Victoria Cross hero honoured on 100 year anniversary of his brave actions

A commemorative paving stone has been unveiled in a war hero's home village 100 years after his 'innumerable acts of gallantry' which saw him awarded the Victoria Cross.

Saturday, 27th October 2018, 2:46 pm
Updated Saturday, 27th October 2018, 2:53 pm
Doreen Murley at the unveiling of memorial to Victoria Cross medal hero William McNally, at Murton Village.

William McNally, from Murton, near Seaham, was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for his heroic efforts in northern Italy in October 1918.

And exactly 100 years later, his bravery has been remembered and a touching tribute unveiled at Murton Village Green.

Doreen Murley at the unveiling of memorial to Victoria Cross medal hero William McNally, at Murton Village.

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His daughter, Doreen Murley, travelled from Southampton with her daughter Alison Ashby and grandaughter Lauren Ashby for the occasion which makes her so crowd.

Despite the cold wet weather, villagers, veterans, servicemen and women and local dignitaries gathered to see the commemorative paving stone unveiled.

Doreen Murley, William McNally's daughter, said: "It's a really really proud day. To be honest I really didn't think I could make it because after all I'm 92 but my daughter said no matter what happens mum, you're going to be there.

"It's been a really nice turnout and I must say how grateful for everyone who made the effort on this very wet, cold day to be here."

The Last Post at the unveiling ceremony

Between 27 and 29 October 1918, the brave young sergeant William McNally seized German machine gun posts single handed, rushed enemy positions and exhibited leadership “beyond all praise."

His VC citation, published in the London Gazette in December 1918, praised his “conspicuous bravery”. It added: "Throughout the whole operations his innumerable acts of gallantry set a high exampled to his men, and his leading was beyond all praise."

McNally received his VC from King George V in July 1919 and the following year, on Remembrance Day, he was included in the VC Guard of Honour for the interment of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.

The commemorative stone unveiled today is one of seven presented to Durham County Council to honour the county’s VC heroes. Murton Parish Council have led and funded the project, with support from Murton Heritage Society, Murton Welfare Association and East Durham Area Action Partnership.

Lauren Ashby, Alison Ashby and Doreen Murley at the unveiling of memorial to Victoria Cross medal hero William McNally,

Tom Pinkney, chairman of Murton Parish Council, said: “Knowing Murton was the home of someone who won a distinction as high as the Victoria Cross is a source of great pride in

our village.

“I would like to say a special thank you to Murton Heritage Society who have worked so hard preparing the exhibition and revealing more details about the life of this extraordinary


Poppy wreaths at the new memorial plaque

Alison Ashvy, William McNally's grandaughter, said: "We are just so proud. We're not local so we've come up from Southampton and the welcome we've had is overwhelming.

"My mother has just been blown away by the response and we're touched that so many people have come along today."

Born in Murton in 1894, McNally attended Murton Colliery School until he was 14, when he went to work underground as a pit pony boy.

In September 1914, he was one of thousands of Durham miners to join the Army, enlisting in the Yorkshire Regiment, now known as the Green Howards.

A year later, after intensive training, McNally and fellow members of the 8 th battalion travelled to France as part of the 23 rd Infantry Division.

At Contalmaison in July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, 13820 Private McNally gained the first of his three gallantry awards – the Military Medal – when he dragged a

The commemorative paving stone

seriously wounded officer to safety.

Then in early November 1917, he was awarded a bar to his Military Medal after he three-times rescued men wounded or buried by enemy shellfire at Passchendaele, near Ypres.

It was his actions in October 1918 that earned him the military’s highest accolade.

Despite being wounded three times, McNally returned to work at Murton Colliery after the war.

He served in the Home Guard during the Second World War and finally retired in 1958 aged 65. He died in Murton in January 1976 and, two years later, a stone memorial was unveiled on the village green, where the new VC stone will be installed.

Cllr John Lethbridge, chairman of Durham County Council, said: “This is the final VC memorial stone to be installed in County Durham, and it has been extremely moving to see communities across the county commemorate their heroes over the last four years.”

The ceremony was attended by veterans and servicemen and women
Despite sleet and snow on the ground, dozens turned out to pay their respects