McMurray, Frederick William (Fred)
Pilot Officer (Observer)
No. 85277, 82 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Killed on active service on Tuesday 10 December 1940 (aged 26)
Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerpen, Belgium (Grave II. H. 32)
Lisburn War Memorial
Bangor and District War Memorial
First Bangor Presbyterian Church
Bangor Grammar School
Frederick William McMurray was born on 8 February 1914 in South Africa and he was a son of Samuel James McMurray and Anna Louisa McMurray who was born on 11 September 1877. They had two children:
Sylvia Georgina (born 26 December 1907)
Frederick William (born 8 February 1914)
On 26 July 1924, the McMurray family arrived in London from South Africa aboard the SS Garth Castle. Samuel James McMurray was a retired bank manager and the family’s intended place of residence was Lisburn. Samuel James McMurray was born on 28 February 1876 in Lisburn and he was a son of William John and Jane McMurray (nee Brown) who were married on 30 September 1874 in Hillhall Presbyterian Church, Lisburn. In 1901 Samuel James McMurray was working as a bank clerk in Downpatrick.
After moving from South Africa to Lisburn, the McMurray family then moved to Bangor where they lived at 7 Windsor Avenue. Fred McMurray attended Bangor Grammar School from 1924 until 1932 where he excelled in sport. Described by the Headmaster, Maurice Wilkins, as ‘an all-round sportsman and athlete’ Fred captained both the 1st XI cricket team and the 1st XV rugby team. He was ‘twelfth man’ on the Ulster Schools Inter-Provincial cricket XI.
During the Second World War Pilot Officer Frederick William McMurray (No. 85277) served with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in Bomber Command and he was one of a three-man crew aboard a Bristol Blenheim Mark IV aircraft (T2225) when he was killed on 10 December 1940. They took of from RAF Bodney in Norfolk on a mission to bomb Antwerp and their aircraft crashed in the target area. The others who died were:
- Flight Lieutenant John Rankin Rathbone (aged 30) and Member of Parliament for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall
- Sergeant Allan Maurice Birt (aged 25) from Marsh Baldon, Oxfordshire
All three casualties were buried in Schoonselhof Cemetery, Belgium. There is an inscription on Pilot Officer Frederick William McMurray’s CWGC headstone:
I BARE YOU ON EAGLE’S WINGS,
AND BROUGHT YOU ONTO MYSELF
After Fred McMurray died his widowed mother Anna (then living at 34 Norfolk House Road, Streatham, London) wrote to Maurice Wilkins and her letter was published in the 4 January 1941 edition of the County Down Spectator:
‘Dear Mr Wilkins – You will be sorry that another of your ‘Old Boys’ has lost his life in the service of his country. Fred joined the RAF on the outbreak of war and enjoyed every day of his work, eventually gaining a commission as Pilot Officer. He was first reported missing but after a week I got a wire from the Air Ministry on Christmas Eve saying that he had been killed on active service. And only then did I realise how I had been hoping against hope that he was a Prisoner-of-War. Fred was never a good scholar, as you know, but he was a good sport and always a very dear and loving companion to me. He would not wait to be called up, as he said he couldn’t expect the other fellow to fight for his mother!’
Pilot Officer Frederick William McMurray (No. 85277) was 26 when he died, and he is commemorated on Lisburn War Memorial; on Bangor and District War Memorial; in First Bangor Presbyterian Church and in Bangor Grammar School.
His mother Anna died in 1970 and his sister Sylvia died in 1996, both in London.