Hugh John Murray was born in Braetongue Tongue in 1897, the third son
of George Mackay Murray of Braetongue and Mary Ross. They were married in 1891 in Alness Rosshire. In 1911 Census he is at home with his parents and brothers Colin and Hugh and sister Annie. He was employed
at Burrs General Merchant and also by Mr Wallace at the Motor Garage Lairg, as
a car driver.
He enlisted into the Army in Tongue in 1917, as a
driver in the Army Service Corps and was sent for training in May of that year.
Once he had completed his training he volunteered to be transferred into the
infantry, joining the 1/4 (Hallamshire) Battalion,
the Yorkshire and Lancaster Regiment.
The Yorkshire (Pals) Battalions had suffered
terrible losses at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, when they led the attack on
the 1 of July. The losses were so heavy; that the English infantry
battalion's home recruiting areas could not supply new recruits in the numbers
required. A signal was then sent out for volunteers and the infantry battalions
began to recruit soldiers from support units i.e. transport, engineers and
supply. Many men volunteered to join the infantry so that they could become
more involved in the fighting in the frontline; also pressure was put on men in
the rear to become more involved in the fight.
On the 31 of July the British attacked the Germans to the
East of the town of Ypres, in an attempt to break out of the Ypres Salient and
take the Channel Ports. The ports were being used by U-boats to launch attacks
on the convoys, bringing much needed supplies to Great Britain from America.
The artillery barrage fired in the days leading up to the Third Battle
of Ypres turned the battlefield into a water filled swamp. On the first day of
the offensive it began to rain as thousands of British troops went over the top
and tried in vain to take Passchendaele Ridge. The fighting during this battle
was the worst warfare ever seen in modern history, as men waded chest deep in
water, to attack the enemy on the ridge above.
The 1/4 Battalion York’s and Lancs were with
the 148 Brigade, 49 (West Riding) Division which
attacked Poelcappelle and the Passchendaele Ridge in October 1917. The assault
was launched against concrete bunkers and pillboxes on the slopes of the ridge,
in an area known by the troops as Tyne Cot. The name Tyne Cot was given to the
area by men from Tyneside, who thought the small white houses in the area
reminded them of their own home 'Tyne Cottages'.
British troops pushed forward in the terrible conditions, rifle bolts
and machine guns were clogged with mud and in some cases unusable. The British
soldiers were forced to fight with clubs, knives and hand grenades in close
combat, in a kill or be killed battle with the tough veterans of the German
The fighting came to an end in November, when the Canadians finally
took what remained of Passchendaele village, our troops were exhausted and the
High Command had used up all its reserves in the heavy fighting. Total British
casualties were 240,000 the Germans losing 217,000 killed or missing, a British
General who visited the battlefield in November viewed the scene of carnage and
broke down in tears saying "My God, did we really send men to fight in
Private Hugh John Murray was killed instantaneously(Northern Ensign 6/11/17) on the 20 October 1917 during the Third Battle of Ypres, during the fighting on the slopes of Passchendaele
Ridge, he was aged 19 years.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL EDINBURGH CASTLE
Hugh John (b) Tongue Sutherlandshire. 33354. Private. Killed in action F&F.
Hallamshire (TF) Battalion York’s and Lancs Regiment. Formerly 301052
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION
Private Hugh John. 33354. 1/4 Battalion, York’s and
October 1917. Age 19. Son of George M and Mary Murray of Braetongue, Tongue,
Plot XXXIV. Row H17. Grave 34.
Private Hugh John Murray. 33354, 1/4 Battalion York’s and Lancs Regiment is buried in a war grave in TYNE COT, MILITARY CEMETERY, BELGIUM. .
Tyne Cot Cemetery Row H17
Tyne Cot Entrance Gate
Tyne Cot Cemetery