VIEWS: 46 PAGES: 4 POSTED ON: 11/27/2009
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL JEFFERY AC CVO MC GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA ON THE OCCASION OF THE OFFICIAL UNVEILING OF THE MURRAY MEMORIAL STATUE EVANDALE, TASMANIA 24 FEBRUARY 2006 Mr David Von Stieglitz, President, Murray Memorial Committee and Mrs Stieglitz The Honourable Paul Lennon, Premier The Honourable Bruce Billson, Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Senator the Honourable Guy Barnett Mr Douglas Murray and Mrs Clem Sutherland and families Members of the Murray Memorial Committee Distinguished guests all Girls and boys It is indeed a special privilege to be here today to unveil the statue dedicated to the memory of the late Lieutenant Colonel Harry Murray, VC, CMG, DSO and Bar, DCM, Croix de Guerre, and four times Mentioned in Despatches, as an enduring testimony to a truly remarkable Australian. In the short space of three and a half years he rose from a Private soldier (machine gunner) to Lieutenant Colonel in command of a machine gun battalion of 64 guns. May I offer a special welcome to Harry Murray's son and daughter, Mr Douglas Murray and Mrs Clem Sutherland, and their families. Your father served with supreme distinction and is Australia's most highly decorated soldier. Yet his story is largely unknown to the Australian public. Douglas and Clem, I trust that this occasion will help to better inform our nation of one of its genuinely heroic legends in the true meaning of the term. As a former infantry and special forces soldier, I stand in awe of Harry Murray's achievements as a combat soldier. His repeated gallantry under the most horrific conditions of World War One trench warfare, heavy machine gun fire and incessant artillery bombardment, mud, lice and foot rot, is the stuff of legend. His love and support of his soldiers and his personal humility are the endearing qualities of an exceptional man. Harry was born on the 1st December 1880 here at Evandale, the eighth of nine children of Edward Kennedy Murray and Clarissa Murray. His introduction to military life began at age twenty-two as a part-time soldier with the Launceston Volunteer Artillery Corps. In his words, "training demanded a very strict standard of discipline and effectiveness". He maintained these were the bedrock of his ability as a soldier and leader. Harry migrated to Western Australia at age 28 to work on his brother, Charles' property. Later he branched out on his own, firstly as a gold and mail courier at Kookynie, north of Kalgoorlie and ultimately as a timber cutter near Manjimup in the karri forests of the south-west. Harry enlisted for service on the 30th September 1914, joining 16th Battalion, First Australian Imperial Force, and was posted to D Company machine-gun section because he had a "wonderful eye for ground, was quick in mind and body, and was as keen as mustard." D Company was transported to Melbourne where the men embarked on the troopship A40 Ceramic on 22nd December 1914. Almost four months to the day, on 25th April 1915, Private Murray landed on Gallipoli. Ladies and gentlemen. In May during an action at Pope's Hill, Gallipoli, Harry and his best mate, Percy Black, a gold-miner from Western Australia, held off a concerted Turkish attack on the rear of the Australian position while the rest of their company was defending the front of the position. Both friends were wounded during the fighting. For their actions they were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, second only to the Victoria Cross as a gallantry award. Harry was promoted Lance Corporal; three months later he was promoted Sergeant and then commissioned in the field as a Second Lieutenant on the same day. After 22 weeks at the front, and suffering from dysentery, he requested a rest and change from both climate and food. He was sent to Cairo to convalesce, but again suffered severely from dysentery and was classified as unfit for further service. This recommendation did not diminish his determination to return to his men. On 9th November 1915 he returned to duty at Gallipoli, was promoted to full Lieutenant in January 1916 and six weeks later promoted to Captain. He had been re-assigned to the 13th Battalion because of their heavy loss of officers and served with them in the heavy fighting in France. In August 1916 Captain Harry Murray was awarded the Distinguished Service Order when as a Company Commander he stormed Mouquet Farm with 100 men and briefly held a part of it. The Australians were obliged to withdraw under intense enemy fire. A later attack with 700 men was unable to repeat Murray's earlier success and it eventually took a force of 3,000 to recapture the position from the Germans. The citation for Murray's DSO reads: "Although wounded twice, he commanded his Company with the greatest courage and initiative, beating off four enemy attacks. Later, when an enemy bullet started a man's equipment exploding, he tore the man's equipment off at great personal risk. He set a splendid example throughout." Although wounded, Murray remained on duty until he fainted from loss of blood. His initial success with only 100 men was later attributed to his ferocious determination and leadership. In their biographical military history "Mad Harry - Australia's Most Decorated Soldier", George Franki and Clyde Slatyer write of Harry Murray's superb, soldierly leadership in France when advancing on the Fabeck Graben Line: "About 200 yards of trench had been cleared when Murray found he could not find support on either flank. He sent a messenger for news, but realising he was in danger of being outflanked and captured, ordered a fighting withdrawal. His decision was a difficult one to make as the trench had been dearly won with casualties. Murray's soldierly instincts were probably never better displayed than here. He sent the wounded back through strong points that he had established in the trench down which he planned to retreat. With his Lewis gunners sweeping above the trench, the Germans were forced to pursue him down the beds of the trench. By the sparing use of their dwindling supply of grenades, Murray and his men kept the enemy at bay long enough to carry their wounded and pass through each strong point. Ultimately they had only six grenades left and were in desperate straits They were saved by the appearance of Lieutenant Bob Henderson with a bombing party of the 13th and a