Found On The Beach At Anzac Cove 50 Years Ago

In 1968 a young New Zealand couple, Bruce and Jan Rosemergy, on a grand tour of Europe – complete with an Austin Minivan – arrived at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.

As the Rosemergys stood on the narrow strip of sand below the towering cliffs, with the placid and glistening Aegean Sea stretching out beyond, they were struck by the power of the place and its sacred associations for many Australians and New Zealanders. Gallipoli in the 1960s was very different from the place it is today. Access to the area was restricted, and signs of the fighting and its aftermath, such as trenches and relics, were still evident.

‘The events of 1915 became even more touching, tangible and personal for us when we found and retrieved a metal strip lying in the sand’, Bruce and Jan recall. The strip was inscribed 32. TPR. MURRAY. V.W. 6TH. They souvenired the small war relic and tucked it safely away.

When they returned to New Zealand in 1970 they tried to locate a family member of Trooper Murray using New Zealand and Australian archives. However, their search proved fruitless. With the advent of home computers in the 1990s they searched once more – to no avail.

More than 20 years later, on 12 March 2018, the couple rediscovered the metal strip still carefully preserved in a drawer. They searched online again, googling ‘Trooper V W Murray Gallipoli’. The first link that came up was to the Sydney Living Museums website. With ‘relief and excitement’, the Rosemergys finally learned the story of V W Murray.

The very poignant short article, written by Edward Washington in 2017 as part of the centenary project exploring the impact of World War I on people connected with our historic houses and places, tells of a young probationary police trooper named Vernon William Murray who enlisted in the 6th Light Horse in September 1914.

Murray died in a scrubby gully at Gallipoli on the afternoon of 22 May 1915. He was buried at sunset, in what we now know as the Beach Cemetery. The army chaplain who conducted the service wrote to Murray’s parents:

It was an impressive service in a beautiful place close to the beach ... a good many men of his regiment present & they were deeply affected ... we are marking the grave with a wooden cross. That is all the facilities we [have] at present as the beach is still under fire.

Among a small collection of records relating to Trooper Murray held in the Justice & Police Museum is a photograph of the original wooden cross placed on his grave, showing a metal strip carrying his name, rank and regiment.

For Bruce and Jan, the online story finally bridged the gap between events a century ago, and the small metal strip they had picked out of the sand in 1968. They posted the precious relic to Sydney Living Museums, and followed up with an email:

We are thrilled that the grave marker has arrived safely after all this time – almost fifty years since our discovery and our wondering about this soldier and in time for the 2018 Anzac Day. We really are very thrilled with the knowledge you have shared about Vernon Murray and the respect you are all showing him in your research and display – he has become very real to us.

Soldier on donkey flanked by two young men.
Vernon Murray sitting on a donkey alongside two Egyptian men and another donkey. Detail from Postcard featuring two photographs relating to New South Wales Mounted Police Officer Vernon Murray, c1915. Justice & Police Museum collection, Sydney Living Museums
  • Open booklet with handwriting on left page and photo of grave marker on right.

    Memorial photograph card

  • Cropped photograph to show detail of grave marker with metal strip attached.

    Detail of grave marker

  • A metal strip stamped with letters.

    Metal strip from grave marker


 

WW1: stories from our museums

These stories explore the impact of World War I on the people connected to the historic houses and places managed by Sydney Living Museums.

Often poignant and sometimes heartbreaking, the stories reveal combatants, pacifists, patriotic fundraisers and anti-war activists, explore broader narratives of patriotism and expressions of jingoism, and touch on the aftermath of war and the memorialisation of those who enlisted.

Visit the WW1: stories from our museums website

About the authors

Head and shoulders photo of woman holding up card to face with conservator's white glove on hand.

Megan Martin

Head, Collections & Access

Megan is the head of Collections & Access at Sydney Living Museums. She has a particular interest in the working of the historical imagination, in teasing out the meanings of objects in museums collections and in crafting the stories that can be recovered/discovered through a close reading of those items of material culture.

Head and shoulders portrait of man standing holding old bottle and in front of shelf of bottles.

Edward Washington

Audience Development Officer – Learning

Edward is part of Sydney Living Museum’s education team, developing education programs, and training the members of staff who deliver them to thousands of students every year.