Francis Samuel Wilkins Murray, Gunner 77394, “C” Bty. 71st Bde. Royal Field Artillery
Killed in action 27th July 1917 near Ypres, Belgium, aged 22
Francis Murray was born in 1894 at Marley Hill, near Whickham, Gateshead, the son of Rose Lorina and Thomas Waters Murray, a lorry way man in a coal mine who was born in Ireland. In 1901, Francis was living in an area of Marley Hill known as The Hole with his parents and siblings Thomas (19), Joseph (17), Samuel (15), Elizabeth (13), John (11), Henry Murray (9), Jessie (3) and baby William (9 months).
By 1911, sixteen-year-old Francis was employed as a coal miner/pony driver and was living at 14 Church Street, Marley Hill, with his parents and siblings John (21), Harry (19), Jessie (13), William (10), Mary (8), and Annie (5). Francis, his two older brothers and his father all worked underground in the local coal mine.
Francis stated that prior to enlistment he was employed as a waiter in a hotel.
Francis Murray enlisted in Newcastle-on-Tyne about July 1914. After about one year’s training, on 5 July 1915 he was drafted to the Mediterranean. While serving in Salonica, Francis contracted malaria and was invalided back to England; after recovery he was drafted to France and twice more was repatriated with malaria attacks and a knee injury. On one of these occasions Francis spent nine weeks in Macclesfield Infirmary followed by convalescence in Southport.
Whilst at the convalescent home in Southport, Francis met Annie Jackson, of 50 Pitt St, Macclesfield, who was also staying at the home recovering from appendicitis. The couple fell in love and subsequently married at St George’s Church, Macclesfield early in 1917, after which Francis returned to service in France.
On 27th July 1917, five weeks after returning to the front, Francis was driving a team of horses transporting ammunition when a German shell burst, instantly killing him and two horses, and seriously wounding two of his comrades.
News of his death was published in the Macclesfield Times on 10 August 1917:
KILLED WITH HIS TEAM – SAD ENDING TO WAR ROMANCE
A local war romance has unhappily been shattered by the death in action of Gunner Francis Murray, Royal Field Artillery, notification of the sad event having reached his wife, who resides with her parents at 50 Pitt St, Macclesfield a few days ago… the young widow was only married to the deceased at St George’s Church five months ago. Mrs Murray, whose maiden name was Jackson, met her husband at a convalescent home at Southport, where she was staying after an attack of appendicitis, while the deceased was recovering from the effects of malaria contracted while on active service in Salonica. He had previously been a patient for nine weeks in the Macclesfield Infirmary. The attachment thus formed ripened into an engagement and the marriage was solemnised at St George’s five months ago, when the husband left again for the front and the bride returned to her parents. Gunner Murray was a native of Newcastle-on-Tyne, being 22 years of age, and in civil life was a hotel waiter. He joined the Army a month prior to the outbreak of war. After a period of service in Salonica he was invalided home with malaria, and upon recovery was drafted to France. He was sent back to England twice with recurring attacks of malaria and had also been wounded in the knee. Gunner Murray had only been back at the front five weeks when he met his death… from information Mrs Murray has received, her husband was taking up a team [of horses] with ammunition when a German shell burst, killing him and two horses instantaneously and seriously wounding two of his comrades…
Gunner Francis Murray is buried in Grave Ref. II. A. 12 in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Belgium.