Private Wilfred Lancelot McMurray, No. 10/742, Wellington Infantry Battalion, killed in action, 8 May 1915.

Private Wilfred Lancelot McMurray is one of 18,058 New Zealanders who died as a result of First World War service and are listed on the Roll of Honour. 

Born in Auckland in 1895 to parents Henry and Matilda, McMurray was working in New Plymouth as a dentist when war broke out in August 1914. A week later he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Almost six feet tall, with dark hair and brown eyes, McMurray was then only 19 years old – too young to serve. Not willing to let this stand in his way, he altered his date of birth by a year and signed up.

McMurray left New Zealand with the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in October 1914. Their destination was initially unknown but following the November entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war they were sent to Egypt. They arrived in December and remained in Egypt until April 1915, when preparations began for the invasion of Gallipoli. McMurray landed at Anzac Cove with the New Zealand infantry.

During fighting in late April, McMurray’s tent mate Private Frank Shirley lay wounded in an abandoned dug-out. In a letter home to his mother, Shirley related how McMurray saved his life: ‘all through that long day while I was lying there and could not get out for the rain of bullets, he kept asking how I was feeling and giving me water. When night came he crawled over to me, and half carried and dragged me over a hill to safety.’ [1] McMurray had earlier in the day carried out another wounded man before returning to the front line.

On 5 May the New Zealand Infantry Brigade was sent by sea to Cape Helles, the southern point of the Gallipoli Peninsula, where British troops had established a beachhead on 25 April. On 8 May the New Zealanders were thrown into the Second Battle of Krithia. At the end of the day’s fighting, McMurray was reported missing. His body was never found and he was declared ‘believed to be dead’ by a board of enquiry in January 1916. He was one of approximately 170 New Zealanders killed that day in futile attacks across the Daisy Patch. McMurray is commemorated on the Twelve Tree Copse New Zealand Memorial in Helles, Turkey and on the Auckland Grammar School war memorial.

Further information

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record

'Bearing the wounded' (WW100)

'Deeds of heroism', Taranaki Daily News, 13 Oct 1915, p. 6 (Papers Past)

Auckland Grammar School war memorial

[1] ‘Deeds of Heroism’, Taranaki Daily News, 13 October 1915, p. 6.

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