plentiful supply of bombs. Murray and his survivors reached safety. As historian Charles Bean wrote: "So just before dawn, after one of the most skilfully conducted fights in the history of the AIF, Murray's men returned across the old No-Man's Land entirely unmolested." History also records that the men were scattered in ones and twos, each fighting grimly in the mud and darkness with rifle, bayonet and bomb, without knowing what was happening five yards from him; knowing only that he was going to fight to the last. Murray moved rapidly from man to man, fighting alongside one after another, or encouraging the lonely man. All would gladly have died for such a leader. Murray noted that during this action he found a badly wounded man. His leg was doubled and twisted, and although he did not speak, his eyes were eloquent. Murray said: "It was then I fought the hardest battle of my life between an almost insane desire to continue running to save my own life, or to comply with the sacred traditions of the AIF." Murray carried the man on his back to the next point. In February 1917, Harry was awarded the supreme award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross as the result of his courage during an action which lasted for nearly 48 hours near Gueudecort. Murray led a force of 140 men in an assault on a position known as Stormy Ridge. He distinguished himself by encouraging his men, leading hand-grenade bombing parties, leading bayonet charges, rescuing the wounded and carrying them to safety, crawling out into no-man's land on reconnaissance, rallying his men and saving the situation by his sheer courage under fire. His unit was forced to withdraw due to the overwhelming enemy firepower. Only 48 of his 140 men survived that bitterly fought assault. Later, in July 1917, as a result of a series of assaults on the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt, Murray was awarded a second Distinguished Service Order and promoted Major. The fighting had been severe and communications were difficult, resulting in poor coordination between infantry, tanks and artillery. Seventy five per cent of his men became casualties, and were forced to withdraw - Murray being the last man out. At the end of 1917, Murray by now commanding the 13th Battalion was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and in May 1918 was posted as Commanding Officer of the 4th Machine Gun Battalion, which he commanded until the end of the war. During the last months of the war he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his conspicuous skill, gallantry and good judgement. In January 1919, Murray was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George. He had also been "Mentioned in Dispatches" four times, an incredible record of battlefield recognition in itself. With the fighting over, Murray toured England studying agricultural methods. His service in the AIF ended on 9 March 1920 and he eventually settled on a grazing property at Muckadilla in Queensland. In 1925 he moved to New Zealand where he remarried, to Ellen Cameron. The couple returned to Queensland in 1928 and purchased another grazing property at Richmond. Murray enlisted for service during the Second World War and commanded the 26th Battalion in North Queensland until August 1942. He retired from the army in early 1944. Regarded as a shy and modest man, he is frequently and rightly described as the most distinguished fighting officer of the AIF. Time constraints do not allow me to give a full account of Harry Murray's service in World War One and in Australia during World War Two. Two significant biographical works convey an overwhelming sense of Harry Murray as a simple, uncomplicated man, not inclined in the least to pomp, circumstance or an inflated view of his personal attributes, skills and bravery. He consistently deferred to the bravery and courage of his men. Others made their own assessments, including CW Bean: "Murray was a leader whose presence always raised other men to heights of valour and energy…..his magnificent leadership was largely due to his careful planning and good artillery work." And the history of the 13th Battalion reinforces that theme: "Murray's courage was a deliberately formed quality derived from a fervent loyalty, an earnest sense of duty, a thorough confidence in himself and his men, and a firm belief in the justice of his cause. Some VC winners aimed at death; Murray always at victory. The knowledge that death was the probability never deterred nor held him from his main aim." Harry Murray possessed a wry sense of humour as the occasion dictated. For example, he noted that during an investiture ceremony at Hyde Park, London, to receive the VC and two DSOs from King George V, the decorations were not pinned directly to his chest but attached to hooks that had been placed there by an official before the ceremony. The official instructed Murray, with some firmness, to return the hooks after the investiture. Murray observed dryly: "Evidently he has heard of Ned Kelly." Ladies and gentlemen. What is it about this unique human being, descended from the modest background of early settlers in Northern Tasmania, that creates a greatly admired and respected hero? A hero, possessed of unbelievable personal courage, soldierly skill, instinctive leadership, tactical nous, tenacity, an uncompromising commitment to duty, and humility? Perhaps we could leave the final word to Harry Murray himself. Returning to Australia in December 1919, he greeted a huge crowd at Fremantle Town Hall: "I am afraid you have taken the wind out of my sails altogether. All I can do is to thank you most heartily for your welcome to us on returning to our own homeland. I wish to say that anything I have done or gained I owe not to myself, but to the privilege and honour which I enjoyed, of commanding the most magnificent fighters in the world, namely the Australians." In our era of the cult of so-called 'celebrity', we are privileged to honour the memory of Lieutenant Colonel Harry Murray - a truly national icon to reaffirm the values he not only espoused but also lived and championed through his actions in war and peace. Ladies and gentlemen. It is now my great honour, on behalf of the Australian nation, to formally unveil this fitting memorial to Lieutenant Colonel Harry Murray, VC, CMG, DSO and Bar, DCM, Croix de Guerre. Thank you.
Pages to are hidden for
"Speech"Please download to view full document