Henry William “Mad Harry” Murray VC CMG DSO* DCM

b. 01/12/1880 Evandale, Tasmania, Australia. d. 07/01/1966 Miles, Queensland, Australia.

Henry William “Harry” Murray (1880-1966) was born on 1st December 1880 at Clairville, Evandale, near Launceston, Tasmania. He was known as Harry and in the Army as “Mad Harry”. His father, Edward Kennedy Murray, had a farm at Woodstock, near Evandale, before moving to Northcote, near St Leonard’s. Harry’s mother, Clarissa nee Littler, married Edward at her father’s house on 27th June 1867. Harry had a poor relationship with his father, which stemmed from him being taken out of school to work on the farm while his older brothers received a better education. Harry had eight siblings.

Henry W “Mad Harry” Murray

Harry was educated at Evandale State School, near Launceston until 1894. His education while he worked on the farm, was continued by his mother. He moved to Western Australia about 1909-1910 to work on his brother Charles’ farm, Comet Vale. He was given food and lodgings, but no pay. He then worked as a courier for a mining company at Kookynie, carrying gold and post by bicycle or horseback on a trip of 210 miles every two weeks. Later he became a bushman, employing a gang of sleeper cutters near Manjimup, near the Karri forests.

Harry served in the Launceston Volunteer Artillery Corps (Militia) from 1902-1908. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Perth on 30th September 1914 and was posted to Blackboy Hill Camp, Bellevue, Western Australia, where he joined the machine gun section of 16th Australian Infantry Battalion. He was offered a commission but at that time preferred to remain as a soldier. The Battalion sailed for Melbourne. At Broadmeadows the Battalion joined 4th Australian Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General John Monash. The Battalion sailed from Melbourne on 22nd December and arrived at Alexandria, Egypt on 1st February 1915.

On 12th April, the Battalion embarked for Mudros, where it took part in training before landing at Ari Burnu, Gallipoli on 25th April. Harry was promoted to Lance Corporal on 13th May. Due to his actions between 9th and 31st May 1915, he was awarded the DCM. He was twice wounded and treated in Alexandria and his knee was deemed “unfit for further military service”. He due to sail back to Australia on 3rd July, but persuaded an ambulance driver to take him to the wharf at Alexandria, where he boarded a ship to re-join his Battalion at Gallipoli. He was wounded again on 8th August, but remained on duty.

On 13th August, he transferred to 13th Battalion as a Sergeant and was commissioned. He was evacuated due to illness on 29th September, and would not return to his unit until December. Following the evacuation of the Anzac Sector at Gallipoli, he went to Alexandria, arriving on 3rd  January 1916. He was promoted to Lieutenant and then Captain by March 1916. The unit was then despatched to Marseilles, France, and he was appointed Landing Officer.

He would be awarded the DSO for his actions at Mouquet Farm, France on 14th-15th August 1916, during which he was twice wounded, but assumed command of the company following the death of the commander. The objective was secured following a bayonet charge and Harry beat off four counterattacks, but was eventually forced to order his force of one hundred to retire, bringing with them a number of prisoners.

On 30th August, he was wounded by shrapnel to the leg and back and evacuated to 49th Casualty Clearing Station. On 9th September, he was evacuated to England aboard HMHS Asturias and admitted to 4th London General Hospital at Denmark Hill, where he met Albert Jacka VC. He returned to France on 19th October 1916. In early February 1917 he contracted influenza but refused to be hospitalised.

On 4th February 1917, at Stormy Trench, northeast of Gueudecourt, France, when in command of the right flank company in attack. He led his company to the assault with great skill and courage, and the position was quickly captured. Fighting of a very severe nature followed, and three heavy counter-attacks were beaten back, these successes being due to Captain Murray’s wonderful work. Throughout the night his company suffered heavy casualties through concentrated enemy shell fire, and on one occasion gave ground for a short way. This gallant officer rallied his command and saved the situation by sheer valour.He made his presence felt throughout the line, encouraging his men, heading bombing parties, leading bayonet charges, and carrying wounded to places of safety.

On 12th April 1917, during an attack near Bullecourt, Harry led his company over 1,100 metres of fire-swept ground and breached the Hindenburg Line. He organised the defences and encouraged his men. He ordered artillery support, but conflicting messages meant it was not provided, and the troops were forced back. He was awarded a Bar to his DSO for this action.

Harry was presented with his VC and DSO and Bar by King George V at Hyde Park, London on 2nd June 1917. He was then promoted to Major on 12th July and assumed command of 13th Battalion on 4th November, during the absence of the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel JMA Durrant DSO. In March 1918, he was posted to No 4 Australian Machine Gun Battalion, assuming command on 15th March. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 24th May, and was attached to II American Corps from September to October 1918 in an advisory role. While commanding the machine guns of the Division between 18th September and 11th November 1918, he was awarded the Order of St Michael and St George. He was later awarded the French Croix de Guerre on 7th January 1919.

Harry returned to Australia on 19th November 1919 along with Generals Birdwood and Monash. A large crowd assembled to welcome them at Fremantle, but Harry slipped away and travelled to his sister’s home in Launceston, Tasmania. He joined the Reserve of Officers on 9th March 1920, and took a property of 3,230 hectares at Blairmach, in northern Queensland. On 13th October 1921 he married Constance Sophia Cameron at Camlet, Queensland, and they later lived in New Zealand. The marriage was dissolved on 11th November 1927 and there were no children. Harry re-married to Ellen “Nell” Purdon Cameron on 20th November 1927 at the Registrar’s Office, Auckland. Nell was the niece of his first wife. They returned to Queensland, where Harry bought Glenlyon Station at Richmond, a 74,000 acre grazing property, in April 1928. He lived there for the rest of his life. They had two children – Douglas Edward Neill (born in 1930) and Clementine “Clem” Helen Macarthur (born in 1934).

Harry wrote several articles for the “Reveille” magazine of the New South Wales Returned Services League of Australia. At the outbreak of World War Two, he was appointed to command 26th Battalion, 11th Brigade at Townsville on 21st July 1939. On 21st October 1941 he was mobilised for full time service with the Australian Military Forces at Sellheim, Queensland. At the time his second in command was Edgar Towner VC. Harry’s appointment was terminated in 1944. In 1954, he was presented to Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at Brisbane during the Royal Visit, and when asked what he did, he replied, “Between wars I grow wool”. Harry travelled with other Australian VCs to London for the 1956 VC Centenary Celebrations.

On 6th January 1966 Harry was a passenger in a car driven by his wife when it had a puncture and overturned on the Leichhardt Highway near Condamine. He was admitted to Miles Hospital on the Darling Downs, Queensland, where he suffered a heart attack and died the next day. His funeral on 14th January 1966 at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane, was followed by cremation at Mount Thompson Crematorium, where a memorial stone commemorates him and his wife Nell, who remarried after Harry’s death.

In addition to the VC, CMG, DSO & Bar and DCM, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, War Medal 1939-45, Australia Service Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and the French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Palm. In September 2015, his daughter, Clem Sutherland, put her father’s medals into the care of the Australian War Memorial for permanent display in the Hall of Valour.





Richard Yielding – Image of the Murray VC Plaque at Pinaroo Cemetery.

Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the Murray VC Medal Group at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Gary Richardson – Image of the Murray VC Memorial in King’s Park. Perth, Western Australia.