Above: Although the remaining portion of his signature is only partially legible, Lieutenant William Murray Smith (sometimes styled Murray-Smith) of the Natal Mounted Rifles identity is confirmed by his name is 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 round's higher velocity and much flatter trajectory.
Durban Natal, South Africa
Although water damaged with a portion of the mount missing enough of the sitter’s signature remains on the lower portion of this cabinet photograph to identify him as Lieutenant William Murray Smith of the Natal Mounted Rifles. A noted rifle shot, the photograph was taken upon his return to South Africa after placing first in the Clark Kennedy Challenge Cup in England in 1898. He had arrived in England in June of 1897 in command of the detachment representing the Natal Mounted Rifles at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. During this same visit to England Murray Smith would receive the first of the many official recognition when he was presented with the 1897 Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
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 a summary of his service during the Anglo-Boer War. He took part in several local actions before getting cooped up in Ladysmith during the siege of that town. He was also present at Laing’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's 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 “1906” clasp.
Given his length of service with the Natal Mounted Rifles Murray Smith not surprisingly finds quite a several 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 Service 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 made a living as a farmer in Natal while not serving with the volunteers. His 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 medical treatment for anemia and a duodenal ulcer which were listed as the cause of his death not long after he arrived in Britain on 19 December 1922 at Regent Palace Hotel, Piccadilly. He was buried at Woking, Surrey.