Gallipoli’s missing link found in Emerald

FOR most of his life, Mark Murray was oblivious to the secrets in the suitcase that could rewrite our century-old Anzac history to include one of the last of Gallipoli's missing links.

While he knew the 1915 wartime maps, documents and diaries of his surveyor grandfather Private JN Murray were family treasures, now their significance has been recognised, Mr Murray wants to share them with the nation.

Read his amazing story in our special report.

 

UNIQUE VIEW OF WAR FRONT   

PRIVATE James Nicholas Murray's wartime survey documents and diaries from the Gallipoli front could well prove to be one of the most unique collections in the country, according to Anzac historian Captain Andrew Craig said.  

Capt Craig revealed the State Library of Queensland would approach Pte Murray's grandson, Emerald surveyor Mark Murray, to talk about the collection's preservation and future use.   

"I think this is an absolutely unique collection and it's almost certainly unique in Queensland and unique in the whole of Australia," he said.  

"I believe the State Library is very interested in communicating with Mark, as soon as they get their ducks in a row, with a view to doing whatever the family wants done with the papers, offering to assist in whatever way and ultimately hoping to be the house for that collection.  

"There are layers to this and first is to get the documents properly preserved, stabilised and digitised." Capt Craig said, while the diaries revealed JN's personal insights into the war, it was his survey working sheets and maps that were a revelation.  

Mr Murray used his grandfather's notes to plot and recreate the Anzac stronghold on Russell's Top where troops valiantly held the ground against the Turks.   

"JN wrote up all the tunnelling and trench works around Russell's Top in Gallipoli…   

"I feel we can probably look to overlay the plot that Mark did with a contemporary topographical map of the Gallipoli peninsula to provide us with the most accurate plot of the tunnels and trench works that exists anywhere," Capt Craig said.   

 

TREASURES TO TELL 

FOR most of his life, Mark Murray was oblivious to the secrets in the suitcase that could rewrite our century-old Anzac history to include one of the last of Gallipoli's missing links.  

While he knew the 1915 wartime maps, documents and diaries of his surveyor grandfather Private James Nicholas Murray were family treasures, now their significance has been recognised, Mr Murray wants to share them with the nation.   

When the suitcase containing the documents was sensationally stolen from his Emerald office earlier this month, the thief was ignorant of its priceless contents.  

Everyone involved with the project gulped down deep, anxious breaths until police phoned to say it had been found intact and a man charged.  

"I didn't mind the robbery part, the guy didn't know what he was taking," Mr Murray joked of the drama.  

JN, as he was known, died when Mark was 11, leaving his diaries as a legacy.  

"My recollections of JN commence when we used to visit him in Rockhampton," Mr Murray said.  

"I don't recall him saying anything about the war... but what I do remember is he used to sit up in bed and we would go in there every night and listen to the poems.  

"He used to recite Banjo Paterson poems like when Pardon won the cup and tell us Henry Lawson stories.  

"I have such crisp memories... I could always picture him.  

"I also remember JN used to let us drink horehound ale which was pretty exciting.   

"Harrups Horehound in Rocky - I have never tasted anything as nice as that again in my life."  

Mr Murray said JN's war memorabilia stayed out of sight for decades, occasionally being brought out to share with friends.  

"I knew it was significant, but I didn't think it was significant in the national sense," he said.   

It wasn't until Mr Murray began reading a Christmas present from his children, Peter FitzSimon's Gallipoli, that he began to imagine what JN experienced in his wartime service.   

"What a book and it really brings it home to you," he said.  

"He did such a great job and the things that he said that these guys didn't care about dying after a while because it was probably better than the conditions they were in.  

"JN wasn't a kid when he enlisted (at 30), so that was interesting in itself.  

"I think he just liked a fight and you never saw it in him because he was such a proper character."   

Mr Murray said his family would gift JN's collection in perpetuity to a yet-to-be named institution.  

"I never really thought about putting JN on a pedestal, but what makes this so interesting is we have the records, the actual field diaries," he said.   

"But what he has done at Gallipoli is far less than the blokes who gave their lives - that's the perspective I put on it."   

DIARY SNIPPETS:    James Nicholas Murray's account  

Sunday, September 12 >> At 6 o'clock had an exciting time going for water. Snipers were on look out for us. Had to go about a mile down Aghyl Dere to nwest and to some place. Bullets whizzed very close to us as we ran with heads ducked in shallow trenches.    

Monday, September 20 >> Dony ridge work. Our camp where we spend time when not in the trenches is in a deep gully, which runs into Aghl Dere behind our trenches so far we have been absolutely safe there. Capt Connor sent for me to have day out & asked me to make sketches of trenches. I was given a 1: 20,000 map of this part of Gallipoli linear contours. Very interesting.   

Tuesday, September 21 >> Making traverse with Prismante compass & piece of string 20ft long of trenches. Would like job if I had assumed status but fancy that I am looked upon as an intruder.   

Wednesday, September 22 >> Wednesday plot traverse on 1: 240 scale under great difficulties.   

Sunday, October 10 >> Got a fresh plan to make for Colonel. Finished after great meal at dinner time.   

Wednesday, October 13 >> Holmes killed. Walked down to the beach in hope of getting something out of canteen. We were faint today.  Nothing in canteen.   

Friday, October 15 >> Went down beach & had a bath. A swindling Greek was selling stuff down there. Paid him 2 pounds for tin of condensed milk. Nothing in canteen.   

Wednesday, October 27 >> Turks give this place a great doing with shells & bombs. Several killed & wounded including poor Cakebread killed instantly. Had I been in dug out I occupied a few days ago after it was dinner time, I would have had my head blown off. Dug out crumbled in with shrapnel. I hear that today Anzac was subjected to heavy shelling experienced for long time. Turks must have varying fresh supplies of ammunition. At night had a look at the death toll for the day. Six lying on stretchers with a blanket thrown over them in cemetery waiting for graves to be dug. Poor Cakebread amongst them.   

Tuesday, November 16 >> Very cold. No shelter in dug out, perished last night. See doctor & get off for day. Write letter to Willie & post it.   

Saturday, December 11 >> Had a tooth extracted by stretcher bearer who is a dentist by name Ballard. Have been feeling very well for last few days. Weather surprisingly mild. Troubled with lice & fleas.    


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