Medals Of The Month – November 2019 | Major Harold John (Harry) Murray MC, DCMBy The Cove October 31, 2019
This month we are featuring the medals of Major Harold John (Harry) Murray.
- Military Cross
- Distinguished Conduct Medal
- 1914-15 Star
- British War Medal (1914 - 1918)
- Victory Medal
- 1939-1945 Star
- Pacific Star
- Defence Medal 1939-1945
- British War Medal (1939 - 1945)
- Australian Service Medal (1939 - 1945)
- Silver Star (United States of America)
- Battle of the Somme Commemorative Medal (unofficial medal).
Harold John Murray was born on 13th November 1898 at Bowral, New South Wales. Harry worked in a timber yard in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt before he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in May 1915.
After training and movement overseas, he joined the 2nd Infantry Battalion, AIF in November 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey.
Harry moved with his battalion to France in March 1916 for operations on the Western Front, was promoted to Corporal in February 1917 then Temporary Sergeant in April 1917. His rank of Sergeant was made substantive in June 1917.
On 9 April 1917 he took charge of his platoon when both his Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant were wounded during an attack at Hermies in the Pas de Calais Department, northern France. He led the platoon directly to its objective with determination and vigour for which he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Harry moved to England towards the end of 1917 to undertake a pre-commissioning course for officers. He graduated as a Second Lieutenant on 1 June 1918, returning to the 2nd Battalion in France with whom he served for the remainder of the First World War.
In 1921 Harry Murray moved to New Ireland where he operated copra and coffee plantations and also traded in timber and mineral water. He escaped with others to Papua when Japanese forces invaded New Ireland in January 1942.
Continued Military Career
Harry re-enlisted into the 2nd AIF at Caulfield, Victoria in August 1942 and was posted to 'Z' Special Unit with the rank of Lieutenant. In May 1943 he transferred to 'M' Special Unit with the rank of Captain. After establishing a special forces training camp in south-east Queensland, he departed Australia in October 1943 for service in Australian Mandated Territory in the Pacific region to report on Japanese movements.
On 8 March 1945 Harry Murray was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. The recommendation reads:
‘During the period 29 October 1943 to 30 November 1943 this officer by his exemplary leadership, courage and devotion to duty successfully established a party consisting of himself six AIF Other Ranks and eight native police in enemy controlled territory. He was responsible for securing and sending back important intelligence of great value to GHQ'.
Captain Murray also led a party of US marines on a secret mission, the party being subsequently ambushed by the enemy who used Light Machine Guns. As a result of Captain Murray's leadership and coolness in the face of a numerically superior enemy, his party killed three of the ambushers, wounded some others and put the remainder to flight. One Light Machine Gun was captured and extremely valuable information was secured during this period of the operation.
At a parade of American and Australian troops on 25 April 1945 at Torokina, South Bougainville Island, Harry was presented with a US Silver Star by the Commander 1st United States Marine Aircraft Wing . The citation reads:
'For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity during operations against the enemy. By his grim determination, brilliant leadership and daring aggressiveness, Captain Murray overcame almost insurmountable difficulties and contributed materially to our operations in the South Pacific Area. For the President (Sgd.) James Forrestal. Secretary of the Navy'.
Harry Murray was formally presented with his Military Cross on 28 April 1948 at Kavieng, New Ireland by the Administrator of Papua New Guinea. At the time, he was again living on the island. He retired to Queensland in 1960. Harry’s wife, Mary, authored two books about his exploits during the Second World War. One of the books, Escape: a thousand miles to freedom, was published in 1965 and the other, Hunted: a Coastwatcher's story, was published in 1967.
Harry Murray passed away on 22 October 1968 aged 69 at Innisfail, Queensland.