Ralph Murray

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Person.png Ralph Murray  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(broadcaster, spook)
Ralph murray.png
BornFrancis Ralph Hay Murray
Died1983-09-11 (Age 75)
Nationality United Kingdom
Alma materBrentwood School, Oxford/St Edmund Hall
Parents • Charles Murray
• Mabel Umfreville
Children • Ingram
• Nicholas
• Georgina and Simon
Spouse • Mauricette Vladimira Marie
• Reichsgräfin von Kuenburg

Sir Francis Ralph Hay Murray was a British journalist, radio broadcaster and diplomat[1] He was also once the head of the Information Research Department (IRD), a secret branch of the UK Foreign Office dedicated to pro-colonial and anti-communist propaganda during the Cold War.

Background and education

A great-great-great grandson of John Murray, 3rd Duke of Atholl, he was the son of the Revd Charles Murray, Rector of Kirby Knowle, Yorkshire, by his wife Mabel (née Umfreville). His great-grandfather was the Rt Revd Dr George Murray, Bishop of Rochester (who married Lady Sarah Hay-Drummond), while the actor Stephen Murray was his younger brother and both were proud members of Clan Murray. He was educated at Brentwood School and St Edmund Hall, Oxford. His father died in 1919 from the Spanish flu pandemic.


Murray was a talented linguist, he spoke many languages fluently including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Hungarian and some Russian. Before the Second World War he worked for the BBC as a journalist, having previously worked for a Bristol newspaper.[2] In 1935 he reported the Saarland Plebiscite – and succeeded in broadcasting live during the 9 o'clock news holding a microphone out of the window to capture the chants of the mob – a major technical feat, and possibly the first time an international live outside broadcast had been undertaken.

In common with many on the periphery of Special Operations Executive (SOE), knowledge of his wartime service is hazy. He was most closely associated with propaganda, and from 1941 was a member of the Underground Propaganda Committee (UPC) which had been formed to fuel a whispering campaign to undermine any invasion.[3] He was also associated with Bletchley Park, and was involved in supporting resistance activity, notably, from 1943, of the Yugoslavian Partisans where he met Josip Broz Tito. His wife Mauricette was involved in propaganda broadcasting to occupied Europe, notably to Sweden where she had spent several years as a child.

In 1949 he became the director of the Information Research Department (IRD), This organisation, which had close links with SIS/MI6, was formed by Attlee in 1947 to carry on the work of the wartime "Political Warfare Executive", itself closely affiliated with SOE. At that time the intention was to promote a socialist Britain as an international third way, although in practice its resources were mainly devoted to attacking Communism and the Soviet Union. During this time Murray coined the phrase "Communo-fascism" to emphasise the similarity between Soviet communism and the Nazis.[4]

In a pattern that was later to be repeated, Murray was appointed Minister at the British Embassy in Cairo in Egypt during the tense run up to the Suez crisis in 1956. Personally fond of, and having some admiration for, President Nasser, he found himself in the invidious situation of having considerable distaste for the policy he was required to implement.

Murray was knighted in 1962, when he was appointed British Ambassador to Greece. He held this post until 1967 and the right wing coup of the Greek Army Colonels which led to the formation of the Greek military junta of 1967-1974. He appears to have been frustrated with the passivity of the British government's actions both in the lead up to the coup of which there was some intelligence foreknowledge,[5] and its ineffectual response. In particular he had little regard for George Brown, the then Foreign Secretary.

He retired from HM diplomatic service in 1967, when he was appointed a BBC governor.


In 1935, he married Mauricette Vladimira Marie Reichsgräfin von Kuenburg, an Austrian aristocrat, the only child of Count Berhard von Kuenburg. They had four children; Ingram, Nicholas, Georgina and Simon. The comedian, TV personality and parliamentary candidate, Al Murray, is his grandson.

Sir Ralph died in 1983.


  1. Document:UK_Intelligence_And_Security_Report,_2003
  2. Crook, Tim, International radio journalism: History, Theory and Practice
  3. http://www.psywar.org/sibs.php
  4. PRO/FO 1110/191 PR704/14/G Murray to Warner 5 August 1940 Warner note 7
  5. http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/hellenicObservatory/pdf/2nd_Symposium/Konstantina_Maragkou_paper.pdf