Rear Admiral Sir Brian Stewart Murray

Deputy Chief of Navy (1975 - 1978)

Brian Stewart 'Chick' Murray was born at Glen Huntly, Victoria on 26 December 1921 and was educated at Hampton High School, Melbourne. He entered the RAN as a special entry Cadet Midshipman on 18 March 1939 and within a few days of his appointment as a Seaman Branch Officer he was sent to England for training at the Royal Navy College Dartmouth.

Murray was promoted Midshipman in January 1940 and subsequently joined his first ship, the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra in February, serving in her until December 1940. During this period the cruiser undertook convoy escort duties in Australian waters and also conducted searches for German raiders in the Indian Ocean.

Midshipman Murray broke his left arm in late December 1940 and was on medical leave for three months before serving briefly in the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia during April-June 1941. During that time Australia operated mainly in Australian and New Zealand waters with the exception of a brief visit to Singapore. Murray then proceeded by troopship, to undertake further training courses in the United Kingdom during 1941-42 and was promoted to Acting Sub Lieutenant in September 1941. Murray joined the N Class destroyer HMAS Nepal in April 1942 and was promoted Sub Lieutenant in June of that year.

Nepal operated briefly in the Atlantic Ocean before deploying to the Indian Ocean to conduct convoy and fleet escort duties. She took part in the Allied invasion and capture of Vichy French controlled Madagascar in September 1942. In January 1943 Murray was promoted Lieutenant. During April-May 1944, Nepal screened US and British aircraft carriers when they conducted raids on the Japanese held ports of Sabang and Surabaya in the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia).

In September 1944 Lieutenant Murray transferred to HMAS Australia in which he served during the heavy fighting of the Philippines campaign at Leyte Gulf (October 1944) and Lingayen Gulf (January 1945), where the cruiser suffered significant damage and heavy casualties due to repeated kamikaze attacks.

Australia consequently returned to Sydney for immediate repairs and in May 1945 proceeded to Plymouth, England, via the Panama Canal and New York, for a major refit. Lieutenant Murray left Australia in November 1945 to undertake a Fighter Direction Officer course at HMS Goldcrest and then a navigation conversion course at HMS Dryad in late 1946.

On completion of his training Lieutenant Murray served on exchange with the British Pacific Fleet in the aircraft carriers Glory and Theseus. Murray then served as navigator in the sloop HMS Alacrity during the period November 1947 to June 1949, during which time the ship operated in Malayan waters during the early part of the Malayan Emergency. He then undertook the navigation ‘dagger’ course at HMS Dryad, before returning to Australia in late 1949 at which time he joined the Navigation School at HMAS Watson in Sydney.

Murray was promoted Lieutenant Commander in late 1950 and joined the aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney in April 1951, serving in Korean waters from October 1951 until January 1952, during which time the carrier conducted offensive air operations against a variety of North Korean targets. He was subsequently awarded a mention in dispatches for his services as the assistant navigator. In October 1952, Murray was posted to HMAS Lonsdale (Navy Office) for service in the Training and Staff Requirements Division. While serving there Brian Murray married Elizabeth Amy Malcolmson at Kew, Victoria in 1954. They later had three children.

In August 1954 Murray was appointed in command of the Bay Class (modified River Class) frigate HMAS Condamine. In her he conducted post-Armistice patrol duties in Korean waters during March-July 1955. Murray was promoted Commander in June 1955, remaining as Commanding Officer of Condamine until August 1955. He then posted to the Naval Air Station HMAS Albatross at Nowra as the Executive Officer.

In March 1957, Commander Murray joined the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne as the Executive Officer. During 1957/58 Melbourne undertook deployments to South East Asia, Japan, Hawaii and the South West Pacific. Commander Murray departed Melbourne in August 1958 and travelled to the United Kingdom to undertake the Naval Staff Course. On completion of this course he returned to Australia and was considered for the posts of Naval Attaché in Jakarta and Bangkok but not appointed. Instead he was posted, in May 1959, to the Department of Defence to be a member of the Services Integration Committee which commenced the long process which would eventually bring the three Services together as the Australian Defence Force. Murray was made an Acting Captain in November 1960 and confirmed in the rank the following June.

