I would like you to get my photo enlarged, the one that is from Egypt taken half size, just as a remembrance. This will probably be the last letter I will be able to send …
My grandmother’s foster brother, David James Murray (Davy), sent this photo to her family from Egypt, just days before being shipped out to Gallipoli. He never returned.
He had lived on my grandmother’s street as a little boy, but they lost touch with him after he moved away. Many years later, he wrote to my grandmother’s family to ask if any of them remembered how old he was. Somehow he had ended up in Nudgee Orphanage and was unhappy there. He thought he was older than the records stated, and he could leave if that was true.
My grandmother’s parents took his letter to a local councilman and were told that he could leave the orphanage if he had somewhere to go. Without hesitation, they welcomed him into their home. My grandmother Agnes (or Aggie) was a little girl at the time, but she always thought of Davy as her brother. He fitted right into the family and lived with them for six or seven years.
He enlisted soon after World War I broke out, and set sail from Sydney aboard the Persic on 21 December 1914. He spent the next few months at the Maadi training camp in Egypt with the rest of the 5th Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force. On 4th May 1915 he wrote the following letter to my grandmother’s brother.
Just a line to let you know that I am still alive & well, as I hope everyone at home is well. We are still here but by the time you read this, we will have been under fire. I daresay you have read this. I suppose you read where the Queensland Infantry were cut to pieces at the landing of the Dardanelles. Out of the 9th Battalion, 75% were killed or wounded. The first action I get in, if I come through safe, I will cable just the one word (well) so you will know what it means.
I have made all arrangements. The few pounds I have I am leaving to your mother. Thank her for all her kindness and trouble for me … If you would, I would like you to get my photo enlarged, the one that is from Egypt taken half size, as a remembrance.
This will probably be the last letter I will be able to send as we leave next Monday for the front. A postcard will have to do. I would like to come back to see Australia again. It’s to be hoped I do …
I am going over to Mena on Saturday. I will try and see whether Dr Butler is there. All the wounded are there. There were a terrible lot of officers killed. In fact the Turks seem to be after the officers first.
Again wishing to be remembered to all. Say goodbye to all for me. I think I will now conclude. If you don’t hear before you read this, as it takes about 5 weeks to go, you will know something has happened as I promise to cable soon after the 1st battle.
Again thanking you all for your kindness to me. Goodbye and good luck. I remain yours sincerely,
Dave J. Murray
This letter brings tears to my eyes. I’ve left out some of the more personal details where he explained how he wanted his few possessions divided up among the family. He clearly knew that he may be going to his death.
A few weeks later, he was wounded at Gallipoli when a bullet penetrated his pelvis and abdomen. He succumbed to his wounds on a hospital ship on 30 May 1915 and was buried at sea.
He was 24 years old.
On behalf of the family, Davy, I want to thank you for all the love and laughter you gave them. They truly thought of you as a son and brother. We thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you made for your country. We know you were a man of faith, and one day we’ll meet you in heaven, where God wipes away every tear. What a reunion that will be.
You sent those photos so someone would remember you. It’s been 105 years, Davy.