George Murray. Image courtesy The Daily Telegraph.
George Murray was born in Orange in 1873, the youngest of eleven children born to John Murray and Susan Mary nee Liscombe of Athol Farm, Manildra. John was aged 57 at the time and was a storekeeper in Molong.
In October 1899 George enrolled in the NSW Mounted Rifles and proceeded to South Africa to serve in the Boer War. During his service George was hit in the mouth by a bullet. He sustained a broken jaw and lost four teeth.
Prior to the First World War George led teams of horses between Forbes and Penrith, a trip that took him six weeks.
On 14 July 1915 George, aged 42, enlisted in WWI. He was assigned to the 12th Light Horse Regiment, 4th Reinforcement as a private. He embarked from Sydney on 4 March 1916 and served in Egypt and Palestine. In July 1916 he was promoted to Lance Corporal and, in May 1918, to Sergeant.
George’s father, John, died in Molong on 23 July 1916, at the age of 101. George was serving in Egypt at the time and wrote a letter to his mother, Susan, saying:
I was pleased to hear that father’s end was so peaceful. He was a wonderful age, few pass the hundred mark.
Unfortunately Susan passed away before she received the letter; she died on 9 November 1916, aged 85.
On 25 September 1918 Sergeant Murray’s regiment was engaged in the advance on Semakh in Palestine. At a distance of 100 yards (91 metres) Murray fearlessly confronted the enemy with three machine guns. He was subsequently recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The recommendation stated:
This NCO has proved all through the operation most reliable and has given the greatest possible assistance to his officers. He is always unselfish in his devotion to the service.
Although recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Murray was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous service rendered on 27 December 1918.
In November 1918 Sergeant Murray was admitted to hospital in Tripoli, suffering from pyrexia (fever). Following his recovery George requested compassionate leave, stating:
On leaving home three years ago I left a farming and grazing property occupied by my mother and father both of whom have since died. The share farmer who worked my land has enlisted in the AIF. My brother who watched my interests has undergone an operation which leaves him as an invalid. For the above reasons both family and business I want to get home to rearrange my affairs.
George’s leave was granted and he was discharged from the AIF in April 1919.
George never married. He sold his Athol Farm in early 1924 and relocated to Wentworthville, where he remained until his death on 29 January 1961, aged 88.
George Murray is commemorated on Manildra Soldiers Memorial Hall Honour Roll, the Cudal District Honour Roll, the Cudal and District War Memorial Gates, the Toogong War Memorial and the Molong Boer War Memorial.
Esther Graham of Newbridge receives a Christmas gift and New Year’s card from Princess Mary. Esther’s sons, Reginald and Jack were in the first contingent of soldiers from Australia and served at Gallipoli and in the battles at Romani and Gaza. Newbridge Resident Honoured
Francis Bede Commins. Image courtesy Western Champion.
Francis Bede Commins was born in Springside in 1877, the tenth of thirteen children born to Thomas Commins and his wife Bridget nee Kennedy. Thomas Commins, a native of County Clare, had migrated to Australia to seek his fortune in the goldfields at Ballarat. In 1854 he was managing the Working Miners’ Claim at Sebastopol Hill and took an active part in the Eureka Stockade. By 1870 the family had relocated to Beneree at Springside, where, in 1888, Thomas died.
Frank was educated at St Stanislaus College in Bathurst. In 1895 he sat the Sydney University entrance examination, which he passed. The Freeman’s Journal of 3 August 1895 printed Frank’s results: French B, Latin C, Arithmetic B, Geometry C, Physics A, Physiology C.
On 21 November 1903 Justices Simpson and Pring admitted thirteen new solicitors to the bar, Francis Bede Commins among them. A celebration was held at Springside in late December after which Francis moved to Parkes, where he opened a legal practice in Dalton Street.
In his spare time Frank enjoyed playing cricket and football, frequently acting as a referee. He was a popular figure around the town, and known for his charitable nature. A member of the Hospital committee, Frank was also an active worker in Catholic Church matters.
On Wednesday 11 November 1908 Francis married Nora Byrnes at St Jurlath’s Church in Parkes. Nora was the eldest daughter of Railway Inspector Patrick Byrnes, and had played the organ for the St Jurlath’s for eight years. A daughter, Kathleen Mary, was born in 1909 and a son, John Bede (Jack), in 1913.
