th April 1918, fell during this phase of the battle of the Lys.

He is remembered at the Tyne Cot memorial in Belgium.

The name "Tyne Cot" is said to come from the Northumberland Fusiliers seeing a resemblance between the German concrete pill boxes, which still stand in the middle of the cemetery, and typical Tyneside workers' cottages - Tyne Cots. The memorial contains the names of 33,783 soldiers of the UK forces, plus a further 1,176 New Zealanders.

Walker Murray's widow later remarried to become Bertha Lea and lived at 14 School Street, Fryston near Castleford. Other members of the Murray family continued to live in Brotherton.

Family Life

The Murray family tree possibly had it's roots in Scotland with Adam Murray born about 1788. However, the family were resident in Brotherton around 1810 when

Adam married Sarah Woodall who hailed from the parish of Carlton Juxta Snaith on 5th April 1810. Adam died in Brotherton on 5th April 1866 but not before his family had become well established.

Adam's son William Yates Murray was a 'mariner' for in 1841 his wife Sarah was described as a 'seaman's wife'. At the time she was living with her mother Elizabeth Walker in Low Street - William was away.

In 1871 William was away again and Sarah, still in Low Street, was at home with 13 year old son Walker Murray (1) born 1859. The unusual Christian name had come from his mother's surname which was not an unusual practice. Sarah was described this time as a 'captain's wife'.

By 1891 Walker Murray (1) had joined his father on board a vessel named 'Major'. William was 'master' of the vessel whilst Walker was the 'mate'. The vessel was in Purfleet, Essex at the time. It is likely that the vessels were not full sea going but plied goods - probably coal - up the Humber from Yorkshire and down the coast. The vessels were manned by three men and there were a number of them docked including the 'Properity' from Knottingley, the 'Hebron Castle' and 'Pearl' from Castleford.

In 1901 the family were still living in Low Street, Brotherton. Walker Murray was employed as a ''mariner in the merchant services'. This probably explains how he met his wife Sarah (Ward) as she came from the village of Patrington Haven which is east of Hull not far from Withernsea. Also in the household at the time was 83 year old William Yates Murray (father of Walker ) who had been widowed some years earlier.

The children included Lillian (14), William H (13), Walker (2) aged 9,  and Charles (4). The first born, William, had died in infancy.

Walker (2nd) seems to have followed in his father's and grandfather's wake, for by 1911 the nineteen year old was resident in the Old Harbour, Hull on board a boat named 'Edna'. This was a river boat as he was described as being employed as a 'hullman, mate - river trade'.

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