Private John Bede Murray was Maitland’s only soldier killed in action along the Kokoda Track on October 23, 1942.
He lived in Bourke Street, Maitland, with his wife Dorothy and he was a linotype operator at the Maitland Mercury at the time of enlistment.
Private Murray’s death was deemed accidental after a two inch mortar bomb exploded prematurely. He was 31.
He was originally buried at Eora Creek village and later his body was exhumed and reburied in Port Moresby War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea.
Private Murray had previously served with the 2/1st Infantry Battalion in the Middle East fighting the Germans and their allies.
He was remembered for his wartime service in the 100th anniversary edition of the Maitland Mercury on January 7, 1943, at the height of World War II.
A photograph of the Mercury staff at that time was a feature of the special edition.
A list of names in a box below the picture honoured the men and women of the Mercury who were on active service.
It named: “Murray JB, AIF, killed in action, New Guinea.”
The list also included Woodlands RH, AIF; Wilcher, F AIF; Moss KG, AIF; Redding C, AIF; Sayce JC, RAAF; Moore EJ, RAAF; Field CV, RAAF; Collard Z, AWAS; Powell V, AMF; Gibson IW, AMF; Stephens WJ, AMF; Yule G, AMF.
Most of the Mercury’s news pages on that date were devoted to wartime reports.
Under the heading Tribute to Unsung Heroes of New Guinea, Mercury journalist and AC1 CV Field, wrote a letter from a battle station in New Guinea.
“Here, somehow fortitude and cheerfulness are taken for granted,” Field wrote.
“I’ve watched many a plane load of wounded being transported to waiting ambulances and I’ve never heard a whimper from any of those lads back from the front line, though some were in obvious agony.
“Nerves are taught under the strain and sometimes when bombs are blasting huge craters in the earth less than a stone’s throw from the shelter trench or the ‘kite’ one is guarding, they snap suddenly, but there’s no disgrace in that.
“You could count on the fingers of one hand the cases of temporary hysteria or nervous collapse which have occurred up here and in every instance lack of proper sleep had helped to wear down resistance and bring about an attack of the jitters.
“I have not heard of one case of cowardice, or of dereliction of duty during a raid, and I don’t think I’m ever likely to either.
“There’s lots of growling – at the food, at the climate, at the blasted mosquitoes and myriad other wogs and creepy crawly things which flit and flutter and squirm all over you – but the spirit of the men, morale, as it is termed, is the things that counts and the spirit is 100 per cent OK.
“Most inspiring feature of New Guinea is the camaraderie which has sprung up between all members of the fighting forces.”
❏ Pick up a copy of today's Maitland Mercury for a souvenir four-page wraparound full of interesting stories about our Diggers on the Kokoda Trail.