At age 39 Francis left behind his legal practice and enlisted for service. He embarked from Sydney in September 1916, arriving in England in November. He spent six weeks with the 14th Training Battalion before proceeding to France, where he was taken on strength with the 53rd Battalion.
During the first weeks of 1918 Francis attended musketry school. He was hospitalised on 18 January 1917 with dental problems, and did not rejoin his unit until 21 March.
Ten days later Francis was killed in action near Bapaume, hit by a piece of shell as he stood in a mine crater.
Francis ended his last letter to his Nora with ten kisses for her, ten for little Kathleen, and the request “pray for me“.
[Frank] proved himself a man of generous instincts, a warm and steadfast friend, and an honorable opponent to all who differed with him either in his professional capacity or in public affairs.
Francis Bede Commins is commemorated on the Parkes RSL Roll of Honour, the Law Society of New South Wales World War I Honour Roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 157 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte FB Commins”; it was donated by James Joseph Dalton. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Two of Francis’ bothers also served in WWI: James Commins was killed in action on 3 May 1917, and Patrick Joseph Commins, who returned to Australia in January 1919.
In October 1916 Walter Stewart Murray appealed to the Orange Exemption Court for an exemption from military service. He explained that he was one of six sons; two brothers were already at the front and two others were under age. Walter, who farmed the family property, Fairy Burn, on Cargo Road promised he would enlist after the harvest. The court granted him a reprieve until 28 February 1917. Walter harvested his crop and enlisted on 20 January 1917, two and a half years after his older brothers George Wren Murray and Sage Clyne Sinclair Murray.
Walter proceeded to Liverpool camp for training and embarked from Sydney on 10 February. He arrived in Plymouth on 11 April and was marched in to the 1st Training Battalion at Durrington. In December 1917 he proceeded to France and was taken on strength with the 1st Battalion.
Private Murray was hospitalised twice during 1918; in March with an oedema on the eyelid, and in May he was evacuated to England suffering from trench fever. He was admitted to the 2nd Southern Hospital at Bristol for three weeks, before being transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford for a week.
After a further two weeks’ furlough Walter was marched in to the No 4 Command Depot at Hurdcott, where he spent three months. In early October he was marched in to the Overseas Training Brigade at Longbridge Deverill, before rejoining his unit in France in early November 1918.
AIF Overseas Training Brigade headquarters, Longbridge Deverill, England, April 1919. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Walter was hospitalised a third time during his overseas service: in February 1919 with influenza. On 6 July 1919 he embarked Boorara at Southampton, for return to Australia. Private Murray disembarked at Sydney on 26 August, and was discharged from the AIF on 5 October 1919.
Walter volunteered his services for the Second World War; he was stationed at Cowra Prison Camp where he held the rank of sergeant. He was on duty on 5 August 1944 during the infamous breakout.
“Pop” Murray, as he became known, moved into Orange during the 1950s, opening a general store in March Street. Walter would entertain many a shopper with his reminiscences of the war and his stories of the Cowra breakout.
In early December 1966 Walter was admitted to Orange Base Hospital, having suffered ill-health for some time. He passed away on 11 December 1966, aged 71.
Walter Stewart Murray is commemorated on the Nashdale Public School Honour Roll and St John’s Presbyterian Church Orange Honour Roll.
Walter’s brother George Wren Murray died of disease during his war service. Sage Clyne Sinclair Murray survived the war; he returned to Australia in August 1918. Many other members of the extended Murray clan in the Central West served during WWI, including Walter’s cousin, George Murray from Manildra, and second cousin, Hugh Miller Murray.
James Commins was born in Springside in 1875, the ninth of thirteen children born to Thomas Commins and his wife Bridget nee Kennedy. Thomas Commins, a native of County Clare, had migrated to Australia to seek his fortune in the goldfields at Ballarat. In 1854 he was managing the Working Miners’ Claim at Sebastopol Hill and took an active part in the Eureka Stockade. By 1870 the family had relocated to Beneree at Springside, where, in 1888, Thomas died.
James was educated at St Stanislaus College in Bathurst. In 1890, he was awarded second class honours in elocution at the annual speech day presentations.
