12. Two of the NI Padres in Normandy – The Reverend James McMurray-Taylor served with the RUR (6th Airborne Division) and The Reverend James Douglas died serving with The Wiltshire Regiment
The Reverend James McMurray-Taylor served as chaplain to the 1st Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles (6th Airborne Division). He took part in the Battle of Normandy.
In this photo of the officers of the regiment James McMurray-Taylor is at the right of the front row.
He was born in Ballymena, Co. Antrim on 17th May 1916. He attended Trinity College, Dublin before becoming a Church of Ireland minister in 1939 at the age of 23 years old. Soon after this, war broke out and he enlisted with the Royal Army Chaplains Department and was attched to the Royal Ulster Rifles.
On the morning of D-Day, he held a non-denominational service for those on their way to Normandy. Later that afternoon, accompanied by Sir Hugh Wheldon MC, he left for France in a glider.
The Reverend McMurray-Taylor’s 1st Battalion, was in 6th Air Landing Brigade, 6th Airborne Division. During Operation Mallard he landed in Normandy, France on the evening of 6th June 1944. He was padre to hundreds of soldiers and many of those men of the Royal Ulster Rifles would die in the following days.
Reports suggest that McMurray-Taylor conducted burial services for both Allied and German troops. All the while, gunfire and mortar shells filled the air. He would remove identity tags and personal effects to return to families of the fallen men.
After the war, he became a minister at Derrybrusk, Co. Fermanagh. In 1957, he moved to Killadeas and Castle Archdale where many RAF, USAAF, and RCAF men had their bases during the war.
The Reverend James McMurray-Taylor died in 2001. His grave is in Castle Archdale, Co. Fermanagh.
Fermanagh padre killed in Normandy
James Douglas was the Rector of Colebrooke, Co. Fermanagh. He was appointed in February 1938. Previously he had served from August 1933 as curate-assistant of Magheralin.
He was born in Waterford and educated in Wesley College and Trinity College, Dublin. When he first came to Magheralin, he lodged in the `Wilderness’ with the Gilpin family. Later in 1935 he married and moved to the curate’s house at 19 Avenue Road.
As Chaplain he was attached to 5th Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment. He was killed in the Normandy landings in 1944, and was later mentioned in dispatches, having been in the front line with his men.
A tribute from Magheralin records, “The resilient and complete faith in God which had characterised Mr. Douglas’ ministry in Magheralin was the gift he took with him to the field of battle. That he was able to share God’s saving grace with so many young men, and urge them to place their trust in God was indeed a special calling for Mr. Douglas. He felt honoured that God had called him to do this business and he answered that call faithfully to the end. A Padre leading his men in prayer in the fleeting minutes before battle is a sobering moment.”
Chaplain 4th Class. 244123. MiD. Attached to 5th Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment. Died 05/08/1944. Aged 34.Son of John and Kathleen Douglas and husband to Annie Hildegarde Douglas of Dunmurry. Tilly-Sur-Seulles War Cemetery