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Percy Murgatroyd

Date of birth: 1880
Date of death: 1951
Area: Brotherton
Regiment: King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Elizabeth Murgatroyd nee Cook.
Service number: 17630

War Service

None of Percy’s army records survive except for the Medal Index card (MIC). Even this gives limited information but does provide a service number (17630) and a regiment the (King’s Own) Yorkshire Light Infantry. Unfortunately there is no indication of which battalion he was attached to.
However, the date in which he entered the Theatre of War – 11/9/1915 does give us a strong clue. The only KOYLI battalion to arrive in France in September 1915 was the 9th (Service) Battalion.
This was formed at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of K3 (Kitchener’s Third Army) and attached to 64th Brigade in 21st Division. They moved to Berkhamsted and then to Halton Park (Tring) in October 1914, going on to billets in Maidenhead in November, before returning to Halton Park in April 1915 and then on to Witley in August.
Advanced parties embarking for France began on 2 September and the main body began to cross the Channel five days later. Units moved to assemble near Tilques, completing concentration on 13 September. The Division's first experience was truly appalling. Having been in France for only a few days, lengthy forced marches brought it into the reserve for the British assault at Loos. GHQ planning left it too far behind to be a useful reinforcement on the first day, but it was sent into action on 26 September, whereupon it suffered over 3,800 casualties for very little gain.
This is the summary of the advance of the two KOYLI battalions (9th & 10th) taken from the Regimental official history Vol 3 "The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the Great War" by Lt Col R.C.Bond , 2/KOYLI.
"Those people of Yorkshire, whose feelings are stirred by evidence of the "sporting spirit" in the lads of that county, should indeed find their hearts warmed by the story of the two KOYLI battalions of young miners, who had been forced during the day to witness the slaughter of their gallant cousins of Durham County in their repeated attacks, and who, becoming restive in inaction, poured over the top without word of command, like colts at the starting-gate that break the tape and get away down the course before the starters flag is down."
Although eloquent and even romantic, the fact remains that due to a series of errors a huge number of casualties were inflicted on these battalions.
The Division served on the Western Front for the remainder of the war, taking part in many of the significant actions:
The Battle of Loos
The Battle of Albert*
The Battle of Bazentin Ridge*
The Battle of Flers-Courcelette*
The Battle of Morval* in which the Division captured Geudecourt
The Battle of Le Transloy*
The battles marked * are phases of the battles of the Somme 1916
The 9th battalion was virtually wiped out on the First Day of the Somme, 1st July 1916, losing over 500 casualties.
"Before the blackness of their burst had thinned or fallen the hand of time rested on the half-hour mark, and all along that old front line of the English there came a whistling and a crying. The men of the first wave climbed up the parapets, in tumult, darkness, and the presence of death, and having done with all pleasant things, advanced across No Man's Land to begin the Battle of the Somme."
The Old Front Line, John Masefield
The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line
The First Battle of the Scarpe**
The Third Battle of the Scarpe**
The flanking operations around Bullecourt**
The battles marked ** are phases of the Arras offensive 1917
The Battle of Polygon Wood***
The Battle of Broodseinde***
The Second Battle of Passchendaele***
The battles marked *** are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres
The Cambrai Operations
The Battle of St Quentin+
The First Battle of Bapaume+
The battles marked + are phases of the First Battles of the Somme 1918
The Battle of Messines=
The Second Battle of Kemmel=
The battles marked = are phases of the Battles of the Lys 1918
The Battle of the Aisne 1918
The Battle of Albert++
The Second Battle of Bapaume++
The battles marked ++ are phases of the Second Battles of the Somme 1918
The Battle of Epehy^
The Battle of the St Quentin Canal^
The Battle of Cambrai 1918^
The battles marked ^ are phases of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line
The Battle of the Selle, a phase of the Final Advance in Picardy
When the Armistice came into effect at 11am on 11 November 1918 the units of the Division were halted around Berlaimont. Next day they moved to Beaufort, going between 12-20 December to west of Amiens. Demobilisation began and by 19 May 1919 the Division ceased to exist. In all the 21st Division had suffered the loss of 55581 killed, wounded and missing.

Family Life

The Murgatroyds were a family based in Smeaton near Womersley and can be traced back to at least May 1822 when William Murgatroyd married Martha Youle. They subsequently had at least 2 children – John (1823) and Arthur (1828).
John married Ann Shaw in 1843 and by 1851 had two sons – Charles (1845) and George (1850), John was employed as a ‘Labourer’ and still lived in Smeaton.
By 1861 the family had expanded to include Arthur (1854), Henry (1856), Mary Ann (1857) and Annie (1850). John was by then described as a ‘Farm Labourer’ and they lived in a ‘private house’ which was close to The Grange which was farm of 160 acres.
Arthur married Mary Ann (?) about 1875 and subsequently had several children including Arthur George (1876), Charles (1878), Percy (18th May 1880), Herbert (1883), Harold (1888) and Sarah Ann (1890). By 1891 Arthur was a ‘Farm Foreman’
and was still resident in Smeaton.
At some stage the family became non-conformists in terms of their religious practices for Percy was baptised on 11/3/1883 along with Charles and Herbert at the
Wesleyan Chapel in Pontefract.
Percy went on to marry Elizabeth Cook of Brotherton in June 1900. The Cooks were a long established Brotherton Family.
In 1901 Percy was living in Brotherton and employed as a ‘Coal Miner’ but strangely he was not in the same household as his wife. He was boarding with a William and Jane Lee. Elizabeth was in the home of her parents Isaac (a Stone Mason) and Mary along with several siblings and her own daughter Eliza Murgatroyd aged 11 months.
By 1911 the family were together living in Low Street. There is no mention of Eliza but two other daughters had been born. These were Lillian aged 2 and 9 month old Minnie. Percy seems to have had the good fortune to get out of mining as he was described as “Assurance Agent” by trade.
To date, nothing is known of Percy’s life after he returned from the Army although he was kept on the ‘Z’ list until 1920. His daughter Minnie went on to marry William Melbourne in 1929 and subsequently had children and grandchildren. Percy would have, therefore, lived to see his granddaughters grow up and, indeed meet one of his great grandchildren before his death in 1951.

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