Born in Stirling, Scotland. : Son of J. and Margret Murdoch; husband of Fannie Murdoch, of 15, Emma St., Chatham, Ontario, brother of William 6707. Prior to the war John (known as Jack to his friends) lived with his wife and child at 397 Queen Street, Chatham, ON. Worked as a butcher. He enlisted on 24 September, 1914 after completing his medical on the 23rd at Valcatier, PQ.
John was mistakenly reported as killed in action 18 February, 1915 at La Brasserie Chatham Daily Planet 1/03/1915. This a announcement, “caused considerable worry among the local friends of a Chatham man named John Murdock who enlisted from this city.” It had been reported that the Princess Patricia Light Infantry (P.P.C.L.I.) had been re-enforced in the trenches by soldiers of the Canadian force at Salisbury Plain. Chatham Daily Planet 1/03/1915. It turned out to be another John Murdock of 6 Comiston Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Mrs. J. Murdock of 397 Queen Street, Chatham received a letter from her husband Pte. John Murdock who was sitting in a crater during the battle of Langemarck. “Dear wife and baby: I take great pleasure in letting you know that I am alive yet. So far we had a big battle on the 23rd and 24th of April.”
He expects that his wife will have read about the battle before his letter arrives so goes on to say, “It was a terrible battle but we both (William Murdock) came through without a scratch. I will never forget it.” The casualties among the Chatham men was small, one killed and one missing plus a number wounded. “We had to cross an open field to charge the Germans and it certainly was terrible.” He has survived the charge but is not out of danger as he writes to his wife, “I am presently sitting out in a field in a hole in the ground, for we are afraid that the Germans will shell us at any time.”
Though Jack professes to be not “downhearted yet” he has seen much and knows his odds are not good. “I certainly do wish the whole war was over with me over in Canada once again. I don’t think we will ever come through such a battle again.”
Jack fought at the battle of Langemarcke on the 23rd and 24th of April, 1915. In a letter to his wife, printed in the Chatham Daily Planet 28/06/1915 he writes, “It was a terrible battle but we [Jack and William] both came through without a scratch. I will never forget it.”
Monday June 21st 1915 the front page of the Chatham Daily Planet announces sad news to many Chatham families. In particular to Mrs. Jack Murdock. “Her tear-dimmed eyes swollen through incessant weeping, he voice trembling with uncontrollable emotion, her arms holding to her breast the bright innocent little two year old baby”, war has come home to 397 Queen street. A cable was received by Mrs. Murdock from the Presbyterian minister Rev. Mackie from the small Scottish town of Pollock, the home town of Jack’s cousin William Murdock. Rev. Mackie broke the news of Jacks death.
In the same issue of the paper was published a letter from Jack written on June 2nd . “we have just come out of the trenches after being there for thirteen days, but we did not loose many this time.” He was glad to get his wife’s letters and papers and tobacco. “There are six of us Chatham boys together. Just now we are lying around” His cousin Bill (Murdock) is in the same unit but in another platoon.
“I tell you Fannie it is awful to see the ruins here – homes all smashed, towns laid to ruins, it makes your blood run cold to see.” He promises his baby daughter to bring her a “nice doll and something from Scotland and that she must be a good girl”. He says the Canadians are gaining a good reputation, “The Germans call us the Wild Indians. We certainly go after them every chance we get.”
He has just heard that Bill Murdock has gone to hospital . “He is sick and not wounded. He is not in very bad condition”. He closes with “Well goodbye. Love to you both with lots of kisses and hoping for a safe return. From you loving husband. JACK.”
It is not clear who was the author of this article “WAR IS THE CAUSE OF MANY PATHETIC SCENES”, there was no byline on attached to it. Transcribed as printed. – J. R. Hind 26/03/05
The red sun of approaching noon glinted own upon a grim looking soldier-laden train and scores of broken hearts. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters clustered about the cars and fought through the jam of human bodies for last farewells with loved ones. Tears dimmed many eyes. On the top most branch of a near by maple a robin flung his note of “Peace – Peace” to the wavering breeze and lied – lied. There was little evidence of peace in the hustle and bustle attending the departure of Chatham’s division of the First Canadian Contingent. Officers hurried here and there issuing orders; men of the rank and file, some white-faced, but unmoved, others whose cheeks glistened with an occasional tear, sauntered through the long stretch of train and mingled with the swarms of unknown, unfeeling lookers-on.
