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Sir Keith Arthur Murdoch

(1885—1952) journalist and newspaper proprietor


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(12 August 1885–4 October 1952). A journalist and newspaper proprietor, Murdoch is chiefly of interest to military historians for his activities during the two world wars. When war broke out in 1914 he was working for the Sydney Sun and narrowly lost a ballot to C. E. W. Bean for the position of official Australian War Correspondent. He was commissioned in 1915 by the government to investigate mail services to the AIF at Gallipoli. While on the peninsula he fell in with British correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, who persuaded Murdoch to carry to British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith a letter from Ashmead-Bartlett highly critical of the conduct of the campaign. The military got wind of this affair and Murdoch was arrested in Marseilles and the letter removed. However en route to England he composed his own document, if anything even more critical of the higher administration of the operation. On arrival in England he met David Lloyd George, Andrew Bonar Law, Edward Carson and Asquith, who arranged to have his letter printed as a cabinet document. It assisted those who were endeavouring to have the campaign wound up and might have been a factor in the recall of General Ian Hamilton. In 1917 Murdoch became embroiled in controversy over the command of the Australian Corps. Together with Bean he campaigned for Lieutenant-General Brudenell White to replace Major-General Sir William Birdwood. When Lieutenant-General John Monash was given the job he then intrigued to have Monash removed to the largely administrative role of GOC and have White replace him. These cabals were bluntly run off by Birdwood and Monash and only had the effect of discrediting Murdoch. During the Second World War Murdoch, now the proprietor of the Melbourne Herald and other papers, was appointed by Menzies as Director-General of Information in June 1940. His hamfisted approach to the task of censorship earned him the hostility of his fellow proprietors and he resigned his post in December. For the remainder of the war he wrote articles on military strategy (always critical of the higher direction of the war) and on the need for the spiritual renewal of the country. As his articles became more extreme his influence waned. The election of John Curtin, whom he detested, and the sweeping Labor victory in 1943, virtually silenced him.

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Military History.


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