Mad Harry Murray
The most highly decorated soldier in the Australian army. Dashing, brave and handsome, Murray rose from the ranks to command a battalion.
Mad Harry Murray
Lieutenant Colonel Henry William Murray, VC, CMG, DSO (and Bar), DCM (1880–1966)
He described his occupation as a “bushman” when he joined the 16th Battalion AIF in 1914, but Harry Murray was already a mature and independent leader of men. He worked at Manjimup, Western Australia, employing sleeper cutters and had earlier been an armed escort for a mining company north of Kalgoorlie. It was soon evident that he was also a natural soldier. On Gallipoli he was promoted, awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, then commissioned as an officer in the 13th Battalion.
The following year, in France, Murray’s reputation grew, and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his work at Mouquet Farm. Later, in January 1917, near Gueudecourt, in a night attack at Stormy Trench, he won the Victoria Cross. There, in fierce fighting, he fought off enemy counter-attacks and led a “brilliant charge”. At Bullecourt in April, leading his troops with the cry, “come on men, the 16th are getting hell”, he got a second DSO.
Murray was not a reckless hero, but rather a quiet and charismatic leader who believed in training and discipline and who possessed sound tactical skills. In May 1918 he was promoted lieutenant colonel to command the 4th Machine Gun Battalion.
Further honours came; he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and appointed Companion in the Order of St. Michael and St. George. Charles Bean described him as “the most distinguished fighting officer of the AIF”.
Following the war Murray became a grazier; eventually, in 1928, he bought a property, “Glenlyon”, at Richmond, in Queensland. In the Second World War he commanded first a militia battalion then a Volunteer Defence Corps home-guard unit until he retired in 1944. He died following a car accident on 7 January 1966.