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The Personal Account of 3/949 Pte. William Murray 1st Black Watch in 1914


Derek Black

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3/949 Pte.William Murray, a Special Reservist from Dundee, arrived in France on the 20th of September in a reinforcement draft. Being wounded less than a month later, on recovery he served in the 2nd battalion, finally being discharged in May, 1919. Murray died in 1960 aged 69.

 

23rd December 1914 Dundee Courier

 

Private William Murray, 1st Battalion Black Watch, has returned to his home at 36 Kirk Street, Lochee, to recover from five shrapnel wounds sustained on 10th November at the battle of Ypres.

Yesterday he gave the “Courier” a graphic account of how he came by his many wounds.

 

“The detachment of the Black Watch I was in joined the rest of the British forces at the Aisne,” said Private Murray. “We were safely tucked away in quarries along the river, and I do not think we lost more than three men all the time we were there. But when we were transferred to Belgium there was a different story to tell. After the spell we put in on the Aisne we were held in reserve, and at Armentieres, before crossing into Belgium, we were billeted in a farm house some 500 or 600 yards behind the firing line. We expected to have an easier time there, but we had scarcely got settled down when the order came for us to reinforce the Coldstreams. From that time I was never out of the firing line until I was wounded.

 

OFFICER'S GALLANTRY

 

“During that engagement with the Coldstreams I witnessed an act of conspicuous gallantry on the part of one of our officers which, in my opinion, should have gained him the Victoria Cross. The Guards had been having a hot time. The had been opposed by a tremendous force of the enemy, and were compelled to retire, and they were just executing the movement when we joined them. The German's fire was deadly, and many a good man fought his last fight there. One of the Guards' officers – a captain, I think he was, but I am not at all sure – had been wounded in five places, and was lying out in the open. Lieut. McCrae, of the Black Watch, volunteered to go out for him. The brave chap advanced under a withering fire, and succeeded in bringing in the Coldstreams' officer. When he was in the act of lifting up the officer a private called to him to assist him also. The plucky young lieutenant said he would return for him, and go back he did when he had safely disposed of the injured officer. But his errand was in vain, the private had disappeared. He had either crawled into a hole or had been picked up by someone else.

 

YOUTHFUL GERMAN INFANTRYMEN

 

“When on the way from Armentieres to Ypres we encountered one morning a band of almost 170 German prisoners under the charge of a detachment of one of our cavalry regiments. Fully three-quarters of them were mere boys. I have seen older and more physically fit lads playing about the streets of Lochee. And they were quite happy – wearing smiles as wide as the mouth of a German siege gun. They knew they were in for a good thing. This company of German infantry had been concealed in a roadside wood, and had ambushed a British Army Service Corps transport. Our lads had realised their danger just in time, and managed to keep the Germans at bay until the cavalrymen came along, surrounded the wood, and cleared it of its human game.

 

“We had not gone very far beyond the spot where we encountered the German prisoners when we fell in with the ambushed transport. Imagine my surprise when someone called me by name. He was George Ferguson, an old Lochee friend, who was one of the transport. I was the first Lochee man he had met all the time he had been on the move through France and Belgium.

 

COMPANION'S TRAGIC DEATH

 

“At Ypres we were sent to the trenches directly, and we were there for a number of weeks. It beats me to know how the Kaiser's gunners got the range of our trenches. It seemed as if some of their officers had come up and measured the distance with a surveyor's chain. My Company, D Company, was just about wiped out. There were seven of us in one trench. Two of us were killed and three wounded. The two others escaped death by going for assistance. I was among the first to be wounded that day. A piece of shrapnel made a hole in my hip. One of my companions, a Dundee man named Reekie, asked me if I had been seriously wounded, and I crawled up to where he was. He had a peculiar habit of sitting up while all the others lay and slept, and when I got up to him he asked me to wait a minute and he would endeavour to get me away from the trench to fix up my wound. I was so done up that I laid my had on his knees and waited. Then there was a tremendous crash just over our heads. A shrapnel shell rained its leaden death on top of us. I was struck several times about the hips and the small of the back. Reekie didn't move. I looked up into his face, His eyes were closed, and a thin stream of blood trickled down from a wound in his forehead. He was dead.

 

“Somehow – I can't remember anything of it – I managed to drag myself from that deathtrap to a dressing station, where I had my wounds dressed. I was hit in five places.”

Edited by Derek Black

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