Scots sailor killed at Jutland had premonition of death

A Scottish sailor killed at the Battle of Jutland had a premonition he would not return home and made a last-minute decision to change the name chosen for his newborn baby daughter, his granddaughter has revealed.

Lewisman Murdo Murray (second from right, front row) who was killed aboard the HMS Invincible at Jutland. Picture: Contributed

Murdo Murray, 46, from the village of North Tolsta in the Outer Hebrides, was among the 11 naval gunners from the Isle of Lewis killed on the HMS Invincible, the flagship of the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, on 31 May 1916.

The Battle of Jutland was the First World War’s biggest naval battle, claiming the lives of 6,000 British sailors in 36 hours. National commemorations will take place on 28 May.

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Mr Murray, a father-of-six, decided to change his five-week-old daughter’s name from Christy Mary to Murdina, after himself.

Catherine Smith, 71, Mr Murray’s granddaughter, said: “What was significant about the change of name, and which was talked about in the family afterwards, was that he knew he wouldn’t be coming back.”

Mr Murray, a crofter-fisherman, like every island Royal Naval Reservist, had been trained as a gunner. He had taken part in the Battle of the Falklands in December 1914 and the Battle of Heligoland in August 1914.

His granddaughter said: “I was only two-and-a-half when by grandmother died. But my mother talked a lot about her father and she told me he had said to one of the other men that they had come out of the last skirmish but wouldn’t come out of the next one. They always lived with the fear that there was a very high chance they wouldn’t come back.”

News of the Battle of Jutland reached Lewis on 3 June 1916. It left 23 children on North Tolsta fatherless.

Rear-Admiral Sir Horace LA Hood, in command of HMS Invincible was also killed. His widow wrote to each of the widows on Lewis after her husband’s death.

Ms Smith said: “I remember us looking at the letter from Lady Hood. My grandmother was living in a thatched cottage and Lady Hood in a grand house but my grandmother always felt that woman was widowed like she was and would be feeling the same.”

She said the loss of so many island lives in the Battle of Jutland was soon overtaken by the tragedy of the Iolaire on 1 January 1919 when more than 200 sailors returning to Lewis drowned about a mile from Stornoway harbour.

She added: “All this makes me appreciate how well off my generation has been. We’ve gone through life without any war or fear or war. I always feel it is very important these men did not die in vain.”