Brothers who died in battle

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A PENSIONER has shared the story of two brothers who went to war and died within months of each other.

Retired steelworks train driver Matthew Railton, 83, from Regal Close in Seaton Carew, has researched the fate of his great uncles Frank and Ralph Moore - and it proved to be a tragic tale.

Matthew Railton with one of his old photographs.

Matthew Railton with one of his old photographs.

Frank joined the Royal Navy and saw service on board the HMS Defence, a cruiser ship which sank in May 1916 with all lives lost. He was in his 20s.

Frank’s brother Ralph was part of the Durham Light Infantry which was stationed near to the Struma front, 40 miles from Salonika in Greece.

He died aged 21 from wounds he received in September 1916.

Now, for the first time in 98 years, the story of the two tragic brothers can be told in full.

Matthew is married to retired Reeds Corrugated machinist Eva Railton, 79. They have nine grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Keen family tree researcher Matthew has looked into his ancestry for many years.

He told the Hartlepool Mail: “Frank joined the Navy in 1914 and his brother joined the Army a year later.”

It was Frank who was first to be tragically killed. HMS Defence was a nine-year-old Minotaur-class armoured cruiser when she went to war with a complement of nearly 900 men.

She was soon engaged as part of the historic Battle of Jutland and was fired upon by a German battlecruiser and four dreadnoughts as she tried to engage another German ship.

She was struck by two salvoes from the German ships that detonated her rear magazine. Other secondary magazines then exploded as well.

It was on May 31, 1916, that Frank lost his life - ironically, under fire from one of the German ships that had bombarded the coastal towns of Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough two years earlier.

Later that same year, Ralph was serving with the Army in Salonika in Greece. He was part of a holding force which were attempting the Bulgarians from getting through and playing a bigger part in the First World War.

“Every day, they put their life on the line,” said Matthew.”

Unfortunately for Frank, he lost his life on September 11, 1916. He was wounded near to the front line but survived at first.

He was taken to hospital where he became a quirk of British Army regulations at the time.

He was a Durham Light Infantryman at the time he arrived at hospital. But because he was still in hospital at the time the DLI moved out, the rules dictated that he had to become part of the regiment that took over at the hospital.

That was the Northumberland Fusiliers and he died as part of that regiment. He was a Corporal at the time.

He was buried along with hundreds of other Allied soldiers in the Struma Military Cemetery.

Our thanks go to Matthew for sharing the story. We want to hear from more people whose ancestors bravely served their country in the First World War.

Get in touch by contacting Chris Cordner.

Telephone him on (01429) 239377 or email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk