Date of birth: 1922
Date of death: 12.9.1944
Regiment: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Family information: Son of John and Annie Maria Murgatroyd
Rank: Sergeant Flight Engineer
Service number: 168527
Jack Murgatroyd was enlisted into 35 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve service number: 168527. He attained the rank of Sergeant (2nd): Flight Engineer.
When the Pathfinder Force was formed in August 1942 with the object of securing more concentrated and effective bombing by marking targets with incendiary bombs and flares dropped from aircraft flown by experienced crews, using the latest navigational equipment. No 35 was one of the five squadrons selected to form the nucleus of the new force.
The first Pathfinder Force (PFF) attack was against Flensburg on 18/19th August 1942, and the new technique soon proved its value. In March 1943, No. 35 Squadron Halifaxes backed up Mosquitoes using the target-finding aid Oboe, and Essen received its most severe damage to date.
And so it continued, with No. 35 playing a major part in historic Bomber Command raids - Le Creusot (19/20th June 1943), Peenemunde (17/18th August 1943) and many others. In March 1944, the squadron converted to Lancasters (AVRI I & II) and in the early hours of D-Day, 6th June, attacked two German coastal batteries - one at Maisy and the other at Longues. Later in the year the gun batteries on Walcheren Island, key to the vital port of Antwerp, and communications centres supporting von Runstedt's Ardennes offensive, felt the weight of the squadron's bombing.
Available diary information for September 1944 states that Jack took part in a raid from Graveley to Emden on the evening of the 6th.
The diary entry indicates that “ND 907 flew at 18,000 feet at a speed of 150 knots, the weather being clear – good visibility. The target was identified visually. The lock gate in Binen hafen seen in bomb sight. Own bombs seen to fall very close to lock gate and across dock. Attack on town very concentrated and close to centre of town.”
The crew consisted of F/L P C Granger, F/O H E H Heales, F/O K B Freer, F/O D A Foster, Sgt. H N F Howe, Sgt P Froud & Sgt J Murgatroyd.
A further entry for the afternoon of the 11th shows the same crew including Jack on a raid from Graveley to Gelsenkirchen in the role of ‘Supporter’
The diary for the day indicated that “ND 907 18.33 hours flew at 16,700 feet at a speed of 200 knots. The weather was clear and a smokescreen was in operation. Red target indicator. Could not identify target on first run over at 18.39 hours so turned on reciprocal and saw red target indicator cascading at 18.?? hours on which we bombed. Big column of smoke was rising from target and attack appeared successful.”
The next and final entry that would include that crew was on the following day. On the afternoon of the 12th September took off from Graveley for a raid on Wanne Hickle.
The diary entry is brief. “This aircraft is missing, nothing having been heard from it after take-off.”
The Operations Record Book for Graveley contains the following entry – “Seven aircraft set out shortly after noon to bomb Wanne Hickle. Heavy “flak” was encountered and a smoke screen hampered the attackers and one aircraft went on to bomb (?) the alternative target. Two aircraft captained by F/L P C Granger and F/O D Cambell failed to return.
Jack Murgatroyd and his fellow crew members were killed on 12th September 1944 and are buried at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
Jack Murgatroyd’s connection with Brotherton was via his mother’s side of the family. The Murgatroyds, though, were not that distant.
Jack’s great grandfather John Murgatroyd (1), born about 1793, was from Pontefract and worked as a ‘labourer’. His son, also called John (2) born 1826, moved to Knottingley - probably when he married Mary prior to 1851. In that year they were living in Holes close to the King’s Mills and John was employed as a ‘carpenter’. The family were to continue living at Holes for at least 40 years.
Christopher was born in 1866. By 1881 John (2) was a ‘Wheelwright’ and Christopher was working as a ‘’potter’. In the mid 1880’s Christopher married Louisa and by 1891 they were living in Holes and he was still a ‘Potter’. His two older brothers Henry and Oliver also lived in the Holes and were employed as ‘’joiners’.
Christopher and Louisa had 3 children by the time of the 1891 census and the family continued to grow and by 1901 three more had been added including John (3) in 1894. By then they were living in Aire Street.
There was little change in the family circumstances over the next ten years except that some of the older children had moved out and an 8th and last child, Tom, had been born in 1903.
John (3), by then 17 years old was absent and was not traceable in the census data of 1911.This may have been due to his occupation as when he got married on 12th January 1918 it stated on the marriage banns that he was an ‘ordinary seaman’ on board KMS Kildonan Castle.
This would indicate that during WW1 John was in the Royal Navy as, on 6th October 1915, the ship was commissioned as a hospital ship with 603 beds but in the following March she was de-commissioned and converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser and on 21st August 1916 joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron which was based at Glasgow.
In 1917, on 17th January, she embarked the British Military Mission headed by Viscount Milner at Oban and took them to Murmansk where the Mission failed to prevent the Russians from negotiating with the Germans for peace. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, when Russia signed a separate Peace Treaty with the Central Powers, was signed on 2nd March 1917 the day the Mission reached Scapa Flow.
On her return she undertook convoy duties in the North Atlantic.
The marriage to Maria Wright probably took place whilst John was on leave as from the 9th to the end of January the Kildoman Castle was docked at the Princes Dock, Glasgow.
Following this the ship took to the Atlantic again and by the 14th Feb was crossing the Equator and on the 20th was in Rio de Janeiro. Then back in Avonmouth by 16th April.
Presumably, after the war John was discharged and returned to Brotherton.
The Wright’s in Jack’s maternal ancestry can be positively traced to the 18th July 1874 when Fred Wright (1856 – 1929) married Maria Hodgson (1857 – 1913) in Brotherton Parish Church.
Fred had been born in Fairburn but Maria’s Hodgson family were well established in the village. Indeed, she was the daughter of William Hodgson and Harriet Rockett and was therefore the great aunt of the three Hodgson boys killed in WW2.
Fred and Maria were the grandparents of Jack via their son William Hodgson (1875 – 1941) and his wife Kate Beatrice nee Sutcliffe (1877). Fred worked as a ‘Miner’ all his life living on the North Road and then High Street. In total they had 12 children with 9 surviving by 1911.
William and Kate Wright had 6 children of which 1 died. The survivors were Anne Maria (1896), Elizabeth (1899), William (1902), Emily (1905) and John (1911). Like his father, William was also a ‘Miner’ and lived in the High Street close to Austerberry Yard.
Jack Murgatroyd was born on 1st May 1922 in Brotherton.
At some stage Jack’s parents John and Maria moved to Pontefract.