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Murray in Italy [AWM MEA1382]
- A Eulogy delivered by his granddaughter Narelle.
There are five children in Pa’s family. They’re all here today, and most of their children as well. Like you, they’ve come to pay their last respects to a father, a grandfather, a friend, an acquaintance. If Pa were looking down on this little gathering, he’d probably be slightly uncomfortable. Uncomfortable, because he wouldn’t have wanted to have put you all to the trouble. Pa was like that.
“Don’t worry about me,” he would have said.
Percy Murray Nash. What were my great grandparents thinking when they gave him that name? He hated the name Percy, which is why, to those who knew him, he was known by his second name, Murray.
Murray Nash was born in North Melbourne on the 21st of October 1919, the son of a mechanical engineer. He initially attended Elsternwick State School. During this time, the family moved to Harwood Street, Elwood and he then attended Elwood Primary School. His mother had high hopes for her son and she thought that an academic career would be more appropriate, and she somehow managed to have Pa installed at Melbourne Grammar. Although he attended Melbourne Grammar for two years, he never settled in there. His father, realising that this was not the place for his son, removed him from this school and enrolled him at Melbourne Technical College where he excelled for the next two years. This is where he should have been from the beginning as he was very capable when working with his hands. His education complete, Pa went to work for his father at his Engineering business where he joined his older brother Alan.
The family next moved to Rothesay Avenue, Brighton, where he spent the remainder of his youth. In Brighton, Port Phillip Bay was Pa’s playground and he grew up with a love for boats and became an accomplished yachtsman in his teenage years. He never lost his love of yachting and his children remember many of their holidays and weekends were spent at Paynesville where Pa and his friend Dick Powell would eagerly race their catamaran the “Merry Widow” in the Raymond island yacht race. They were both very accomplished yachtsman and builders. He taught the three older boys to sail also.
By this time the sounds of war were growing ever louder in Europe, and Pa decided to join the RAAF. Just after the outbreak of WW2, he commenced his military training as a pilot in the Empire Air Training Scheme, No.2 course, at Point Cook in 1940 as a Non-Commissioned Officer. His initial posting was to Somers Camp near Flinders, where the ground course was completed.
The initial training aircraft at this time was the venerable DH82 Tiger Moth, and he learnt to fly this aircraft whilst operating out of Essendon Airport. Progression was then made on to the twin-engined Avro Anson operating out of Point Cook.
He completed an Instructor's Course at Central Flying School, Camden NSW in 1941, and was subsequently posted to Wagga as an Intermediate Instructor, initially on Avro Trainer aircraft. He was the first Instructor to land an aircraft at nearby Uranquinty, even before the base had been completed. He later instructed on Wirraways and was subsequently promoted from the rank of Flight Sergeant to Warrant Officer during his time at the Uranquinty base. He completed his officer training at No.2 Officer Training Unit at Mildura before being granted a commission in October 1942. He was then offered a position with 3 Squadron by the C.O. of Uranquinty, Stewart Middlemiss, who later became General Manager of Airlines of NSW, a company which, co-incidentally, my Dad later worked for in the 1980s, together with Stuart Middlemiss’s son.
In early 1943 he joined Flight Lieutenants Brian Eaton and Ron Susans in their postings to 3 Squadron; both of these men would later rise to the rank of Air Vice Marshall in the RAAF after the war.
After his posting to 3 Squadron, he left for North Africa where he operated P40 Kittyhawk aircraft as part of the Desert Air Force and quickly advanced through the ranks to Flight Lieutenant.
From North Africa, 3 Squadron moved to Malta, and he saw action in the Sicilian Campaign from start to finish, operating P40 aircraft.
3 Squadron were the first Allied aircraft to land in Italy, operating at a base near Taranto in the far south of that country. From here they hopped from base to base in Italy as they gradually made their way north towards the Austrian border, and it was at this time that the squadron was re-equipped with P51 Mustang aircraft. Pa was promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader of 3 Squadron at this time, and the squadron codes of his P51 aircraft were CV-P, which he retained on most of the aircraft throughout the period he operated this type. His squadron codes and aircraft markings have become the subject of many an aircraft modeller today, and there is even a restored Mustang in Tyabb painted in the exact markings of Pa’s aircraft.
Detail from the artwork "Southern Cross Over Italy" by Steve Heyen, Murray Nash's CV-P leads the 3 Squadron formation.
