Anzac Day is a time of commemoration and remembrance of the service performed by members of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces – not unlike Remembrance Day.
While some people may think that it is restricted to the dead of those two nations, they could not be further from the truth. In fact, looking at the composition of the Australian Imperial Force during World War I alone, there is a good mix of men hailing from a wide variety of places such as America, the British Isles, Malta, Scandinavia and South Africa, just to name a few.
One such person was Hugh Murray. He had been born in Glasgow, Scotland, to David and Agnes Murray, and accompanied his parents to Australia when four years of age. They settled in western Australia, where he was admitted to the Fremantle Boy’s School. After leaving school and serving a five-year apprenticeship, he became a mechanical engineer and was very active in several sports, among which were rifle shooting and bowls. He also performed two years’ militia service with the Fremantle Artillery.
With the outbreak of war he enlisted at Coolgardie, western Australia, on September 28, 1914 and underwent his medical examination there. The next step was to go to Helena Vale, where he proceeded to take the oath on October 15, 1914. Sgt Murray was then appointed to B Company, 16th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, at Blackboy Hill that same day and allotted regimental number 636.
According to the description preserved in his service records, Sgt Murray was a bachelor, aged 40 years and nine months, at the time of enlistment. He was five feet and four 7/8 inches in height, weighed 10 stone and six pounds, had a dark complexion, grey/brown eyes, grey/brown hair and belonged to the Presbyterian religious denomination.
Three-quarters of the men making up the 16th Battalion were recruited in western Australia, while the other quarter were recruited in south Australia. Both groups operated independently of each other prior to arrival at the Broadmeadows Military Camp, in the state of Victoria, during late November. The battalion em-barked upon the HMAT A40 (Ceramic) at Melbourne on December 22 for Egypt.
They disembarked at Alexandria in February 1915 and were then taken by train to Heliopolis where a large camp had been set up to accommodate them. Soon afterwards, there was a reorganisation of the battalion system whereby the standard eight companies were merged to form four. The failure of the allied fleet to force the Dardanelles, and hopefully knock Turkey out of the war, resulted in the decision to organise a land campaign. It was decided to use the Australian and New Zealand troops in Egypt to supplement the allied army being put together for the task.
In early April the troops embarked again and sailed to the harbour of Mudros, on the island of Lemnos, in preparation for a landing on the Gallipoli peninsula. This took place at dawn on April 25. The 16th Battalion landed at the Anzac beachhead late in the afternoon and was to participate in the establishing and defence of the front line in this sector right up to the evacuation in December.
Sgt Murray was wounded in action on August 10, 1915 during an attack by Turkish forces on the northern flank of the Anzac sector. Initial treatment was administered by the 29th Field Ambulance. Here it was found that the wound to his right arm was serious and included a compound fracture. It was then decided that he should be evacuated to Malta aboard the Hospital Ship Gascon.
Malta had been transformed into a large medical centre to help treat the casualties from the campaign. The existing hospitals on the island were supplemented through the use of barracks, schools and tents. Upon disembarking on August 16, Sgt Murray was admitted to the converted barracks that formed the Floriana Military Hospital, today the public works offices. On August 19, he was reported to be dangerously ill. Despite the efforts of the medical staff, Sgt Murray passed away, age 41, on August 21 following the amputation of his arm. He was laid to rest in Plot A, Row VIII, Grave 1, at Pietà Military Cemetery that same day by the Senior Presbyterian Chaplain Albert G. Mackinnon. This chaplain later published the book, Malta: Nurse of the Mediterranean, in which he gave a description of the island and the work being carried out to assist the casualties.
The listed next-of-kin was his sister, Catherine Snook, whose husband was the proprietor of the Palace Hotel in Southern Cross, western Australia. However, she passed away in September 1919 and had only taken receipt of a commemorative booklet and photographs of her brother’s grave and the cemetery. The sole surviving sibling, another sister by the name of Jane Austin, was the recipient of the medals, scroll and plaque issued to commemorate Sgt Murray’s service and sacrifice between 1921 and 1922. It was she who composed the epitaph carved upon his grave: He gave his life, For king, country and Australia, A noble end.