Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Ernest McMurray

Ernest McMurray :

Ernest McMurray : Military Medal

Military Medal

Ernest was born between July and September 1889 in Oldham, Lancashire. His father was called John and his mother was Mary Ellen. We believe he was their youngest child, with 5 older siblings: Jane, William, Hugh, Alice and John.

John worked as a journeyman clogger, making wooden shoes. As a journeyman he had completed an apprenticeship, so he could guarantee a level of quality and ability. In 1891 the family lived at 6 Wye Street in the Werneth area of Oldham. Ten years later they had moved to 166 Lee Street in Werneth.

We don't know much about Ernest's life after this. He stayed in the Oldham area, and as well as his civilian career he joined the 10th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in late December 1913 or early January 1914. This was a unit of the Territorial Force based in Oldham. Ernest kept his civilian home and job, and trained as a soldier during evenings and weekends. The battalion also held annual training camps, lasting around 2 weeks. Ernest's service number was 1631.

The First World War broke out in August 1914, and the 10th Battalion was called into service. They set sail for Egypt on the 10th September, arriving in Alexandria on the 25th.They trained in Egypt until early May 1915 when they took part in the invasion of Gallipoli.

We don't believe Ernest sailed with them, although we don't know why. He arrived in Gallipoli on the 16th August. This suggests he was sent out as a reinforcement, needed because the 10th Battalion had taken heavy casualties during the 3 months since the landings.

We believe Ernest served with the 10th Battalion for the rest of the war. They fought in Gallipoli until the theatre was evacuated in December. They then returned to Egypt where they took part in the defence of the Suez Canal against a Turkish attack. This involved long patrols of the Sinai Desert, and living in primitive conditions amongst the sand dunes.

In March 1917 the battalion was sent to the Western Front. At around this time soldiers serving in units of the Territorial Force were given new service numbers. Ernest's became 375245. The battalion served on the old Somme battleground at Epehy and Havrincourt during the summer of 1917, before moving north to Ypres in Belgium during late August.

The 10th Battalion guarded the North Sea coast at Nieuwpoort whilst the Passchendaele Offensive was fought around Ypres. They returned to France in November and were stationed around Bethune.

During March and April 1918 Ernest and the 10th Battalion helped to defeat the German Spring Offensive. The attacks began on the 21st March, while the battalion was in the rear, but they were quickly organised and by the evening of the 24th they were on the front line near the village of Ervillers.

The Germans shelled the village very heavily, and launched several attacks on the 25th. The 10th Battalion fought them all off before retreating from the village to continue fighting further west. They fought hard for the next 2 weeks as they tried to slow the German attack. They returned to the front on the 14th April and served there until the 6th May.

The German offensive was defeated, and on the 8th August the Allies began one of their own. This was extremely successful and drove the Germans back. It continued until the end of the war on the 11th November.

At some point during the Hundred Days Offensive Ernest carried out an act of great bravery. He was awarded the Military Medal in the London Gazette of the 20th August 1919. Unfortunately his citation has not survived, so we don't know exactly what he did.

By the end of the war Ernest had been promoted several times. He held the rank of Colour Sergeant, and the job of Company Quartermaster Sergeant. We don't know when he had received these promotions, or if he had ever been wounded.

After the war Ernest returned to Oldham. Again, we don't know what work he did. Between January and March 1936 he married Sarah Ann Heywood. We don't believe they had any children.

By 1940 the couple lived at 214 Manchester Street in Oldham. Ernest died on the 14th May 1940. He was 51 years old. Sarah died aged 70 on the 16th January 1958. She lived at 281 Hollins Road at the end of her life.

Ernest's medal came to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment during the Second World War. As well as his Military Medal, Ernest was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council