26336 CPL S. M. MURRAY. R.DUB.F.
Stephen Michael Murray was born in the first quarter of 1891 in Bamber Bridge. His parents came from Ireland. His father was Michael Murray (b. 1861 in Roscommon), a gas fitter by trade. His mother was Mary Ethel Doherty (b. 1866 in Dublin). The couple were married in 1886 and in 1888 were living in Liverpool where their first child John Michael was born. The following year they were in Adlington, where their second child, Maria Ethel, was born. By 1891, when Stephen was born, they were settled in Bamber Bridge, at 27 Brownedge Lane. They had 3 more children: Helena (b. 1894), Agnes (b. 1895) and finally Joseph (b. 1902). In 1911, they had moved to 35 St Mary’s Road, and Stephen was working as a shop assistant. Maria was a school teacher, John a railway clerk and the two other girls were cotton winders.
Stephen joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and was given service number 26336 and posted to 10 Battalion. His service papers have not survived, but we know that 10th (Service) Battalion was raised in Dublin in 1915 and moved to England in August 1916. Mobilisation to the Battalion was completed at Pirbright, near Aldershot, between 6-17 August 1916. Stephen must have joined up in 1916 (it is possible he was conscripted as conscription had been introduced in March 1916). He was obviously a capable soldier as he was promoted to Acting Corporal.
On 19 August 1916 the Bn landed at Le Havre and was placed under command of 190th Brigade in 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. This Division had previously fought at Gallipoli but by this stage in the War had very few naval men. A further draft arrived from England on 29 August. Initially, the Battalion was based north of Arras and suffered their first fatalities at Maisnil-lès-Ruitz at the end of August. In September they were in defensive lines and also spent time in training at Ostreville. They moved south towards the Somme front in mid-October and resumed training at Mailly-Mallet, during which time they practised the tactics they would deploy in the forthcoming battle, especially the use of artillery and the creeping barrage, and the use of smoke bombs. The Division had missed most of the Battle of the Somme but was to take part in the Battle of the Ancre from 13-18 November.
The battle in which the Battalion saw its first major action was preceded by a seven-day bombardment which cut the wire on most of the attack front and destroyed many German defensive positions, except the dugouts built deep below the villages near the front-line. On 13 November, a mist helped the British advance by reducing visibility but caused many British units to lose the barrage, as they struggled through mud. Two 63rd Division brigades each advanced with all four battalions forward and two in support from the reserve brigade. On the right, the advance met much German machine-gun fire from the start but captured the German front trenches, then advanced on time to capture Beaucourt Station and Station Road, taking 400 prisoners by 6:45 a.m. The two battalions on the left were severely depleted by machine-gun fire, as was the left brigade although about 100 men reached the first objective. From 13-15 November, 63rd Division suffered 3,500 casualties (killed, wounded and missing). When the attack began, the 10 Bn R.Dub.F. War Diary reported a strength of 24 officers and 469 other ranks. On the first day alone, they had 83 officers and men killed including Stephen Murray. He was 25 years old and his body was never recovered. During the action, overall, 10 Bn lost half its strength (242 officers and other ranks), killed, wounded or missing.
This was the last major engagement of the year and brought the Battle of the Somme to its sorry conclusion. The only ‘consolation’ was that the German Army had suffered even more than the British and French.
The following year Stephen’s mother received his effects including the sum of £3 1s 5d and after the War she received a War Gratuity of £4.
Service No: 26336
Date of Death: 13/11/1916
Regiment/Service: Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 10th Bn.
Panel Reference: Pier and Face 16 C.
Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Trench map from 10Bn War Diary, showing where the fatal action took place, at Beaucourt sur l’Ancre