The Salvation Army has a rich and varied history which is preserved at the Heritage and Archives Centre (Plowman Research Centre). This edition looks back 50 years to the life and legacy of Captain (Dr) Murray Stanton.
Captain Shirley Millar’s tragic death in Ahmednagar, India, was sadly not the first unexpected passing of a New Zealand Salvation Army officer in the area that year. Captain (Dr) Murray Stanton was promoted to Glory (passed away) on Saturday 13 May 1972, in Pune, India, seven months before Shirley Millar.
Murray’s life and service in India issued from a heart for mission and a dedication to those in need. He served as chief medical officer at the Evangeline Booth Hospital, in Ahmednagar, India, from August of 1971. He was held in great esteem and affection by those he encountered. He was said to have treated 3000 patients in his first three months of service; a reflection of his work ethic and kindness towards those who came to the hospital for treatment.
Murray was born into a Salvation Army family, and was converted at the age of nine, when he swore to live out his life in pursuit of God’s will. He was involved in many corps activities, such as leading a Bible class and participating in the band, songster brigade and the scout troop. Murray’s father previously expressed that ‘from an early age he wanted to be a medical missionary. The moment he was born, we gave him to the Lord, but this was entirely his own choice’.
Doctor Murray Stanton studied at Otago University and interned at Christchurch Hospital. Then, in 1966, Murray and his wife, Janee, travelled to India to serve for a year under a sponsorship from the London Medical Missionary Society. He spent time working at Catherine Booth Hospital in Nagercoil, India.
In 1970, Murray and Janee travelled to London, where he completed a diploma in tropical medicine, as well as a MRCP (Member of the Royal College of Physicians) postgraduate degree, and they subsequently entered the International Training College. The Stantons were commissioned as officers in 1971, where they were appointed to India, this time to the Evangeline Booth Hospital in Ahmednagar.
Devastatingly, Captain (Dr) Murray Stanton contracted leptospirosis after only a short period in Ahmednagar and was promoted to Glory. Murray left behind his wife Janee (now Major Janee Sawyer), and two daughters, Julie (Captain Julie Turner, currently regional co-leader in Samoa) and Catherine, who is a registered nurse and was in part inspired to join the medical field by her father’s work.
The former Territorial Commander, Lt-Commissioner Harry Williams served with Murray during his time at Catherine Booth Hospital, and shared a moving tribute of the young missionary in the 27 May 1972 issue of War Cry:
‘I mourn the loss of Murray Stanton as of a son in the Lord. Only last year I handed him the few remaining surgical instruments which were peculiarly personal, as he set his sights on a life of service in Salvation Army medicine. He was clever but unassuming; an enthusiast who had the promise of a lifelong dedication. When we first met in Nagercoil six years ago his committal to missionary service was experimental, but there was a humble uncalculating acceptance of discipleship.’