Remembering Eddie Murray, Churchill’s Bodyguard 1950-65

Remembering Eddie Murray, Churchill’s Bodyguard 1950-65

Reprint­ed from “Great Con­tem­po­raries: Edmund Mur­ray,” writ­ten for the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project. For the orig­i­nal arti­cle with oth­er images, click here. To sub­scribe to week­ly arti­cles from Hills­dale-Churchill, click here, scroll to bot­tom, and enter your email in the box “Stay in touch with us.” We nev­er spam you and your iden­ti­ty remains a rid­dle wrapped in a mys­tery inside an enigma.


Steve Win­duss, whose Bat­ting the Breeze pod­cast refers to Hills­dale College’s piece on Churchill’s meet­ings with Mar­garet Thatch­er, prompts this reflec­tion on Sir Winston’s longest-serv­ing body­guard. Edmund Mur­ray served Churchill for fif­teen years. Steve inter­viewed Eddie’s son in a three-part pod­cast. “I became very attached to Edmund and his unique and colour­ful life dur­ing that peri­od,” Steve writes. “I would have cer­tain­ly enjoyed meet­ing him as you did.” In the belief that oth­ers might like to know more about Sergeant Mur­ray, I reprise what I wrote after his death in 1996. —RML

“Who is there to talk of?”

Edmund Mur­ray, Sir Win­ston Churchill’s body­guard from 1950 to 1965, was born the same year as John F. Kennedy, and under­went sim­i­lar hair-rais­ing adven­tures in the same war. He died on the eve of his eight­i­eth birth­day and the gold­en anniver­sary of his mar­riage to Beryl, the charm­ing Swiss lady who shared his life after 1947.

Born in Coun­ty Durham, Mur­ray joined the French For­eign Legion soon after leav­ing school. After the war he joined the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Police. In 1950 he was sec­ond­ed to Chartwell for pro­tec­tion duties with the Leader of the Opposition.

He record­ed his life as a Legion­naire and with Churchill in his 1987 book, I Was Churchill’s Body­guard. This was expand­ed in a series of 1995 tap­ings for the Impe­r­i­al War Muse­um. Eddie remained in his try­ing job to the end. I will nev­er for­get the words he uttered when Sir Win­ston died: “Who is there to talk of?”

The Murray presence

Sir Win­ston leav­ing the Hotel de Paris, Monte Car­lo, 9 Feb­ru­ary 1960, accom­pa­nied by Aris­to­tle Onas­sis (right) who flew with him to Lon­don. On WSC’s right is Edmund Mur­ray; behind them in light coat is Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne. (Hills­dale Col­lege Press)

I met Edmund Mur­ray on our first Churchill Tour in 1983, when he heard we were stop­ping at Bath and joined us for lunch. At first he struck me as T.E. Lawrence had struck Churchill: “A very remark­able char­ac­ter, and very care­ful of that fact.” Eddie was not inclined to hide his light under a bushel, and what he most loved to talk about was Sir Win­ston. His droll sto­ries were the life of every Churchillian party.

Over the years, I observed a cer­tain mel­low­ing in his man­ner. He cer­tain­ly grew more piquant. He once quot­ed Labour Prime Min­is­ter Harold Wil­son’s ref­er­ence to “Sir Winston’s detec­tive, now dead.”

“By my pres­ence here,” Eddie remarked, “I offer you unde­ni­able proof that no one can trust the pro­nounce­ments of politicians.”

Over the next few years his talks became more pol­ished, more round­ed and reflec­tive. Per­haps his many appear­ances, often before youngsters—whose com­pa­ny he loved—allowed him to sit back and take a longer look at the expe­ri­ences life had so unique­ly placed in his way.


Edmund Mur­ray, thir­ty-three, met Win­ston Churchill, sev­en­ty-five, in 1950. From that day to the end he was ubiq­ui­tous, and rarely from WSC’s side. Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne, who served as pri­vate sec­re­tary from 1952, was like­wise omnipresent:

Sergeant Mur­ray found him­self con­cerned with aspects of his charge which were not real­ly part of his func­tions. Par­tic­u­lar­ly after Churchill’s res­ig­na­tion as prime min­is­ter, there was no longer a large back-up staff. Eddie was effec­tive in mat­ters such as pass­ports at air­ports, access and exits at meet­ings, and gen­er­al­ly mak­ing Churchill’s every­day life smoother.

Mur­ray anec­dotes were fun. Once at Shan­non Air­port, he told me, Churchill’s plane stopped to refu­el en route to Amer­i­ca. Eddie strode to the duty-free shop to buy a case of Jameson’s for his Secret Ser­vice pals in Wash­ing­ton. “What name shall I put on the box?” said the clerk. “Mur­ray,” Eddie told him.

Arriv­ing back to pick it up, the clerk was in full Irish brogue: “So what’s a man with the name of Mur­ray doing work­ing for an old b—— like Churchill?”

Eddie relat­ed this to WSC, who roared with laugh­ter. Lady Churchill was not amused. “He was wrong, Win­ston, he was quite wrong. You do know who your father was!”