During this period as a fighter pilot he was chosen to attend a special Fighter Leader Course at Tangmere in the UK where his report by the Commandant of Central Fighter Establishment indicated, among other things, that he would make a sound Wing Leader. At the end of this course he had an opportunity to fly a captured German Me109 aircraft and the new Gloster Meteor jet. Only the weather at the time prevented him from flying the Meteor, but he logged about 30 minutes in the Me109, something that only a handful of allied airmen had ever had an opportunity to do. He had left the UK and returned to 3 Squadron for the third time, leading the Squadron in the Italian Campaign up until the end of the war in May 1945.
Pa was three times decorated, once personally by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross. His ribbons included the 1939-45 star, the Africa Star and Rosette.
At war's end he returned to Australia where he worked in his father’s engineering business once again, with his brother Alan.
Pa was married in 1947 to my late grandmother Margaret Ford, whose mother and father owned a small dairy farm at Mirboo, in South Gippsland. They lived in Melbourne for the next few years, and when the first of five children was born their lives began to change (in more ways then one!). Pa and his brother became restless and longed to strike out on their own. It wasn’t long before they pooled their resources and with the help of a Soldier Settlement loan and with the encouragement of my grandmother’s father, together with their wives and eldest son as a noisy one year old, bought a farm of some 300 acres in the hilly country of South Gippsland. This was second-generation pioneer country and conditions were pretty tough to begin with. Pa and Nanny lived initially in the family home of Nanny’s parents on a small dairy farm only a few miles away from the new property, whilst his brother Alan and his wife lived in a single room shack which was already established on the new property. Pa’s brother once commented that this shack had so many gaps in the walls that when the wind blew, he had to open the window to let it out again!
Pa and his brother had soon built a machinery shed, which, from the moment it was finished, became Pa and Nanny’s new home. Things were pretty basic, but their children didn’t realise this; to them it was just home. My Dad’s first bed – a sawn-off tree branch nailed between two walls, some chicken wire and a horse hair mattress. They had to light a wood-heater to get hot water and they all shared the same bath water. Pa and Nanny, along with Alan and his wife, worked hard to make a go of it. Alan decided that the two-room shack was no longer tolerable, so he commenced building a modern, much larger, house on the block which hadn’t been completed before he and his wife decided to break away from the partnership and buy their own farm at nearby Leongatha. As a four year old, my Dad thinks he probably had something to do with that; always under his Uncle’s feet asking incessant questions. Pa and Nanny continued to manage their farm alone when disaster struck. The machinery shed-come-home caught fire and was partly burnt down before some council workers in a truck nearby who were spraying blackberries put the fire out. Things were patched up again and they continued to live in the machinery shed whilst Pa completed the house his brother had started. The day they moved in they all thought they were in heaven.
Pa and Nanny lived on this farm and raised five children and looked after my great-grandmother as well. They may not have had everything they wanted but most certainly they had everything they needed. As children they didn’t know the difference anyway; to them they were no different to anyone else. Disaster struck for the second time when their home burnt to the ground in 1973 and everything was lost. The family then stayed in a vacant house on a neighbouring property until finally moving to my great grandparents' property which Pa and Nanny had inherited upon the death of Nanny’s mother. This property was only a few miles from the original farm and Pa continued to work both properties. Eventually however, this became too much for him and it was sold. They continued to live on the second property, but this too was eventually sold, except for the house block and a small acreage next to it which was retained, and is still in the family to this day.
Pa and Nanny made their final move to a retirement village in Baxter, where they remained until the end of their lives.
There were a few events in Pa’s life which we suspect changed him. The war was one of them. He never talked much about his wartime experiences, except if specifically asked. But like many others in the armed services, we suspect he saw things and did things that no man should be asked to see or do. At war’s end, they were then expected to settle back into civilian life like nothing had happened. Sometimes, this was an impossible task. Pa managed it, but it would not have been easy for him, or for others like him.
Pa has five children, 12 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Albert Einstein once said,
“Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.”
Pa’s family will be forever grateful for the sacrifices he made for them.
Squadron Leader Murray Nash (retired) congratulates his grandson, Officer Cadet Derek Nash.
Also with Officer Cadet Nash is his father Bruce and mother Wendy.
(From Air Force News, Sept. 2003)
3 Squadron LIFETIMES
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