Sunday, 2 April 2017

On this day in 1917, Private Thomas Murley was killed.

Private 45628
8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment
Died age 25
2nd April 1917
Thomas Stanley Murley was born in 1892 in Lynton, Devon. He was one of the four sons and two daughters of Thomas and Elizabeth Murley. His mother, Elizabeth, was a daughter of Edmund Gill, a well known Victorian fern grower who took advantage of the mild climate in North Devon to establish a nursery. His house in Lynton was called The Fernery and still bears that name today. Thomas Murley Senior joined his father-in-law in this business.

Thomas’s aunty, Annie, had married Edmund Dingle from Venterdon and it was here that Thomas Stanley lived and it is here that he is mentioned in the 1901, where he appears with his mother, and 1911 censuses. It is likely that he joined the family engineering business as his occupation is given as a ‘student engineer’ in the 1911 census. His father died in 1906.

At some point, he enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment in Exeter and entered the France and Flanders Theatre of War as part of the 8th Battalion. His service thereafter is unknown but we do know that on April 2nd 1917, during the Battle of Arras, his battalion attacked the village of Ecoust, just south east of Arras. One description of this engagement describes it as a ‘great success and light casualties’. This description is at odds with the official version in the Battalion War Diary which details an advance under cover of a creeping barrage of artillery firepower, meeting a hail of machine gun and rifle fire and ending up with hand-to-hand combat.
It was in this battle that Thomas was killed and his body was one of those never recovered. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and is also remember on memorials in his birthplace, Lynton. He left few effects and his mother received his estate of £2 19s 6p, which is worth around £80 today.

Sadly Thomas's younger brother, Percy Douglas Murley, also of the 8th Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, was killed on 1st July 1916 aged 20.
Arras Memorial

Detail of the Lynton war memorial

Lynton war memorial
Notification of Thomas Murley's effects.

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