Rock solid sol­dier trib­ute

LIME­STONE ROCK UN­VEILED IN MURCHI­SON TO RE­PLACE FOR­MER ME­MO­RIAL FOR WWI PRI­VATE JAMES HARPER

Shepparton News - - NEWS - 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.

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.

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.

Pic­tures: Rod­ney Braith­waite

Keep­ing mem­ory alive: Pri­vate James Harper’s nephew An­drew Craw­ford of Mooroopna and niece Mar­garet Id­dles of Rochester.

Ever-last­ing: The new me­mo­rial in place of the pine tree in Murchi­son.

Killed in ac­tion: A photo of Pri­vate James ‘‘Jim’’ Harper.

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

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