Portrait of a War Hero
A painting of the celebrated Tasmanian war hero Lieutenant Colonel Henry (‘Harry’) Murray will be unveiled in the Great War exhibition at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The painting by George Bell (1919), on loan from the Australian War Memorial, depicts Australia’s most decorated war hero.
Murray was born near Evandale, Tasmania. When the First World War broke out in 1914, he was working in Western Australia. He enlisted in Perth, and was assigned to the 16th Battalion, in a machine gun crew.
Murray served at Gallipoli, landing on the first day 25 April 1915. He was later awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, and commissioned as an officer in the 13th Battalion. He was in the final two hundred men evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915.
He then served in France on the Western Front, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order during the Battle of the Somme. In February 1917, Murray was awarded the Victoria Cross, commanding a company during a night attack on the German position of Stormy Trench. They captured the position and repulsed three counter-attacks, with Murray often leading bayonet and bombing charges himself.
Afterwards he was promoted to Major and earned a Bar to his DSO during an attack on the Hindenburg Line near Bullecourt. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in early 1918 and commanded the 4th Machine Gun Battalion.
“When you think that he started the war as the number 2 who supplied the ammunition to the gunner, and went on to command an machine gun battalion three years later with such distinction, Murray’s story is one of great survival and service,” notes Richard Mulvaney.
The portrait will be on display from Thursday 23 April as part of QVMAG’s contribution to the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915.