THE horrors of the First World War trenches put a young army medic on a career course which has led to the creation of one of Worcestershire's largest pharmacy groups.

Cyril Murray was a trainee chemist who went to war in 1915. He was initially put in the Royal Artillery, but in view of his skills, was quickly transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps. On registration in 1916, he had been given six weeks to do his pharmaceutical qualifying examination, but in that short space of time failed to qualify.

He was sent to the No4 Hospital Train in Northern France, which travelled up and down the Front, usually between the second and third lines, but occasionally between the first and second lines, depending upon advance or retreat.

These mobile medical facilities frequently had their carriages painted white or red and white and comprised onboard surgical wards and essential medical supplies. They were able to connect with hospital ships at French channel ports in order to repatriate wounded British soldiers back to England.

After qualifying in 1920, Cyril Murray carried out locum duties before the Murrays Group first pharmacy and headquarters were established in Tipton, near Dudley, which was then in Worcestershire.

Clive, son of Cyril, and his wife Truda, who had both qualified in the late 1950's, came into the business in 1957. The business became a company in 1960 and Clive joined his parents, as a director. In 1971 Cyril and his wife Clara retired as directors, when Clive became chairman and Truda company secretary.

Little changed until 1978, when an expansion scheme began. The third generation Murrays, including Duncan the current managing director, joined the business in the late 1980s. Now Murrays Pharmacy is a leading award winning community pharmacy group and healthcare provider with pharmacies across the Black Country, Worcestershire and Shropshire, mainly in community and health centre locations. Today Murrays employ more than 250 staff across 25 pharmacies and specialist mobility aid centres. These includes eight pharmacies providing healthcare services within the Worcester and Malvern area. The latest being in Bromyard Road, Worcester, next to St Johns House Medical Centre.

And to think it all started on a hospital train in France in 1916.