Descendants of war hero attend service

Tim Layton with Debbie and Jamie Cox at the war memorial in Rothbury on Sunday.
Tim Layton with Debbie and Jamie Cox at the war memorial in Rothbury on Sunday.

The descendants of a First World War hero from Rothbury who was killed in the Battle of the Somme attended the village’s poignant Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

Captain Thomas Murray died on July 3, 1916, in the early stages of the conflict. He was 31 and left a widow, Dora, and a daughter, Katherine.

Captain Thomas Murray

Captain Thomas Murray

He enlisted on the outbreak of war in 1914, joining the 11th (Service) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment.

He rose through the ranks and the Cheshires saw service on the Vimy Ridge, France, during May 1916, before they moved to the Somme shortly after the first day of the battle.

The Battalion was part of the 75th Brigade attack near Thiepval and Captain Murray led D Company over the top, standing on the parapet, with revolver in hand, shouting ‘Come on Cheshires’.

He was cut down by German machine-gun fire. Captain Murray’s orderly, Private Thomas Carran, pulled him into a shell hole , but was himself wounded, leaving only when ‘practically confident that life was extinct’. He had been shot in the head.

In tribute, Captain Murray’s great-grandson, Tim Layton; great-granddaughter, Debbie Cox; and 15-year-old great-great-grandson, Jamie Cox, attended Rothbury’s Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

An afternoon service was held in All Saints’ Church, followed by a parade, led by Rothbury Highland Pipe Band. A wreath-laying ceremony was staged at the war memorial, in front of a large crowd which had gathered to pay respects.

Mr Layton, 45, came all the way from Montenegro, while the Coxes live in Farnborough, Hampshire. They were impressed with the commemorations and thanked the community for paying special tribute to Captain Murray.

Mr Layton, a yacht skipper, said: “The organisers decided to focus on one particular local casualty to personalise the community’s loss and resurrect one of many stories, and they chose to focus on Captain Murray. The research group, led by Air Vice Marshal Sandy Hunter, with researcher Duncan Glen and genealogist Freda Walker, plus Rector Michael Boag, dug up all sorts of fascinating and long-forgotten personal details.

“They uncovered touching comments made a century ago from eyewitnesses of his death that we had never seen, and taught us about him and his wife Dora. They produced a great deal of fascinating stuff and published it as a pamphlet that all at the service and event received.

“I would like to thank not only the team and the rector, but also the villagers of Rothbury. At every turn, we were met with warmth.

“I am visiting Thiepval Memorial on Friday for the final major commemoration there, marking the last day of the Somme.

“My ancestor fell almost exactly where the memorial stands and I will be laying a wreath to him and the other fallen of the Coquet Valley.

“I shall also walk his last mile beforehand and toast him with the engraved hip flask that he left behind a century ago in the trench, before going over the top with his pals, most of whom also died that day.”