Murchison memorial tribute for Private James Harper

By Ashlea Witoslawski

The memory of Private James Harper will remain a permanent part of Murchison history with the installation of a memorial rock on River Rd.

The monument was unveiled yesterday to a large crowd of community members, including family from across Australia who had travelled to mark this historic occasion.

Pte Harper was born in Murchison on June 27, 1895.

After news of the Gallipoli campaign became known in Australia, he decided to join the army himself on July 24, 1915, at 20 years of age.

A photo of Private James "Jim" Harper.

After completing training, Pte Harper joined up with the Australian Armed forces in Egypt.

Known as ‘‘Jim’’ or ‘‘Jimmy’’ to others, he travelled from Egypt to Marseille, France and onto Etaples on the western front where his fighting experience began.

After several more battles and periods of leave, Pte Harper joined his battalion for the last time on the front line at Merris, France on March 21, 1918.

There he joined Murchison neighbour and old schoolmate Private Alexander Anderson.

On July 10, Pte Harper was shot in the chest by an explosive bullet through his left lung and through his back.

According to Pte Anderson’s diary entries, he was a stretcher bearer and carried his wounded friend to the dressing station.

Pte Harper died about two hours later.

The new memorial in place of the pine tree in Murchison.

When Pte Anderson returned to Murchison, he planted a pine tree in memory of Jim in 1918.

For the past 20 years, Pte Harper’s nephew Andrew Crawford — and closest living relative — has paid special care and attention to the site, keeping the area clean and free from weeds.

After the unfortunate death of the tree due to suspected lack of water and old age, Mr Crawford decided to create a memorial that would last, with the implementation of a limestone rock next to the tree’s original location.

Guests heard from historian John Gribben, City of Greater Shepparton deputy mayor Shelley Sutton and Pte Alexander Anderson’s grandson John Anderson as well as Mr Crawford.

Murchison RSL also laid a wreath.

Mr Crawford was delighted with the number of people who turned out for the occasion and was thankful to all who helped uncover information and organised the site.

A large crowd gathered for the unveiling of the new memorial yesterday.