Major General James Murdoch Archer Durrant

Service number QP20006
Ranks Held Captain, Captain Adjutant, Lieutenant Colonel, Major
Birth Date 17 March 1885
Birth Place Australia: South Australia, Glenelg
Death Date 18 August 1963
Death Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Concord
Final Rank Major General
Service Australian Imperial Force
Units
  • Australian Instructional Corps
  • General List 2nd Division
  • Australian Imperial Force
  • 2nd Australian Division
  • 4th Australian Infantry Brigade
  • 13th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • General List
Places
Conflicts/Operations
  • First World War, 1914-1918
  • Second World War, 1939-1945
Gazettes Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-11-07
Published in London Gazette in 1917-01-01
Published in London Gazette in 1917-06-01
Published in London Gazette in 1918-06-03
Published in London Gazette in 1917-02-15
Published in London Gazette in 1918-05-28
Published in London Gazette in 1917-12-28
Published in London Gazette in 1918-12-31
Published in London Gazette in 1917-01-04
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-10-24
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-06-29
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-06-29
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1918-04-18
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1919-05-23
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-07-25
Published in Commonwealth Gazette in 1917-10-04
Description

James Murdoch Archer Durrant was born on 17 March 1885 at St. Leonards in South Australia to Jonathan William and Margaret Elizabeth (née Murdoch). He attended Goodwood Public School and the University of Adelaide, and completed a period of private schooling before graduating in 1903. In the same year he joined the Education Department as a pupil teacher, but after several years left teaching for a career in the military. This pivot in professions was well-grounded as he displayed an aptitude for soldiering in parallel to his schooling. He first enlisted with the voluntary forces at the age of 14, joining the Adelaide Rifles as a bugler in July 1899. After four years with the regiment he served a similar term with the No. 1 South Australian Battery during a period that included promotions to corporal in February 1904 and sergeant in January 1905.

On 1 July 1907, Durrant was appointed staff squadron sergeant major with the 1st Light Horse Regiment headquartered at Lancer Barracks in Parramatta. This posting proved to be one that shaped both his professional and personal life. After becoming the first member of the 1st Light Horse to pass more stringent officer examinations, he secured a commission to lieutenant and a position with Administrative and Instructional Staff in Brisbane on 1 July 1910. In December of the same year, he announced his engagement to local Parramatta girl Clara Ellen Birk in The Sydney Morning Herald, the couple marrying on 7 January 1911 at St. John’s Anglican Church in Parramatta. Following another round of officer examinations in Brisbane, he was promoted to temporary captain in February 1912 and transferred to Melbourne shortly after.

Durrant had his commission to the rank of captain confirmed shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. He enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force on 20 November 1914, and was appointed captain and adjutant to the 13th Infantry Battalion. After a month in camp he embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Ulysses on 22 December, and landed at Alexandria on 31 January 1915. He entrained to Aerodrome Camp near Heliopolis, where the unit completed the majority of their overseas training. During this period it was Durrant who proposed the 13th Battalion colours consist of light blue over navy in recognition of a unit raised in New South Wales.

Durrant landed at Anzac Cove on the evening of 25 April. After the 13th Battalion suffered heavy casualties including senior officers during the first week of the campaign, he was promoted to the rank of major and second in command. He assumed command of the 13th Battalion in early June until influenza forced his evacuation to Egypt. He resumed command in late August when he was once again evacuated due to illness, on this occasion to Mudros in October. He briefly re-joined the 13th Battalion, but a case of jaundice forced his final evacuation from the Gallipoli Peninsula on 19 November. Whilst convalescing in hospital at Heliopolis in December he was promoted to brevet major for his contribution to the campaign.

Durrant proceeded to France in early June 1916. Over the following eighteen months he rendered distinguished service as commanding officer of both the 13th Battalion and the 4th Infantry Brigade in France and Belgium. He led the 13th Infantry Battalion at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm in August 1916, and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the same month. Throughout the majority of 1917 he commanded the 13th Battalion and the 4th Brigade in major operations including the Attack on Stormy Trench in February, the First Battle of Bullecourt in April and the Battle of Messines in June. Whilst still in Belgium, he sustained a shell wound and was evacuated to England in August. He re-joined the 13th Battalion in October, and was subsequently appointed assistant adjutant and quartermaster general to the 2nd Australian Division in December 1917.

