|Above: Although the remaining portion of his signature is only partially legible, Lieutenant William Murray Smith (sometimes styled Murray-Smith) of the Durban Mounted Rifles
identity is confirmed by his name being proudly displayed on the broadside announcing his placing first in the Clark Kennedy Challenge Cup held at Bisley during Queen Victoria's
Diamond Jubilee. I this photograph taken soon after his triumphant return to his native Natal, Smith posed next to his beautifully Victorian silver trophy cup and sports medal for
many of his other shooting victories on the right breast of his uniform tunic. On his left breast he wears the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. Smith also poses with his Martini-Henry
Rifle. Interestingly in the 1897 Colony of Natal Departmental Reports Smith states that during the competition at Bisley the Natal team switch from their old Martini-Henry rifles to
the newer Lee-Enfield rifle which resulted in the team achieving much better results, no doubt owing to the Enfield's higher velocity of much flatter trajectory.
Durban Natal, South Africa
As is often the case no single biographical source outlines Murray Smith’s entire life let alone military career but several period sources along with a bit of current genealogical
research helps to fill in the blanks.
Twentieth Century Impressions of Natal: Its People, Commerce, Industries and Resources (Lloyd’s Greater Britain Publishing Company, 1906) provided the previously mentioned
promotion dates as well as a brief summary of his service during the Anglo-Boer War. He took part in several local actions prior to getting cooped up in Ladysmith during the siege of
that town. He was also present at Lang’s Neck and saw further action in the Transvaal and Orange Free State. The four appropriate clasps for his Queen’s South Africa Medal are
confirmed in the Natal Mounted Rifles medal roll. Additionally the medal roll credits him with the clasp “South Africa 1901” although this clasp was later withdrawn when he qualified
(verified by the King’ South Africa medal roll) for the King’s medal with its two clasps: “South Africa – 1901” and “South Africa – 1902”.
Murray Smith commanded the Natal contingent that shot at the Coronation Bisley team completion of 1902. As the team was present in England during the Coronation of Edward VII,
Murray Smith petitioned on behalf of the colonials on his team for the 1907 Coronation Medal but was denied on account that the team was not specifically in England to attend the
coronation itself. Murray Smith's status as a marksman was summed up by Brigadier G. T. Hurst, DSO, OBE, VD, in his work History of the Natal Mounted Rifles when he stated
that Murray Smith was: "...probably the greatest rifle shot that Natal ever produced and he held his place for many years. It was mainly due to him that for a long period the Regiment
enjoyed a reputation for marksmanship."
Murray Smith would see further action during the Bambatha rebellion in 1907 and received a Mention in Despatches in the 25 June, 1907 edition of the London Gazette which reads in
full: “Major W. Murray Smith, Natal Mounted Rifles. Did magnificent service when in temporary command of the Helpmakaar Field Force and later at the head of his regiment in the
Mapumulo District.” Although I have not yet found the appropriate medal roll entry Murray Smith would have been qualified for the 1907 Natal Medal with the “1907” clasp.
Given his length of service with the Natal Mounted Rifles Murray Smith not surprisingly finds quite a number of mentions in Eric Goetzsche's "Rough but Ready" An Official History
of the Natal Mounted Rifles and its Antecedent and Associated Units 1954-1969. During the rebellion he establish a fort outside of Helpmakaar which bore his name - Fort Murray
Smith and for a time his command was bivouacked at the old mission station at Rorke's Drift. A summation of honors and awards in the book for actions during the Bambatha rebellion
states the Murray Smith was awarded the Colonial Meritorious Service Medal.
William Murray Smith would again see action in Africa during the Great War. Here again records are partial but the 12 December, 1916 edition of the London Gazette tells us by that
date he had recently been presented with the Volunteer Officer’s Decoration and had just been promoted Temporary Lieutenant- Colonel of the 8th South African Horse in German
East Africa. He also served with the Natal Mounted Rifles on German South-West Africa. The 1 February, 1918 edition of the Gazette lists Murray Smith as being created a
Companion of the Distinguished Order by the King. A final Gazette entry dated 22 August 1918 has Murray Smith being presented the Croix de Guerre by the French Government.
This award would have been one of those of an honorary nature presented by the French to allied officers for outstanding service during the war. Additionally (and again the records
are lacking) Murray Smith would have been entitled to the British War and Victory Medals and possibly the 1914-15 Star.
William Murray Smith apparently made a living as a farmer in Natal while not serving with the volunteers. He name appears listed as Auditor of the Durban and Coast Society of
Agriculture and Industry in the Natal Agriculture Journal, Volume 11, Issue 2 (July, 1908). He married Miss Gertrude Alexander and the couple had at least four children: Nana (b.
1896), Zoë Gertrude (b. 1901), Morelle Kathleen (b.1905) and Gordon (b. 1910).
Murray Smith traveled to England with his wife on board the Union Castle Line steamer RMS Saxon arriving at Southampton on 4 September, 1922. Although the ship’s manifest does
not list the reason for the trip it may well have been the result of Murray Smith seeking better medical treatment than which was available to him in South Africa because he passed
way not long after his arrival on 19 December, 1922 at Regent Palace Hotel, Piccadilly from the combined effects of anemia and a duodenal ulcer.