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Gavin Black Motherwell McMurdo - Pilot - RNAS/RAF

Gavin Black Motherwell McMurdo was born on the 21st May 1899 at Dunnvale, Airdrie, Lanarkshire to John Johnstone McMurdo, a Solicitor & Jeanie Dunn.   John & Jeanie had previously married on the 8th January 1889 at Troqueer in Dumfries, at this time John was living at 6 East High Street in Airdrie & Jeanie at Dunnvale, Maxwelltown.

By the 1891 Census the couple are living a Dunnvale, Victoria Place, Airdrie, it is possible they named their house after the Farm where Jeannie was brought up.  Their 1st Son George Dunn McMurdo was born in 1889 in Airdrie.

During the 1901 Census the family are staying at Bridge of Allan with the addition of sons James Norman McMurdo born 1893, John Johnstone McMurdo born 1895 & Gavin now aged 1, all being born in Airdrie.

John Senior was a partner in the firm of Motherwell & McMurdo Solicitors based in Bank St, Airdrie, the firm would later become Motherwell, McMurdo & Mitchell.   Gavin or ‘Guy’ as he was known to Friends & Family looks to have been named after his Fathers partner Gavin Black Motherwell.

The 1911 Census sees the family back at Victoria Place in Airdrie & young Guy is now 11 & attending School.

Guy would go on to attend Airdrie & Kelvinside Academies before joining the Officers Training Corps at Glasgow University at the age of just 17.

Like his 3 brothers, Guy was keen to join up & do his ‘bit’ when World War One was declared, but being much too young to enlist at only 17 years old he heard that the Red Cross were short of drivers so being a keen & experienced motorist he made the decision to Join the Red Cross Society in September of 1916, where he was given the Service No 10382.  During his time with them he served at the Western Front in France as a Chauffeur/Ambulance driver leaving the service on the 15th April 1917.

For a time, Guy returned to the Officer Training Corps in Glasgow & passing with distinction he was recommended for a commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery but in the meantime, had been offered a Cadetship in the Royal Naval Air Service which he promptly accepted.

He was later sent to the Royal Naval College at Woolwich & on completion of his exams was sent to Newmarket for pilot training which he completed in record time!

McMurdo Family Grave New Monkland
McMurdo Family Grave New Monkland

Family Grave at New Monkland

Not long after his training the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) would merge with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to create the newly formed RAF on the 1st April 1918 when Guy would be allocated the Service No 43376.

He would go on to carry out flight training with 198 Night Training Squadron at Rochford in Essex before moving onto 188 Night Training Squadron at Throwley in Kent on the 17th August 1918 being promoted to Temporary 2nd Lieutenant on the 23rd August.

188 Training Squadron trained pilots to fly Sopwith Camels & Pups & Avros during night operations & Guy joined them for final training before being sent to France with a squadron for operational flying.

The following month on 27th September Guy took out a Sopwith 1F.1 Camel F2105 on a training flight.  The aircraft had a 110 Le Rhone engine & had been manufactured by Hooper & Co, Chelsea at the end of April of 1918.  It was reported that the aircraft spun into the ground near to the base at Throwley.  Guy died of a fractured skull & multiple injuries sustained in the accident, he was just 19 years of age.

His body was returned home & the funeral took place on Tuesday the 1st October.  The local newspapers detail that it was attended by a large group of prominent townsmen & friends.  A Service was carried out at the house by Rev Mr Blair, Quarter Parish Church & the Rev John Cook of High UF Church.   A bearer party from the Royal Air Forces carried his remains, which were contained in an Oak coffin wrapped in the Union Jack, shoulder high to the hearse & they marched either side during the passage of the cortege.  The chief mourners were his Father, Two Brothers & other relatives.  Sadly, his brother James was unable to get leave as he was serving with the Military in France.   The long cortege passed down Victoria Place, up Broomknoll Street & onto New Monkland Cemetery & was witnessed by large numbers of people along the whole route to Commonhead.   At the end of the procession was an open landau bearing numerous floral tributes including a fine wreath from the RAF.   The remains were carried to the graveside by his airmen comrades & he was lowered into his final resting place by immediate relatives & friends.

He was awarded the Victory & British War Medals by the British Red Cross Society & the British War Medal by the RNAS & is commemorated on the War Memorials at Airdrie Academy, Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow University & Airdrie Cenotaph.

Airdrie Cenotaph
McMurdo Inscription Airdrie Cenotaph

Family Names on Airdrie Cenotaph

Guys brothers had all served during World War one, George & James in the Highland Light Infantry & John who had been discharged from the Remounts after 2 ½ years service due an accident.

Feeling the sad loss of his brother Guy & having suffered a bout of Influenza John or ‘Jack’ as he was known to Friends & Family took to his bed in the New Year of 1919, he would sadly pass away on the 19th of January at the age of 23.

George, having served as a Captain in the Highland Light Infantry in Gallipoli, Egypt & Palestine had suffered from ill health since his return.  His condition was said to have been brought on by climatic troubles in the places he had served & in spite of receiving the best medical care his condition could not be treated.  He would pass away on 4th November 1919 (his 30th birthday) of Cardiac Failure. 

Jack & George would be buried alongside Guy in the family plot at New Monkland. 

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