Military History

The Highest Honour #34 | Henry Murray | James Newland

By The Cove September 6, 2021


Lieutenant Colonel Henry William 'Harry' Murray VC, CMG, DSO and Bar, DCM (1880 - 1966, 85yo)

Henry Murray was born on 01 December 1880 at Evandale, Tasmania. Due to his father passing away, he left primary school to help run the family farm. He then ventured to Western Australia where he worked as a mail courier on the goldfields. Prior to joining the Australian Imperial Force on 13 October 1914 he had begun his military career in the Australian Field Artillery (militia) in Tasmania.

Murray was posted to the 16th Battalion and belonged to one of the unit's two machine-gun crews when he landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 with his mate and Number 1 gunner, Lance Corporal Percy Black. Next day, both gun-crews on the rear slope of Pope's Hill sniped at the Turks creeping onto Russell's Top. Charles Bean recorded that 'the 16th Battalion machine-guns were in charge of men of no ordinary determination.' Both men, though wounded, refused to leave their guns on that day or through any of the heavy fighting of the next week. Murray, from wounds received on 30 May 1915, was evacuated and rejoined his unit on 03 July 1915. Promoted Lance Corporal, he won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for 'exceptional courage, energy and skill' between 09-31 May 1915. He was wounded again on 08 August 1915 when the machine-gun section of the 4th Brigade, later described by Bean as, 'possibly the finest unit in the AIF,' covered the withdrawal after the attack on Hill 971. On 13 August 1915 he was promoted to Sergeant and quickly commissioned to Second Lieutenant and transferred to the 13th Battalion. 'Cool, determined and confident,' Murray remained 'a compelling, ubiquitous figure' at Gallipoli.

In January 1916 in Egypt Murray was promoted to Lieutenant and then Captain on 01 March 1916. Late that month the 13th Battalion went to France where Murray took part in every major fight in which the unit was engaged. At Mouquet Farm in August, with fewer than 100 men, he stormed the remains of the farm and captured his objective; but only after beating off four German counter-attacks he ordered his men to withdraw. The farm was eventually recaptured by 3,000 men. Murray received the Distinguished Service Order, for, although twice wounded, he had commanded his company 'with the greatest courage and initiative.' Later when an enemy bullet 'started a man's equipment exploding he tore the equipment off at great personal risk.' Evacuated with wounds, he rejoined his battalion on 19 October 1916.

On 04-05 February 1917 Murray led his company in an attack on Stormy Trench, near Gueudecourt. The night attack was launched across frozen snow and Murray's men reached the objective trench and set up a barricade. The Germans counter-attacked, shattering the barricade, and Murray fired an SOS. signal, which brought artillery support. The enemy continued attacking and were bombing heavily when Murray called on twenty bombers and led a brilliant charge which drove them off. From midnight to 0300h fierce enemy bombing continued. Murray observed movement in an adjacent trench and called again for artillery support. By daylight his party had occupied the trench and held it until relieved at 2000h. For this Murray was awarded the Victoria Cross.

In April, in the 1st battle of Bullecourt, Murray's unit, following the 16th Battalion, saw them caught against the wire in a torrent of machine-gun fire. 'Come on men,' he shouted, 'the 16th are getting hell.' The gallant Percy Black was killed trying to find a gap in the wire. Murray got through to the German trenches and sent a message that the position could be held with artillery support and more ammunition. However, the artillery was not permitted to fire and under a heavy German barrage Murray withdrew his men; for his part in the battle he received a Bar to his DSO. On 11 April 1917, the day of the battle, he was promoted to temporary to Major (confirmed on 12 July 1917) and towards the end of the year he temporarily commanded his battalion.

Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 08 May 1918, Murray was appointed to command the 4th Machine-Gun Battalion, a post he held until the end of the war. In January 1919 he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and next May was appointed C.M.G. In 1917-19 he was Mentioned in Dispatches four times.

Murray discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on 09 March 1920 but when World War 2 broke out commanded the 26th Battalion in North Queensland until April 1942 and eventually retired from military service on 08 February 1944. He died on 07 January 1966 in Miles District Hospital, Queensland, after a car accident.

Lieutenant Colonel James Ernest Newland VC (1881 - 1949, 67 yo)

James Newland was born on 22 August 1881 at Highton, Victoria. 

Newland joined the 4th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, as a Private and embarked for the South African War on 26 March 1902; however, his unit arrived just prior to the peace treaty being signed and soon returned to Australia. He served with the Royal Australian Artillery in Victoria from July 1903 until September 1907 and was a policeman in Tasmania from March 1909 until August 1910 when he rejoined the regular Army there. He served with the Australian Instructional Corps until enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 17 August 1914 as Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, 12th Battalion.

Newland embarked for Egypt on 20 October 1914 and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 where he was injured and evacuated. Upon rejoining his unit he was commissioned to Second Lieutenant. Leaving Gallipoli for Egypt on 09 June 1915 to take charge of 12th Battalion transport, he was promoted to Lieutenant on 15 October 1915 and Captain on 01 March 1916. He was Adjutant from 15 March 1916, sailed for France that month and took command of A Company in August 1916.

On 21 August 1916, during the battle of the Somme, he led his company in a successful attack on trenches north-east of Mouquet Farm: though recommended for the Military Cross he was instead Mentioned in Dispatches. Late in February 1917 the Australians followed the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line but found strong enemy posts at Le Barque. Newland led his company in the attack on the town on 27 February 1917 but was evacuated wounded. The advance continued and Newland rejoined the battalion in time to lead his company on 08 April 1917 in the attack on Boursies. Under heavy fire he led a bombing attack against a strong-point and secured the outskirts of the village. The Germans kept a sharp fire on the position during the day and after dusk counter-attacked, driving back most of the advanced posts. Newland, assisted by Sergeant JW Whittle and reinforcements, charged the Germans and regained the lost ground.

On 15 April 1917 a major German counter-attack was launched against the 1st Australian Division. Newland's company was south-east of Lagnicourt and held the Germans until outflanked. Forced back, the company made a stand at a sunken road where, despite repeated attacks, they held the position until reinforcements arrived. Newland's tenacity and disregard for his own safety while encouraging his men at Lagnicourt, as well as his courage in both the attack and counter-attack at Boursies, were recognised by the awarding of the Victoria Cross. On 05 May 1917, during the 2nd battle of Bullecourt, he was wounded for the third time and evacuated to England where his appointment in the AIF ended in Victoria on 02 March 1918. He continued to serve as a Captain until 31 December 1921 and in 1930 was promoted to Quartermaster, an honorary Major, and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1935. He served until August 1941 where he was placed on the retired list with the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

On 19 March 1949 he died suddenly of heart failure. He was accorded a funeral with full military honours and was buried at Brighton Cemetery.


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The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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