Harry Murphy

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Service no: 488 [1]

Place of birth: Orange, 1890

Address: Cumnock

Occupation: Station manager

Next of kin: Daniel Murphy (father), Googodery, Cumnock

Date of enlistment: 3 December 1915

Place of enlistment: Orange

Age at enlistment: 23

Fate: Embarked HMAT A62 Wandilla, Melbourne, 6 June 1916. Died of wounds, France, 17 February 1917.

Date of death: 17 February 1917

Buried: Trois-Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck, France, Plot I, Row F, Grave 6

Harry Murphy was born at Orange in 1892, the son of Daniel and Mary Murphy. Daniel Murphy and Mary Louisa Thompson had married at Bathurst in 1889 and had twin sons Thomas and Vincent born in Bathurst in 1890. By 1892 they had moved to Orange where Harry, Mary, Daniel, Samuel, Vera, and William Murphy were born.

Harry’s older brother, 558 Corporal Thomas Murphy – 6th and 2nd Light Horse Brigade, was killed in action in Gallipoli on 3 October 1915, aged 25 years.

Harry enlisted in the AIF on 3 December 1915 at Orange. He listed his next of kin as his parents as living at Googodery, near Cumnock, and he was working as a station manager. He was 5 feet 11½ inches tall, had black hair, brown eyes, a dark complexion and was of the Roman Catholic religious denomination.

Private Harry Murphy embarked on HMAT Wandilla A62 as a member of the 3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion at Melbourne on 6 June 1916. On board the Wandilla as a member of the 3rd Pioneer Battalion, B company, was 567 Private Donald Windred, a cordial maker who enlisted at Forbes. Donald’s brother was Edward Windred, the proprietor of Windred’s Dining and Refreshment Rooms at Cumnock and was Donald’s nominated next of kin.

Also on board the Wandilla was 534 Sergeant Herbert Smith of the 3rd Pioneer Battalion, who wrote a comprehensive letter of the voyage from Australia to England, which was published in three editions of the Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative, 1 February, 8 February and 15 February 1917, each on pages 31. The Wandilla docked at Fremantle on 12 June and the troops were allowed leave to visit Perth. The Wandilla sailed the following day across the Indian Ocean and arrived at Durban on 17 June. The troops were not given shore leave at Durban as “the Wandilla was placed in quarantine owing to a rather serious case of meningitis and several cases of measles.”

The Wandilla loaded up with coal and left Durban the afternoon of 18 June, and after a calm voyage along the coast, arrived in Cape Town on 2 July. Leave was not granted to the troops in Cape Town either, but they were given a route march to Camps Bay and back to the ship, a distance of 15 miles. Sergeant Smith commented in his letter that:

Throughout the visit the conduct of the troops was exemplary, and favourable comment was heard on all sides.

However, in a letter published in the Molong Argus on 6 October 1916, p5, 5019 Lance Corporal Charles Goldspink, 17th Battalion from Molong, and awarded a Military Medal in 1917, who had embarked on the HMAT Kyarra A55 on 5 June 1916, stated that about 90 soldiers from his ship went Absent Without Leave to have a look around Cape Town and were subsequently charged and fined. He also stated:

Len Starr [5088 Private Leonard Starr, 17th Battalion, from Molong] and Tom Denny [5002 Private Thomas Denny, 17th Battalion, from Cumnock, awarded a DCM in 1918]
were also fined. The boat Harry Murphy was on stayed there and 900 of them did the same and got fined, too.

Private Harry Murphy was charged with the crime of being Absent Without Leave at Cape Town for six hours on 3 July 1916. He was admonished by Captain Keatings and forfeited one day’s pay. It is not known if “900” soldiers on board the Wandilla were Absent Without Leave as well.

The Wandilla left Cape Town on 4 July. Sergeant Smith states in his report on the voyage that the meningitis patient died on 8 July and was buried at sea, and another soldier who died of pneumonia was buried at sea the following day. The ship crossed the equator on 12 July, with those on board celebrating the event as Neptune’s Day. On 17 July the Wandilla sailed into a bay on the island of St Vincent, one of the Cape Verde archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean, off the west African coast. Here the ship loaded with coal and then continued to Plymouth, arriving on 26 July. The troops were transported by train from Devonport to a camp near Amesbury on the Salisbury Plains.

Lance Corporal Charles Goldspink wrote another letter from Rollestone Camp, Salisbury Plains, to his mother on 21 August 1916 while recuperating in hospital from mumps, which was also published in the Molong Argus on 6 October 1916, p4. He wrote that:

Jack McKenzie [1712 Driver John McKenzie, 54th Battalion, from Molong] and Harry Murphy have been over a couple of times to see me.

The 3rd Pioneer Battalion trained at Lark Hill on the Salisbury Plains for four months and then left Amesbury by train on 24 November 1916 for Southhampton. The 3rd Pioneer Battalion then embarked by ship to France, arriving at Havre on 25 November and moving onto Armentières, northern France, on 28 November.

The 3rd Australian Pioneer Battalion was an infantry and light engineer unit assigned to the 3rd Division. The 3rd Division consisted of the 9th, 10th and 11th infantry brigades and a number of supporting elements including engineers, artillery and medical personnel.

Armentières was considered a “quiet” sector for the 3rd Pioneer Battalion to become acclimatised to fighting conditions but they were soon experiencing enemy shelling and gas attacks and wounded and dead from enemy sniping. The carpenters, bricklayers and blacksmiths were all busy building and repairing trenches, compounds and dugouts and other duties.

On 16 February the 3rd Pioneer Battalion unit diary noted:

On 16 February 1917, 488 Driver Murphy H, ‘B’ Company was wounded in stomach, to Hospital.

Driver Harry Murphy died of gunshot wounds to the abdomen the following day at the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearance Station and was buried at the Military Cemetery Trois Arbres, Steenwerck.

A younger brother, 2937 Private Daniel Murphy, 57th Battalion, who enlisted in the AIF on 8 September 1916, was wounded in France on 25 April 1918 but recovered and returned to Australia on 22 September 1918.

Harry’s father, Daniel, received his British War and Victory Medals.

Harry Murphy is commemorated on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph, the WE Agland RSL MBE Memorial Museum Honour Roll, and on panel number 173 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

  • Compiled by Dianne Strahan & Val McKenzie, Cumnock. January 2019. [2]
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