An Epsom casualty of the Boer War

Headstone and Primrose Cemetery
Left: Frederick's headstone in Primrose Cemetery, Germiston, East Rand, Gauteng, South Africa,
Photograph with thanks to Godfrey Giles via © 2014
Right: Frederick's memorial in Christ Church Epsom Common,
photograph courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2014

Frederick was born in April 1872, apparently the sixth child of Solicitor Charles Frederick Murray and Catherine Georgiana (née Tanqueray-Willaume). Like his five older siblings (and immediately younger one), Frederick was born in the Paddington District, where he was also baptised on 30 May 1872.

Between 1875 and 1877, the family moved to Epsom, where their last child, Nora was born in Q2 1877. The 1881 Census records the family living in the then grand Woodcote Hall, on the Junction of South Street and Woodcote Road - where the building (now divided into flats and in much reduced grounds) still stands. Thanks to Charles's membership of the firm Murray, Hutchins & Stirling (among other things, solicitors to the bankers Glyn, Mills & Co) this was a prosperous household, employing nine in-house domestic staff plus a coachman and others in the Hall's outbuildings. (On 18 September 1878, Georgiana had advertised in The Times for a maid "to attend upon four young ladies from 12 to 15 years of age".)

Frederick's secondary education was at Eton College. The 1891 Census records this 18 year old back at home in Woodcote Hall, listed as a "Military Cadet". In December 1891, he joined the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). Posted to South Africa, he was promoted to lieutenant in 1896.

From August 1898, Frederick served as ADC to Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, Governor of Natal but, on the outbreak of the 1899-1902 Boer War (fought by the British against Dutch settlers for control over South Africa) he was permitted to serve in Ladysmith before the siege, and afterwards with the Natal Field Force. As recorded in the London Gazette of 8 February 1901, Frederick was twice (on 19 June and 9 November 1900) "Mentioned in Despatches" by General Sir Redvers Buller who said that he "had great ability and energy, cool in danger, he possesses enterprise and organising power. I recommend him for advancement". He was promoted brevet Major for his services. (A "brevet" is a temporary promotion, usually without any additional pay.)

Frederick had again taken up his duties as ADC in August 1900 but, in March 1901, was appointed to the Scottish Horse as Major in command of the 2nd Regiment, which he had assisted Lord Tullibardine in raising. He and his men worked with Colonel Benson's 2,000 man "No 3 flying column". In the developing guerrilla tactics of the Boer War, this force was making night raids on the insurgents in the Eastern Transvaal. After a series of actions in late 1901, the column had become rather fragmented. Seeing the opportunity to take the column in stages, the Boer forces attacked at Bakenlaagte.

The Boer charge at Bakenlaagte.
The Boer charge at Bakenlaagte.
A Public Domain image via Wikimedia

The column's rearguard, led by Colonel Benson and Frederick, made a stand against this attack at Gun Hill. During the fierce fighting, both sides took heavy losses. Outnumbered four to one, the British were quickly overcome. However, their action bought enough time for the rest of the column to re-establish its defences.

Frederick was one of those killed in the course of what is known as the Battle of Bakenlaagte. He was buried locally and his parents subsequently erected an elaborate brass cruciform memorial to him in Christ Church Epsom Common, where they were regular worshippers. (Photographs of both the headstone and memorial are at the head of this article.)

The wording on the headstone is:
In loving memory / of / Frederick Dymoke Murray, / Captain and Bt Major / 42nd Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) / 3rd son of Charles Frederick / and Catherine Georgiana Murray / Killed in action while in command of / 2nd Scottish Horse, at the Battle of Brakenlaacte (sic) / 30th Octr 1901, in the 30th year of his age.
And the difficult to decipher Old English script on the Christ Church memorial reads:
To the Glory of God In Memory of Frederick Dymoke Murray, Captain and Brevet Major, 42nd Highlanders, Black Watch, Commanding 2nd Regiment Scottish Horse (with Colonel Benson's Column), who fell making the last stand with the Guns at the Battle of Bakenlaagte, South Africa, on October 30th 1901 in the 30th year of his age.

Roger Morgan © 2018