Guardsman Thomas Henry MURRAY (2167565)
3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards
Born: 31 May 1917, Glenridding, Westmorland
Died: 5 October 1944, Apennine Mountains, Italy (Age 27)
Thomas Henry Murray was born on the 31st May 1917 in Glenridding and baptised 6 weeks later on the 15th July at the Wesleyan Chapel in Patterdale. Thomas was the youngest of eight children born to Alexander Murray, a miner, and his wife Jane (nee Robison). After attending school in Patterdale, Thomas worked at the Greenside Lead Mines.
Soon after War was declared in September 1939, he enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, who were part of the British Expeditionary Force serving in France & Belgium (attached to the 1st Guards Brigade, 1st Infantry Division). In June 1940, Thomas would have been one of those evacuated from Dunkirk and returned to Britain. The Battalion stayed in Britain for nearly two and half years, so it can be assumed that he was given periods of Home Leave and the opportunity to do some courting.
Around May 1941, Thomas married Dorothy May Vines in the South Westmorland District and on the 2nd February 1942 had their only child, a daughter named Jean, who was baptised on the 22nd March 1942 at St Patrick's Church (the baptism register records their address as 3, Low Glenridding and Thomas's occupation as a soldier).
In November 1942, the 3rd Battalion (still in the 1st Guards Brigade but by now transferred to the 78th Infantry Division) were sent to Tunisia to take part in the invasion of North Africa. By February 1943, the Battalion had transferred to the 6th Armoured Division. Following the surrender of all Axis forces in North Africa the 6th Armoured Division were sent to Italy in March 1944, where Thomas would have seen action at Cassino and then Operation Olive in August and September 1944 when the Germans were in retreat into the high Apennine Mountains. Many small actions followed, with several casualties recorded in the early days of October, so it is likely that Thomas was killed during one of these actions. The photograph on the right shows his original grave at Santerno Valley. Curiously the service number shown is slightly different to that recorded by the CWGC.
His obituary, published in the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald on the 28th October 1944, describes Thomas as an accomplished angler and an outstanding player in the Ullswater United football team. It also notes that two of his brothers were serving in the forces in France and Italy but doesn't name them.
The Medal Records for WW2 servicemen are contained within their service records, which have not been made publicly available. However, having served for about 5 years, including North Africa, before he was killed, Guardsman Thomas Murray qualified for, and would have been posthumously awarded, the following medals1:
1939-1945 British War Medal
The Africa Star
Guardsman Thomas Murray is remembered and commemorated on:
The Patterdale War Memorial
The Santerno Valley War Cemetery, Italy2 (Plot II, Row B, Grave 16)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate
What became of his family?
His father Alexander, was born in Glenridding around August 1871 and was baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 22nd October 1871. He worked in the Greenside Lead Mines and died in November 1918 at the age of 46. Around November 1901, in the Carlisle registration district, Alexander married Jane Robison. Jane was born in Holme Abbey, Cumberland on the 12th December 1872 and was baptised at Holme St Cuthbert on the 19th March 1873. She lived to the grand age of 86 until she died in July 1959 at Snowdon Road Hospital in Bristol. She was buried in St Patrick's Churchyard on the 23rd July 1959 alongside her husband Alexander.
Wife and Daughter
We have no information on what became of Dorothy May Murray, or their daughter Jean Murray.
His eldest brother William Allinson Murray was born in Glenridding on the 14th March 1902 and baptised at the Wesleyan Chapel in Patterdale on the 23rd March 1902. He married Annie Bewley Pearson in Flimby, Cumberland on the 5th September 1925. William died in Westmorland around September 1970 aged 68.
His sister Violet Murray was born at Halton Terrace around February 1904 and baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 12th July 1905.
His sister Annie Elizabeth Murray was born at Halton Terrace on the 17th July 1906 and baptised at the Wesleyan Chapel in Patterdale on the 12th August 1906 and again a few days later at St Patrick's Church on the 15th August 1906. She married Albert John Bruce in South Shields on the 18th February 1934 and died there in February 1996 aged 89.
His brother Ronald Alexander Murray was born at Halton Terrace, Glenridding on the 6th January 1908 and baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 17th February 1908. He died in Bristol around August 1986 aged 78.
