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 Army.
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 that?"
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 Murray Hugh John (b) Tongue Sutherlandshire. 33354. Private. Killed in action F&F. 20-10-17. 1/4 Hallamshire (TF) Battalion York’s and Lancs Regiment. Formerly 301052 Army Service Corps.
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION Murray Private Hugh John. 33354. 1/4 Battalion, York’s and Lancs Regiment, 20th October 1917. Age 19. Son of George M and Mary Murray of Braetongue, Tongue, Sutherlandshire. 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