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WWI medals a reminder of bravest officer

Visitors to the national war memorial will be able to see the impressive collection of medals awarded to one of Australia’s most distinguished fighting officers.


Henry William Murray, a former lieutenant colonel, became Australia’s most decorated soldier in World War I, with a raft of medals that included the Victoria Cross.

His family donated the medals to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on Thursday.

They will be displayed in the Hall of Valour.

Mr Murray was awarded the Victoria Cross – Australia’s highest military award for gallantry – for leading troops in a night-long attack on the German “stormy trench”, near Gueudecourt in France, in February 1917.

“This gallant officer rallied his command and saved the situation by sheer valour,” the VC citation read.

Mr Murray made his presence felt throughout the line, encouraging his men, heading bombing parties, leading bayonet charges and carrying wounded to places of safety.

Historian Charles Bean described Mr Murray as the most distinguished fighting officer of the Australian Imperial Force.

The memorial’s director Brendan Nelson said Mr Murray’s medals would remind people of the bravery and daring Australians showed during World War I.

“Amid great battles and the movements of armies, the exploits of courageous individuals have always provided inspiration,” Dr Nelson said in a statement.

Mr Murray entered the army as a private in 1914 and rose rapidly though the ranks to become a lieutenant colonel just four years later.

He re-enlisted in 1939 and served in the World War II.

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