His brother John Edward Robinson Murray was born at Halton Terrace, Glenridding on the 27th May 1910 and baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 24th July 1910. He died in the Central Cleveland district around November 1986 aged 76.
His sister Lena Isabella Robinson Murray was born on the 22nd February 1912 in Glenridding. She married Stanley Cartwright in Wrexham around August 1941 and died there in early 1981 aged 69.
His brother Joseph MURRAY was born in Glenridding around May 1914 and baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 25th October 1914.
1939-1945 Star - This star was awarded for service in the Second World War between 3rd September 1939 and 2nd September 1945. Royal Navy personnel had to complete 6 months service afloat in active operational areas. Army personnel had to complete 6 months service in an operational command. Airborne troops qualified if they had participated in any airborne operations and had completed 2 months service in a fully operational unit. RAF personnel had to participate in operations against the enemy providing that 2 months service had been completed in an operational unit. Non-aircrew personnel had to complete 6 months service in an area of operational army command. Merchant Navy qualified if they completed 6 months service, and at least 1 voyage was made through an operational area. Members of fighter aircraft crews who took part in the Battle of Britain (10 July to 31 October 1940) were awarded the "Battle of Britain" bar to this medal.
The criteria is 180 days’ service, although some special criteria apply when, at certain specified times, just 1 days’ service is required. These were actions for which a more specific campaign medal was not issued. Examples are: France or Belgium: 10 May to 19 June 1940, St.Nazaire 22-28 March 1942, Dieppe: 19 August 1942, Iraq: 10 April to 25 May 1941 and Burma (Enemy Invasion): 22 February 1942 to 15 May 1942.
Also recipients were awarded this star if their service period was terminated by their death or disability due to service. Also the award of a gallantry medal or Mention in Despatches also produced the award of this medal, regardless of their service duration.
1939-1945 British War Medal - The War Medal 1939–1945 was a British decoration awarded to all full time service personnel of the Armed Forces wherever their service during the war was rendered. Operational and non-operational service counted provided personnel had completed 28 days service between 3rd September 1939 and the 2nd September 1945. In the Merchant Navy there was the requirement that 28 days should be served at sea.
Personnel who were eligible for a campaign star yet who had their service cut short by death, wounds or capture by the enemy, still qualified for this medal. Eligible personnel who had been mentioned in dispatches during the War were entitled to wear a bronze oak leaf emblem on the ribbon. Those War Medals issued to UK personnel were not officially inscribed. However, those issued to Australian and South African personnel were officially inscribed. It is sometimes described as the "Victory Medal" for World War II, although that is not its correct name.
The Africa Star - awarded for 1 or more days’ service in North Africa, Malta or Egypt between 10 June 1940 and 12 May 1943. The qualifying areas for the Africa Star also include the earlier areas of conflict against the Italians in East Africa; those serving in Abyssinia, Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya or Somaliland between certain other specified dates will also qualify.
Naval personnel anywhere at sea in the Mediterranean or in harbour in North Africa, Malta or Egypt between the above dates will qualify. Those serving in direct support of the Eritrean and Abyssinian campaigns between certain other specified dates will also qualify.
RAF air crew landing in or flying over an area of an Army operational command or flying over enemy occupied territory in North Africa will also qualify.
Service with either the 1st or 8th Army in North Africa during certain specified dates will qualify for award of the ‘1st Army’ or ‘8th Army’ clasp to be worn on the ribbon of the Africa Star.
Provided neither the 1st or 8th Army clasps have been qualified for, staff of the 18 Army Group Headquarters who served between certain specified dates under a specified General will qualify for award of the clasp ‘North Africa 1942-43’.
2. The Santerno Valley War Cemetery, Italy
Following the fall of Rome to the Allies in June 1944, the German retreat became ordered and successive stands were made on a series of defensive lines. In the northern Appenine mountains the last of these, the Gothic Line, was breached by the Allies during the Autumn campaign and the front inched forward as far as Ravenna in the Adratic sector, but with divisions transferred to support the new offensive in France, and the Germans dug in to a number of key defensive positions, the advance stalled as winter set in. The cemetery was started by the British 78th Division during the fighting in the Apennines towards the end of 1944, and was later added to by bringing in burials from the surrounding region.
Santerno Valley War Cemetery contains 287 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. More Details
Page Editor: Norman Jackson
Page Last Reviewed: 25 Feb 2021