After completing his education James worked as a labourer at Dalton Bothers Flour Mill and was a member of the Orange Rifle Club.
On 18 September 1916 James volunteered to serve in the First World War. He spent two weeks at Dubbo training camp before proceeding to Liverpool on 2 October. A private in the 24th Battalion, 17th Reinforcement, James embarked for overseas service on 31 October 1917.
Private Commins undertook three months’ training at with the 6th Training Battalion at Larkhill, before proceeding to France on 28 March 1917.
In the early morning of 3 May 1917 the 24th Battalion was engaged in the Second Battle of Bullecourt in the Ypres sector on the Western Front. By nightfall James was reported as missing in action. There was no trace of James in German prisoner of war camps, and on 14 December a Court of Enquiry decided that he had been killed in action on 3 May 1917. James was one of 11 men from the Orange district who was killed that day during the disastrous Second Battle of Bullecourt.
In June 1925 the Base Records Office wrote to James’ mother Bridget to inquire if she would like to include a personal inscription on James’ headstone. She answered:
In reply to your notice re a headstone over the late J Commins who was killed in action in France, I am deeply grieved to have to tell you that I am not able to afford the price of a headstone over his grave as I have no income or property with which I can do if from.
When Bridget passed away on 23 July 1927 seven of her thirteen children had already died.
James Commins in commemorated on St Joseph’s Church Orange Honour Roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 101 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte J Commins”; it was donated by Mrs M Chandler. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Two of James’ bothers also served in WWI: Francis Bede Commins was killed in action on 31 March 1917 – just one month before James; Patrick Joseph Commins returned to Australia in January 1919.
George Wren Murray. Image courtesy RSL Virtual War Memorial.
When 22 year old George Wren Murray enlisted in the First World War he followed in the family’s long tradition of military service. His great grandfather, Sage Murray, had fought in the Battle of Waterloo, and his great uncles in the Sudan and Boer Wars. Orange historian William (Bill) Folster estimates that more than fifty men from the extended Murray family in the Central West answered the call to arms during the First World War.
George and his brother Sage Clyne Sinclair Murray were among the first men from the district to volunteer their services, enlisting just three weeks into the war. George served for three and a half years until he was evacuated to Tidworth Military Hospital in England with pleurisy. His condition rapidly deteriorated and he passed away on 17 January 1918, aged 25.
George was born in Orange in 1892, the fifth of thirteen children born to William Murray and his wife Alice (nee Wren) of Cargo Road. Prior to WWI George served in the Militia and the 9th Light Horse. He joined the 1st Light Horse Regiment, C Squadron, as a private, embarking HMAT A16 Star of Victoria in Sydney on 20 October 1914.
During 1915 Private Murray served on the Gallipoli peninsula. In August that year he was admitted to the 24th Casualty Clearing Station at Mudros suffering from dysentery. George kept a diary during his time at Gallipoli, recording humorous anecdotes and complaining about rations.
In March 1916 George was taken on strength with the 1st Light Horse Reserve Regiment at Heliopolis. In April 1916 he was transferred to the 4th Divisional Artillery and, in June joined the British Expeditionary Force and proceeded to France.
In late 1916 George was struck with appendicitis and evacuated to hospital in England. He endured a lengthy convalescence; he did not rejoin his unit until late November 1917. Just two weeks later he was again hospitalised, on this occasion with pleurisy. He was evacuated to England on 14 January 1918 and admitted to Tidworth Military Hospital, where he died from a combination of pleurisy and heart failure. In his obituary the Leader claimed that “no better soldier ever left these shores”.
George Wren Murray is commemorated on Nashdale Public School Honour Roll, St John’s Presbyterian Church Orange Honour Roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 16 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte GW Murray”; it was donated by RG McGregor. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
George is also remembered on a commemorative plaque on his parent’s grave at Orange Cemetery, Presbyterian Block 2, Grave 59.
Sage Clyne Sinclair Murray survived the war, returning to Australia in August 1918. Another of George’s brothers, Walter Stewart Murray, also served in WWI; he returned to Australia in July 1919. A cousin, George Murray from Manildra, and second cousin, Hugh Miller Murray, also served.
George Wren Murray commemorative plaque. Image courtesy Orange Cemetery.