Trowbridge shows its sympathy

on Tuesday, 16 May 2017. Posted in Archives, Military, Wiltshire People

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I was recently cataloguing an early 20th century postcard for our Historic Photograph & Print Collection which was quite unusual; it was commemorating the death of two gunners called Harrild and Murray. Included on the front of the postcard were photographs of each of them. I really wanted to find out more. What happened to these men and what were their full names? Even a location for the event wasn’t clear, so I needed help!

After a timely tweet, Trowbridge Museum came up trumps and confirmed that the men had been stationed at Trowbridge Barracks and had been involved in an accident with the funeral being held on 30th July 1909.

My next port of call was to a local newspaper, the Wiltshire Times, where on Saturday 24th July 1909 the inquest was reported. The two gunners were Sidney Harrild (age 19) and Richard Murray (age 26), and another, Gunner Wells, who was seriously injured. It appears that the gunners were removing primers from shells although there was a debate around whether the powder was also being removed. The powder in seven of the cartridges exploded, with “terrible results”. The funeral was also reported, occurring slightly earlier than we thought, on 27th July.

Wiltshire Times

“With full military honours, the remains of Gunners Murray and Harrild were laid to rest on Tuesday afternoon, the awfulness of the tragedy and the solemn progress through the streets of the soldiers with their dead comrades combining to make this occasion one that will not soon be forgotten.”

At the graveside were hundreds of local people forming a square around the grave behind the military personnel. A wreath was constructed from the wild flowers collected by boys at the Trinity Boys’ School, reaching 3’ 6” in diameter. It had a purple hue and a ribbon. Gunner Harrild’s family attended, probably from Deptford where Sidney grew up, but Gunner Murray’s only surviving relative, an aunt, could not make it in time.

The postcard is an echo of that tragic event, one which the town of Trowbridge chose not to forget, and one which we can remember anew today.

Julie Davis, County Local Studies Librarian

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