25 February 2001

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James Murray was born in St Michael's, Co Cork in 1859, died in Dublin on 19 July 1942, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Glasnevin Cemetery. Some time in the 1990s a headstone was erected over his resting place by his daughter Lily, but, because of the political situation in Ireland at the time, the headstone did not include recognition of his award of the Victoria Cross. In late 1999 Lily decided it was fitting and safe to add the letters 'VC' to James's memorial, and although she died before seeing the finished stone, she was aware her wishes had been carried out. ( The VC awarded to James Murray is held by the National Army Museum, Chelsea ).

Troopers Murray and Danagher advanced into the open under a withering fire to rescue two men of the 21st Foot ( 2nd Bn, Royal Scots Fusiliers ) named Byrne and Davis, both of whom had been badly wounded. No sooner had Murray started forward than his horse was shot under him, but he continued to advance across the open on foot. The two rescuers reached the men together, and on stooping to lift Byrne's head Murray was shot through the body, the bullet entering his right side and passing out near the spine. Having received such a serious wound, and realisng the seeming hopelesness of the situation in which they found themselves, Murray ordered Danaher to take his carbine and make good his escape. Murray remained with Byrne, who shortly afterwards died. The Boers then threw themselves upon Murray and Davis and took them prisoners.

Byrne's body was placed in a bullock's skin and was conveyed with the two prisoners to the Boer camp which was pitched upon the top of the mountain. Murray afterwards paid tribute to the treatment of the enemy, and to the courtesy of the Boer commandant who permitted them to return to Pretoria under a flag of truce and to take with them the body of Byrne. Five days after Murray and Davis reached Pretoria, Davis died.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 14 March 1882 ]. Elandsfontein, South Africa, 16 January 1881, Lance-Corporal James Murray, 2nd Bn, Connaught Rangers.

"For gallant conduct ( with Trooper Danaher, of Nourse's Horse ) during an engagement with the Boers at Elandsfontein on 16th January, 1881, in advancing for 500 yards under a very heavy fire from a party of about 60 Boers, to bring out of action a private of the 21st Foot who had been severly wounded; in attempting which Lance-Corporal Murray was himself severely wounded."
James Murray was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on the 15th May 1882.

Medal entitlement of Lance Corporal James Murray - 2nd Bn, Connaught Rangers

  • Victoria Cross
  • South Africa Medal ( 1877-79 )
    • 1 clasp: "1879"
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )


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Iain Stewart, 25 February 2001