Memories of a First World War medic

The wartime experiences of an Alnwick man have been published in a new book.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 10 June, 2019, 08:00
Pte Charles Murray in the First World War

Charles Murray served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War.

He kept diaries of his experiences while working on ambulance trains, transporting injured troops from the battlefields of France and Belgium to the Channel coast for return to Britain.

Charles and Peg Murray on their golden wedding anniversary in 1970.

His grandson, George Murray, from Berwick, found the diaries and has just had them published in a new book, An Orderly Life.

“The diaries were tiny notebooks that he kept in his tunic pocket,” revealed George. “They were written in pencil and his handwriting was not the easiest to read.

“He did, however, write a summary of these diaries for a lecture he gave on the subject and these have provided a good overview of his experiences during The Great War.”

Before the war, Charles had been a keen footballer until he broke his leg, just below the knee, which brought his playing days with Alnwick Alndale Junior Football Team to an end.

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Alnwick Alndale Junior Football Team (1913-14) - all enlisted in the First World War.

As a result of his injury, he began to take an interest in first aid and became a member of the St John Ambulance and the British Red Cross. He became the football team’s sponge man, the first in the league.

When war broke out, he was determined to play his part but knew his injury gave him no chance of being receruited to the regular forces. However, his first aid training gave him a route into the Royal Army Medical Corps.

His first forays onto foreign soil were in Malta in late 1915 but by mid-1916 he had been transferred to northern France where he writes of the dangers posed by shell fire and air raids.

“It’s like a travelogue but there are quite emotional parts which give some idea of the horrors he saw,” said George.

Before the war, Charles was working as a maltster’s clerk for JP Simpson & Co in Alnwick. He returned to the role after the war, where he met Margaret (Peg) Johnston, from Berwick. They married in 1920 and had two sons. Peg died in February 1977, aged 79, and Charles died nine months later, aged 82.