Mur­ray also liked to recall the some­what try­ing job of keep­ing admir­ers away from a boss who did not like being dis­turbed. This often occurred at Monte Car­lo, which Churchill loved for its cui­sine and casino.

One evening at din­ner a world-famous celebri­ty spot­ted WSC: “I want to say hel­lo to my hero, Sir Win­ston.” The boss didn’t rec­og­nize him and sig­naled to Eddie, who polite­ly ush­ered a fum­ing Frank Sina­tra to the door. “Did you know who Frank’s friends were?” I once asked him….

Painter and pursuers

“I remem­ber him being in charge of Churchill’s paint­ing arrange­ments,” con­tin­ued Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne. “Sergeant Mur­ray him­self paint­ed, as he describes in his book, and was well attuned to Churchill’s idio­syn­crasies in this field. He was par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful in the increas­ing peri­ods that Churchill spent in the South of France in his retire­ment. His flu­ent French ensured smooth liai­son with the local police.”

Some­times his French was over-flu­ent, tip­ping the paparazzi on Churchill’s intend­ed paint­ing expe­di­tions. This kept them eas­i­er to con­trol dur­ing more seri­ous moments when the boss was meet­ing with the “Good and the Great”—and inci­den­tal­ly kept Eddie sup­plied with champagne.

Once the press gag­gle grew to such pro­por­tions that Antho­ny sus­pect­ed a “mole” in the staff. One at a time, he announced to each staffer a fic­ti­tious time and venue for the next day’s paint­ing expe­di­tion, then checked the spot for media. Sure enough, the trick led him to Sergeant Mur­ray, whose cham­pagne quo­ta was com­men­su­rate­ly reduced.

Long­time sec­re­tary Grace Ham­blin had a stern sense of loy­al­ty and was incensed when she learned of Eddie’s trans­gres­sion. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the boss was not both­ered at all. Grace her­self told me that when she voiced dis­ap­proval, Sir Win­ston just snort­ed: “Well, you don’t like anyone.”

“A real affection”

Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne was equal­ly mag­nan­i­mous. “To be a body­guard must be a soul-destroy­ing occu­pa­tion, wait­ing about for hours and hours with very lit­tle to do, but bear­ing a real respon­si­bil­i­ty for the well-being of the per­son­al­i­ty in one’s charge….

“It was all too easy to suc­cumb to irri­ta­tion with Sergeant Mur­ray at times, but his devo­tion to Churchill was gen­uine, and I have no doubt that if dan­ger had threat­ened he would have stood before him.”

He cer­tain­ly made the great man’s life eas­i­er, Antho­ny added:

The Boss, I think, had a real affec­tion for him. It was Churchill’s inevitable reac­tion to stand up for any mem­ber of his entourage who was under attack. As Lady Churchill once said (look­ing at me rather point­ed­ly): “Win­ston is always ready to be accom­pa­nied by those with con­sid­er­able imperfections.”

Old Victory’s pride

Leav­ing for his last vis­it to the House of Com­mons, July 1964, with daugh­ter Mary, Sgt. Mur­ray and son-in-law Christo­pher Soames. (Mary Soames photo)

I do know this, and I know it as a cer­ti­tude: One of Eddie’s last speech­es was one of the finest ever made about Sir Win­ston Churchill. It ranks with those of Alis­tair Cooke, Mar­tin Gilbert, Bill Buck­ley and Robert Hardy. Here is how he wound it up:

I escort­ed Sir Win­ston on his last vis­it to the House of Com­mons on Mon­day, 27 July 1964. He had been six­ty-four years in politics.

On Sat­ur­day, 9 Jan­u­ary 1965, he was very qui­et at din­ner and want­ed nei­ther brandy nor a cig­ar. Only in the ear­ly hours was he per­suad­ed to go to his bed. He nev­er got out of it again.

That man had brought Britain through the great­est strug­gle in its his­to­ry. Though he did admit to me on sev­er­al occa­sions that God had been on his side, his was the voice, the spir­it, the courage, the deter­mi­na­tion. So, from a bal­cony in White­hall on 8 May 1945, the descen­dant of the First Duke of Marl­bor­ough pro­claimed: “God bless you all. This is your vic­to­ry. Every­one, man or woman, has done their best.”

Ladies and gen­tle­men, the Churchill I knew was the epit­o­me of all that was ever good and fine in our island race and he was always proud of his Amer­i­can her­itage. Yes, he made mis­takes, but then only those who do noth­ing do not. Always his aim was to make Britain great, and to join all Euro­pean coun­tries in peace and freedom.

We all have a job to do and indeed the tools to do it are in our hands. Vivre a jamais dans l’esprit des gens, n’est-ce pas l’immortalite? There is the her­itage he left us, our rai­son d’etre. May we all be wor­thy of his trust.

Related reading

“At Bladon, Fifty-nine Years On: Echoes and Mem­o­ries,” 2024.

“Win­ston Churchill on War, Part 3: Antho­ny Mon­tague Browne,” 2022.

“The Churchill Tours 1983-2008: A Cer­tain Splen­did Mem­o­ry,” 2024.

“Grace Ham­blin, Total Churchillian,” 2015.

“Chartwell and Churchill, 1955,” 2016.

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