Durrant was appointed deputy director with the Repatriation and Demobilisation Department two weeks after the Armistice, and spent the remainder of his service in senior roles assisting with the enormous task of repatriating around 180,000 Australian troops home. Durrant departed England aboard SS Friedrichsruhe on 22 January 1920, and disembarked in Sydney on 12 March. He was discharged on 11 May 1920, ending his First World War service with a host of honours and awards including the Distinguished Service Order (gazetted 1 January 1917), Serbian Order of the White Eagle, Fourth Class, With Swords (gazetted 15 February 1917) and the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (gazetted 3 June 1918). In addition, he was mentioned in despatches on five occasions.

Following his discharge, Durrant was appointed assistant quartermaster general of the 1st Military District in Queensland. He subsequently held senior staff roles in Queensland until 1926, followed by senior appointments in South Australia (1926-35), Victoria (1935-37) and Tasmania (1937-39). He was also appointed aide-de-camp to the Governor General in June 1935, a role he retained for a number of years. In August 1939 he was announced as general officer commanding of Western Command and arrived in Perth on 4 September 1939, the day after Australia announced its entry in the Second World War. He was appointed general officer commanding of Northern Command in July 1941, and spent the remainder of the war based in Queensland. He was placed on the retired list on 5 April 1944 due to health issues, closing a long and distinguished career in the military with the rank of major general.

James Murdoch Archer Durrant died on 18 August 1963 at Concord in Sydney.

Rolls

  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    4th Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    2nd Australian Division
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    Australian Instructional Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Captain
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    Australian Instructional Corps
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    4th Australian Infantry Brigade
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Major
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    General List
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    31 December 1918 on page 15225 at position 23
    Commonwealth Gazette
    23 May 1919 on page 878 at position 53
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    General List
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    03 June 1918 on page 6454 at position 4
    Commonwealth Gazette
    07 November 1918 on page 2110 at position 8
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    General List
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    01 January 1917 on page 28 at position 15
    Commonwealth Gazette
    29 June 1917 on page 1389 at position 20
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • First World War Embarkation Roll:

    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Captain Adjutant
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    General List
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    28 May 1918 on page 6200 at position 15
    Commonwealth Gazette
    24 October 1918 on page 2055 at position 31
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    15 February 1917 on page 1606 at position 4
    Commonwealth Gazette
    25 July 1917 on page 1542 at position 29
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • First World War Nominal Roll:

    Unit
    Australian Imperial Force Headquarters, London
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    01 June 1917 on page 5421 at position 92
    Commonwealth Gazette
    04 October 1917 on page 2623 at position 146
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    13th Australian Infantry Battalion
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    28 December 1917 on page 13565 at position 144
    Commonwealth Gazette
    18 April 1918 on page 843 at position 74
  • Honours and Awards (Recommendation):

    Unit
    General List 2nd Division
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
  • Honours and Awards:

    Unit
    General List
    Conflict
    First World War, 1914-1918
    Rank
    Lieutenant Colonel
    London Gazette
    04 January 1917 on page 253 at position 10
    Commonwealth Gazette
    29 June 1917 on page 1391 at position 25

Timeline

Date of birth 17 March 1885 St Leonards, Adelaide, South Australia
Date of enlistment 20 November 1914
Date promoted 20 December 1914 Appointed captain.
Other 20 December 1914 Adjutant 13th Battalion.
Date of embarkation 22 December 1914
Date promoted 02 May 1915 Appointed major.
Other 02 May 1915 Second in Command 13th Battalion.
Other 28 August 1915 Commanding Officer 13th Battalion.
Other 16 January 1916 Musketry Instructor 4th Infantry Brigade Headquarters.
Other 21 May 1916 Temporary Brigade Major 15th Infantry Brigade Headquarters.
Date of recommendation honour or award 20 August 1916
Date promoted 20 August 1916 Appointed lieutenant colonel.
Other 20 August 1916 Commmanding Officer 13th Battalion.
Date of recommendation honour or award 10 October 1916
Date of honour or award 01 January 1917 Distinguished Service Order.
Date of honour or award 15 February 1917 Serbian Order of the White Eagle - 4th Class.
Date of recommendation honour or award 01 March 1917
Date of recommendation honour or award 20 September 1917
Other 06 December 1917 Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General 2nd Australian Division.
Date of recommendation honour or award 04 March 1918
Date of recommendation honour or award 09 March 1918
Date of recommendation honour or award 29 April 1918
Date of honour or award 03 June 1918 Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.
Date of recommendation honour or award 20 August 1918
Date of recommendation honour or award 24 September 1918
Other 25 November 1918 Deputy Director Branch 1 Repatriation and Demobilisation Department.
Other 01 October 1919 Staff Officer in charge Repatriation and Demobilisation Department.
Date returned to Australia 22 January 1920
Other 11 May 1920 AIF appointment terminated.
Date of death 18 August 1963 Concord, Sydney, New South Wales.

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