Captain Murray’s next appointment was as the Commanding Officer of the frigate HMAS Queenborough and Commander of the 1st Frigate Squadron in July 1961. He was also made an honorary Aide-de-camp to the Governor-General in 1962. Tragedy struck the Murray family in January 1962 when Elizabeth Murray died from Hodgkins Disease, at age 33, leaving Brian Murray with three young children to raise including the youngest, Catherine, who was only four months old. Due to his sea-going commitments the children were left in the immediate care of other family members and friends.

During his time in command, Queenborough operated in Australian waters but with regular annual deployments to South East Asia as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve. In January 1963 Queenborough was replaced as the lead vessel of the 1st Frigate Squadron by the new River Class frigate HMAS Parramatta, and Captain Murray assumed command of Parramatta until November 1963. In March 1963 HMA Ships Parramatta, Yarra and Anzac provided the naval escort for the royal yacht Britannia during the visit to Australia by Queen Elizabeth II. Later that year Parramatta took part in South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) exercises.

From November 1963 until December 1965 Captain Murray served at Navy Office in Canberra as the Director of Plans. During 1966 he undertook studies at the Imperial Defence College in London before taking command of the fleet oiler HMAS Supply in January 1967. During his time in command Supply operated in Australian and Southeast Asian waters. In 1968-69 Murray served in Japan as the Australian Services Attaché (Defence Attaché), and as the Australian Liaison Officer in the UN Command Liaison Group, before returning to Australia and taking command of the fast troop transport (former aircraft carrier) HMAS Sydney in April 1970. During his time in command of Sydney the ship undertook one voyage to Vietnam, in October-November 1970, when she took vehicles, stores and equipment to Vung Tau and returned to Australia with 450 men from the 8th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. He relinquished command of Sydney in February 1971.

He was briefly married to Susan Hill-Douglas but the relationship resulted in divorce. Murray was posted to the Department of Defence in early 1971 as the Director Joint Policy Staff with the rank of Commodore. In January 1974 he was appointed as the Naval Officer Commanding Victoria (NOCVIC) based at HMAS Lonsdale. During the period 1971-73 he was also an honorary Aide-de-camp to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1973, Brian Murray married Janette Paris who was a school teacher and former sister in the Order of the Sacre Coeur in Sydney, France and New York (1957-1967) and vice principal of Sancta Sophia College at Sydney University in 1966. Janette later taught at Fort Street Boys High School, in Tokyo teaching English, at Canberra Boys Grammar School, and was also a research assistant in the philosophy department at the Australian National University.

Murray was promoted Rear Admiral on 15 November 1975 and appointed as Deputy Chief of Naval Staff at Navy Office in Canberra. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in January 1978 for services to the RAN. Rear Admiral Murray retired from the Navy later that year and devoted his energies to his wine-making property Doonkuna, at Murrumbateman, near Canberra.

In late 1981 Rear Admiral Murray was selected as the next Governor of Victoria after being nominated by the then Liberal Victorian Premier Lindsay Thompson. He was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George in February 1982 and sworn in as the 22nd Governor of Victoria on 1 March 1982. Murray served three years as Governor before resigning on 3 October 1985. The Murrays then retired to their Doonkuna vineyard.

Sir Brian Murray was described by some as being reserved, almost shy, while others described him as tall, dashing and slow-talking but at the same time quick witted and charming. Most agreed he was a decent man of great kindness and with a strong sense of honour and dedication to his home state of Victoria.

Rear Admiral Sir Brian Murray died of cancer on 4 June 1991 at Doonkuna. He was accorded the honour of a state funeral by the State of Victoria, complete with full naval honours and a eulogy by his friend Admiral Sir Anthony Synnot who had joined the RAN with him in 1939. The funeral took place at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne before his remains were privately cremated at Springvale crematorium. He was survived by his three children from his first marriage and his third wife Janette, Lady Murray.