9140 – Sergeant Alexander Murdock…
“Intimation has been received by Mr. Alexander Murdock, Union Street, Ballymoney, that his son, Private Alexander Murdock, Highland Light Infantry, was wounded in action in France, and is now in hospital in England, suffering from shrapnel wounds to the head, arm, and body.” Belfast Newsletter – Tuesday, December 21, 1915.
Alexander was born on 18 May 1883 in Ballyboyland, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim. Ballymoney is a small town in Co. Antrim, a short distance away from the Causeway Coast and the Glens of Antrim. Alexander, who was known as Alex, is my 1st cousin 3x removed – his father is my 3rd great uncle and brother to my 2nd great grandfather, William. He was the fourth child and 3rd son of Alexander and Jane Holmes. His parents married in the Ballymoney Reformed Presbyterian Church on 7 Jun 1877. His older sister Annie was born in 1878, Alexander (the first) in 1879, who didn’t survive childhood, and Archie in 1881. Sadly, just before Alex’s sixth birthday, on 15 Mar 1885, his mother passed away at the very young age of thirty. She left behind her husband and her three children who where all under the age of eight.
Six years later, in the 1901 Scottish Census I discovered Alex living at 46 Hutcheson Street, Mayhill, Lanarkshire, Scotland, working as a general labourer. He and his brother Archie were living with their aunt, Sarah Jayne Burkhill (nee Murdock), and family. It is unclear when he and Archie made the trek to Scotland. Annie remained in Ballymoney – marrying in 1896 while she was still a minor.
I was unable to find any trace of Alex until ten years later – in the 1911 Census Return of all Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commission Officers, Trumpeters, Drummers and Rank, Alex was listed as a Lance Corporal with the Highland Light Infantry. It seems while living in Glasgow he had enlisted at Hamilton, Lanarkshire.An excerpt from “Ballymoney Heros” by Robert Thompson stated: “In January 1916 Alex was in hospital suffering from injuries but was improving and looking forward to ten days leave. I have been unable to trace the family of Alex Murdock but he was with his battalion north of the River Ancre in October 1916.
The first week of November saw a change in the weather, with some prospects of a lasting improvement. The weather had been very wet and the terrible condition of the water-logged trenches, many of which, including important communication ways, were little better than treacherous quagmires, while others were filled with water to a depth of three or four feet. The attack, however, was set for the 13th, zero hour being 5:45 a.m.
On the 11th the battalion occupied their trenches for the last time and after the huge amount of repair work which had been done on them they were so deep that it was almost impossible to get out of them and a great number of ladders had to be used to overcome the difficulty. So impetuous were the leading waves of the attack that they entered the enemy front line at the same time as the British barrage, and undoubtedly suffered many casualties from their own shell fire. Within six minutes the line was captured and many German prisoners taken. It was during this attack that Alex Murdock was killed…”9140 Serjeant Alexander Murdock, 2nd Bn Highland Light Infantry who was Killed in Action 13 Nov 1916 is remembered in “Ireland’s Memorial Records – Soldiers Who Died in the Great War” – he is Remembered with Honour and Commemorated in Perpetuity in Thiepval Memorial, Pier 15 C.
Like so many others Alex didn’t come home.
“They never fail who die in a great cause.” Lord Byron