From one of the windows of a dusty coach, a bare-headed soldier, thrust forth his arms. His brow was moist with perspiration; on his bronzed face was a look of grim determination. But his eyes read entreaty as his long, muscular arms were extended to the mere infant that crooned on a mother’s breast, close at hand. a smile of recognition showed on the baby’s chubby countenance. The next instant the cooing morsel of humanity was clasped in a fervent embrace to the heart of the father who was going forth to battle for the rights of the country he loved so well. The veteran rained kiss after kiss on the infant’s face and as the little white hands of his child played triumphantly with his moustache, a tear – another and another stole from beneath his eye lashes and dimmed his sight.
Back in the crowd a woman swooned. The heart-rending sobs of a sixteen year old girl were plainly heard. Men turned aside with some unexplained able pounding in their own breasts. The distant engine whistled dismally, and the cars were slowly beginning to move. Reverently the soldier returned the youngster to his wife’s arms. Leaning further from the window he kissed her his last farewell. The train gathered speed; a last weird shriek in the distant yards, and he was gone.
That was last August and the scene is one that will never be forgotten. Today, a little mother, and the same little child, are awaiting a father’s return, that cannot be.
Over in the Flanders country, somewhere near the torn and bleeding village of Fesubert, Lance-Corporal Jack Murdock lies dead and buried, the customary rude cross of white erect above the mound of black earth that covers his gallant form. He lies there, another Chatham hero, who has given his life in the terrible struggle with the merciless Hun.
The incessant roar of the big guns and the sharp rattle of the rifle fire will resound about his remains for weeks and probably months to come. The spring floods of next year will probably wipe away any remains of his hastily constructed grave. Then the last trace of a gallent soldier will have been removed.
In Chatham there is a darkened Queen street home, where a little mother is struggling to console herself to the loss of a dear husband. An unknowing child plays about the house unable to comprehend his mother’s grief-racked condition. On a little table are several pressed flowers a daisy and two or three grass bells – that were picked by her Jack from a Flander’s wood, shortly after the recent terrible battle of Langemarck.
The flowers, a few censor-attacked letters, are all of a material nature that Mrs. Murdoch has to remind her of her soldier husband’s battle for the right in far away France. The mother’s love is strong however, and in that, and the fact that he died with his face to the foe, one of the bravest of the brave, may come the much hopes for relief.
Private John (Jack) Murdoch 6708, 1st Battalion (Western Ontario Regiment was killed in action 15 June, I915, age 42. Vimy Memorial (No Known Grave Site)
The Chatham Daily Planet 28/06/1915 reports, “LANCE CORPORAL JACK MURDOCK MAY BE ALIVE’. It seems a Mr. H. G. Reed; financier of the A.O.U.W fraternal lodge that Jack belongs to has been making inquires of the Militia Department in Ottawa and received the following message. “Answering your inquiry 19th June, number 6709, Private John Murdoch 1st Battalion, not on any official casualty lists received at headquarters to date.”
Mrs. Murdock is, “now buoyed with the hope the first message concerning her husband is without foundation.”
The faint hope that Jack had in fact survived his last battle came to a tragic conclusion in a letter received by William Murdock’s wife Edith. The letter dated June 16th ,1915 opens, “Darling Wife and Son: Just a line to let you know I am well and have come through another terrible time. Edith how can I tell you poor Jack fell. I can’t say more but tell Fannie that he died a noble death as did the rest of the Chatham boys.”
The charge of the 1st Battalion (Western Ontario Regiment that day in June as Will says “was a magnificent sight to see the boys go over the trench but the sad returning looking for chums.” The list of Chatham killed that William knew of at the time, was nine, including Jack and seven more wounded or missing. “I have not a man left in No. 1 section. I can’t write any more today as I am too much upset. With a prayer to Almighty God for sparing me to my sweetest love, I must close. Love to you and my wee son. W. Murcock” Chatham Daily Planet 2/07/1915
MURDOCH, JOHN Initials: J Nationality: Canadian Rank: Lance Corporal Regiment: Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario Regiment) Unit Text: 1st Bn. Age: 42 Date of Death: 15/06/1915 Service No: 6708 Additional information: Son of J. and Marget Murdoch; husband of Fannie Murdoch, of 15, Emma St., Chatham, Ontario. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead Cemetery: VIMY MEMORIAL CWGC