by ehistoryadmin on July 4, 2023

John Murray, Ardreigh, Athy, a casualty of World War II

James Durney

On 12 October 1940 the Leinster Leader reported on an ‘Athy boy’s death,’ saying that Jack Murray, formerly of Ardreigh, Athy, was killed during an air raid on London. The newspaper went on to report that Murray was about nineteen years of age and was attached to the R.A.F. Ground Defences.

‘He was a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Murray, Ardreigh, Athy, and nephew of Mrs. W. O’Neill, Foxhill. A brother, David Murray, is in the Royal Navy. Deceased whose father was a Sergt.-major in the Great War, served an apprenticeship for a time in the establishment of Mr. William Duthie, jeweller and watchmaker, Athy. He joined the R.A.F. about two years ago. He was immensely popular in Athy, and the news of his death is deeply regretted in his native district.’

The following week’s edition of the Leinster Leader had an update on the death of the young Athy man. On 19 October the Leader reported:

Athy Boy Killed off Norwegian Coast

The facts relating to the death of Mr. Jack Murray, late of Ardreigh, Athy, were gleaned by the writer this week through the courtesy of deceased’s aunt, Mrs. E. Neill, Foxhill, Athy. He was not as was stated, killed in an air raid on London. A wireless operator and air gunner, he belonged to the crew of bomber of the British Coastal Command. On Sunday, October 6th, he was reported missing, believed to have been killed in an encounter between his aircraft and an armed German vessel off the coast of Norway. The bomber, diving to the attack was hit, and crashed in flames in the sea.

The deceased boy was over 2½ years in the Royal Air Force, and had attained the rank of Sergt. His father, the late Mr. John Murray, Senior, Ardreigh, served all through the Great War, at first with the South Irish Horse, later he was given a commission and served with the South Wales Borderers.’

John Murray, Senior, was the son of Kildare-born David and Anne Murray. David was employed as a land steward and John was born in Co. Laois where the family were living. They moved to Belview, Athy, where both John and his father worked as farm labourers. John Murray, then a farmer at Ardreigh, Athy, married Anne Simpson, of Myshal Lodge, Carlow, in Myshal, on 16 July 1921. Both were practicing Presbyterians.

John Charles Murray was born on 1 March 1921 at Seville Place, Dublin. Both his parents died young: his mother Anne Murray died of heart disease on 17 May 1934 at the Adelaide Hospital, Dublin. She was thirty-three. John Murray, a widower, died aged forty-three, at Ardreigh, from pulmonary tuberculosis on 16 March 1937.

Like their father before them both John and his brother David joined the British armed forces. John was posted to 220 Squadron, R.A.F. Coastal Command, and when the Second World War broke out flew patrols from Thornaby, North Yorkshire, on anti-shipping duties in the North Sea. In February 1940 two of the squadron’s Lockheed Hudson bombers located the Altmark, the German ship attempting to move British seamen captured by the battleship Graf Spee through neutral Norwegian waters to Germany. 220 Squadron was able to direct the Royal Navy to the scene and free the 299 captured seamen onboard. In May 1940, after the fall of Norway, 220 Squadron began to fly anti-shipping missions off the Norwegian coast from St. Eval, Cornwall.

John Murray, like his parents, was destined to die prematurely. He was killed in action, aged nineteen, on 6 October 1940, when his Hudson bomber was shot down off the Norwegian coast, with the loss of its five crewmen. As his body was never found Sgt. John Murray is commemorated on the Runnymeade Air Force Memorial, which overlooks the Thames River, on Cooper’s Hill, at Englefield Green, Windsor. The memorial commemorates by name 20,265 men and women of the Commonwealth air forces, who were lost in WWII during operations from bases in Britain and north and western Europe, and who have no known grave.


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