About Archibald James Murray
General Sir Archibald James Murray, GCB, GCMG, CVO, DSO (23 April 1860 – 21 January 1945) was a British Army officer who served in the Second Boer War and World War I. He was briefly Chief of the Imperial General Staff from September to December 1915 and was then Commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from January 1916 to June 1917. In the latter role he laid the plans for the ultimate defeat of the Turks in Palestine.
Born the son of Charles Murray and Anne Murray (née Graves) and educated at Cheltenham College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Archibald Murray was commissioned into the 27th Regiment on 13 August 1879. He was appointed adjutant of his regiment on 12 February 1886. After promotion to captain on 1 July 1887 and taking part in the suppression of a Zulu uprising in 1888, he became adjutant of the 4th Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment on 15 December 1890. He attended Staff College, Camberley in 1897.
Promoted to major on 1 June 1898, Murray served in the Second Boer War as Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General for Intelligence in Natal from 9 October 1899 and then as chief of staff to the commander there. He took part in the withdrawal from Dundee and then the siege of Ladysmith in late 1899 and became senior staff officer to Sir Archibald Hunter, General Officer Commanding 10th Division, early in 1900. He was appointed Assistant Adjutant-General on 6 March 1900, promoted to lieutenant colonel on 29 October 1900 and awarded the DSO on 29 November 1900. He was again mentioned in despatches in February 1901.
After being appointed Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in India in October 1901, he was deployed to Northern Transvaal in February 1902 where he was seriously wounded in April 1902 and mentioned in despatches once more in July 1902. After returning to England he became Assistant Adjutant-General at Headquarters 1st Division at Aldershot on 3 November 1902. Promoted to colonel on 29 October 1903, he was appointed CB in the King's Birthday Honours 1904 and CVO on 12 June 1907.
Murray became Director of Military Training at the War Office on 9 November 1907 and, having been promoted to major-general on 13 July 1910, he was advanced to KCB in the Coronation Honours in June 1911. He also took part in the procession for the coronation of King George V on 22 June 1911. He became Inspector of Infantry on 9 December 1912 and then briefly commanded 2nd Division from 1 February 1914.
When the First World War started in July 1914 he became Chief of Staff to Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. Murray was given the position largely because the initial choice for the post, Sir Henry Wilson, became undesirable for political reasons. He and French did not work well together, and Murray was ultimately relieved of his appointment on 25 January 1915.
He was made Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 10 February 1915 and, having been appointed KCMG on 18 February 1915, he became Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 26 September 1915. He was promoted to lieutenant general on 28 October 1915. However Herbert Asquith, the prime minister, was unable to achieve any consensus within his cabinet on strategy and sought a change, forcing Murray out on 23 December 1915 and instead appointing Sir William Robertson, a strong advocate of the single (Western) front strategy.
Revolt in the Desert
In January 1916, he was given command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Trying to prevent another Turkish attack against the Suez Canal, Murray reorganized his troops and led a counterattack, which captured most of the Sinai Peninsula, but was thwarted in Palestine. Murray was advanced to GCMG on 20 January 1917.
It was Murray who authorized T. E. Lawrence's expedition to join the Arab Revolt against the Turks in Arabia, providing monetary and limited military support for Lawrence's attack on Aqaba: initially skeptical of the Revolt's potential, Murray became an ardent supporter of it later in his tenure in Cairo, largely through Lawrence's persuasion.
In March 1917 at the First Battle of Gaza a British force under Murray's command comprising 52nd (Lowland) Division reinforced by an infantry brigade from Eastern Force attacked Gaza. While the Imperial Mounted Division held off the Turkish reinforcements, the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division (Anzac Mounted Division) reinforced the infantry attack and together, they succeeded in entering Gaza from the north and capturing the adjoining hill of Ali Muntar. However the determination of the Turkish defenders and the threat from large Turkish reinforcements approaching from the north and north east ultimately led to decision to withdraw.
At the Second Battle of Gaza in April 1917 Murray assembled a larger force comprising the 52nd (Lowland) Division, 53rd (Welsh) Division, the 54th (East Anglian) Division and the recently formed 74th (Yeomanry) Division which was made up of brigades of dismounted yeomanry serving as infantry. However the six British tanks, the British heavy guns and naval gunfire from the French coastal defence ship Requin and two British monitors (M21 and M31) did little damage and only served to warn the Turks of the imminent British attack which faltered at all points. Again Murray decided to withdraw.
Despite laying the plans for the ultimate defeat of the Turks, Murray was relieved of command and replaced by Edmund Allenby on 29 June 1917. Murray was mentioned in despatches again on 3 November 1917.
Murray was reassigned, becoming General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Aldershot Command in October 1917 and having been promoted to full general on 25 August 1919, remained in post until 15 November 1919. After retiring from the British Army on 15 November 1922, he was advanced to GCB in the New Year Honours 1928.
He was also colonel of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers from 22 August 1911.
Murray died at his home "Makepeace" at Reigate in Surrey on 21 January 1945.
In 1890 he married Caroline Helen Sweet; they had one son. Following the death of his first wife he married Mildred Georgina Dooner in 1912.