John Clare MURPHY


MURPHY, John Clare

Service Number: 4530
Enlisted: 20 September 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia , date not yet discovered
Home Town: Broken Hill, Broken Hill Municipality, New South Wales
Schooling: Sister of Mercy School, Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Butcher
Died: Killed in action during the raid on Celtic Wood , Belgium, 9 October 1917, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Broken Hill War Memorial, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient), Silverton IOOF WW1 Honor Roll
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World War 1 Service

20 Sep 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private
7 Feb 1916: Involvement Private, SN 4530, 10th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
7 Feb 1916: Embarked Private, SN 4530, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Miltiades, Adelaide

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

Raid on Celtic Wood 

4530 Private John Clare Murphy a butcher from Broken Hill, New South Wales had previously been wounded at Mouquet Farm in August 1916 but had later rejoined the battalion. He was in the field with

D Company but was recorded on the 13 October Field Return as missing on 8 October.

A letter in Murphy’s Red Cross file dated 16 January 1918 informs John’s brother the Red Cross had received a letter from the Adjutant of the 10th Battalion regarding his brother John Clare Murphy.

‘The evidence we regret to say undoubtedly confirms the fact he was killed in action. The letter refers also to eight other men and reads as follows. ‘These men are now officially reported as K/A. Their effects have reached the Battn in certain cases; in others we have certain evidence of their deaths ... Murphy’s body was found by a patrol of the 18th Battn and was buried on the battlefield at Passchendaele.’ 

On 30 November 1919, John’s father Martin wrote to the Director of Graves Registration and explained that of his two sons who had gone to war, one had returned home and the other was killed in action.

‘... If you could give me any information in reference to where he is buried or if his grave can be located, as I have a good few relatives in Ireland who may put some monument over him. ...’[i]  

In a letter dated 19 August 1925, Martin Murphy informed the Officer in Charge of Base Records, that he had received the following letter from Chaplain Makeham; it was dated 27 November 1917. ‘Dear Sir, I have with deep regret to inform you that your son, Private John Clare Murphy, reported missing on 9 October, 1917, is now reported killed in action on that date. His body was found and buried by the 18th Battalion, and his paybook, with the accompanying small things (identity disc, medallion, letters, and cards) have been sent in to us with these particulars. I am sorry to say that I cannot give you any further particulars, as it is difficult to collect information after an action. Please accept my sincere sympathy.’ [ii]

Mr Murphy included only a few points from Reverend Makeham’s letter in his correspondence to the OIC but did let him know Makeham had said ‘some small things were found’, which identified him.

In 1925 Mr Murphy, still unaware of his son’s final resting place, asked the OIC for any information he could provide to assist him with his search.  

‘What we his Father, and brothers and sisters would like to know; If he is interred in any of the general cemeteries and the name of the cemetery and country. I may state that a returned soldier told us he was talking to him the night before he was killed, and the name of the place was Appolyn [sic] Wood. Hoping you will be able to give the required information. ...’ [iii]

The extract below from an article published in the Broken Hill Barrier Miner newspaper on 1 February 1918 shows that at least one family among those of the missing raider’s was aware of the correct date of their beloved son and sibling’s death.

‘He served in Egypt for some time, and then went to France, and was officially reported as missing on October 8. Finally he was reported killed in action on October 9.’

The 18th Battalion patrol found Murphy’s body behind the 9 October German outpost line during their patrol program 2 - 4 November 1917. This means he had to have been on the raid.

On page four of Murphy’s Statement of Service in his service record is a remark that reads ‘... Reported missing in action 8/10/17, delete missing and amend to read Killed in action. Buried.’[iv]

In a letter to the Secretary of the Australian Red Cross dated 26 December 1917, John Murphy’s brother Martin, then serving with 4th Field Ambulance , told the Secretary he had written to the CO 10th Battalion. ‘... the only information he could give me, that he had been Missing since 9.10.17 and they have not heard or know anything of him since that date....’[v]  

This statement in Murphy’s Red Cross file made by Sergeant Wagner ‘while we were advancing at Zonnebeke’ ‘burial parties were sent out’ is not credible since Wagner’s service record shows he was not with the battalion at the time.

After the patrol of the 18th Battalion removed Murphy’s ‘paybook, with the accompanying small things (identity disc, medallion, letters, and cards)’ they buried him on the battlefied. When the War Graves Registration Unit combed the area for bodies in 1920 if they found his remains they would have been unable to identify him.

[i]. ibid
[ii] Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW) 1 February 1918, p. 2
[iii] National Archives of Australia, B 2455, Murphy John Clare / 7984618, viewed 8 April 2012.
[iv] ibid
[v] ibid