Update 2 - January 2013
Captain J J Murphy MC*, DCM
Captain John Joseph Murphy MC*, DCM, one of the most decorated officers to serve with the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers, joined the Battalion on 16 September 1917. He was removed from command of B Company in October 1918, having been accused of being drunk by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel P E Kelly.1 It was only just prior to the publication of Blacker’s Boys that his death at the cement works at Mungret, near Limerick, in 1938 was confirmed. His life after the war is largely unknown but the information that is now available is most interesting. As a result of the disciplinary action taken by Lieutenant Colonel Kelly, Murphy resigned his commission on 10 April 1919. He was a capable and experienced soldier and he volunteered for service with the North Russia Relief Force. Beginning in April 1918, the Allies dispatched the elements that would make up the North Russian Expeditionary Force to secure Murmansk and Archangel and to train White Russian forces, with most arriving in August 1918. By March 1919 the decision to withdraw the force had been made but it was recognised that this would not be possible without the deployment of additional troops to act as a covering force.2 The North Russian Relief Force would comprise two brigades raised in the United Kingdom; one of volunteers from the re-forming Regular Army and one of volunteer recruits. The Sadleir-Jackson Brigade (named after its Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Lionel Warren de Vere Sadleir-Jackson CB, CMG, DSO*) was made up of volunteer recruits and comprised two battalions of infantry—the 45th and 46th (Service) Battalions, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment), which began recruiting on 8 April 1919—a machine gun battalion, an artillery battery, a signal company, an engineer field company and supporting services.3 Volunteers were not hard to find; almost all were ex-soldiers and many were former officers, willing to serve in the ranks.4 Murphy travelled from County Limerick to Park Royal in north-west London and enlisted into the 45th Royal Fusiliers (numbered 133076) on 4 June 1919 and was appointed as a company sergeant major; it is not known of which company. He sailed for Russia with his Battalion on 3 July, and landed with it on 12 July 1919. Little is known of his service but in 1929 in a letter to the King, he wrote briefly of his experience (see Appendix 1).5 The North Russian Relief Force returned to the United Kingdom in mid-October 1919 and Murphy was transferred to the Class Z Reserve on 23 November 1919. For reasons that may only be guessed at, he re-enlisted again on 7 January 1920 for Regular Army service with The Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) (numbered 40099, renumbered 7178313 in September 1920). He joined the 2nd Battalion as a Private. The regiments of the British Army that recruited from the counties that became the Irish Free State were disbanded on 12 June 1922. Murphy was formally discharged as a Corporal on 4 July 1922, aged 36. He was commissioned into the Irish Free State Army (13714, 1st Lieutenant, Infantry) on 3 August 1922. He served as the officer commanding the Irish Free State Army detachment at Fenit, County Kerry during the Irish Civil War. On his return home to Kilballyowen, an area just to the east of Bruff in County Limerick, he worked breaking and carrying stone for a quarry until it closed in June 1929. Unemployed, he wrote to the King on 24 June 1929 (see Appendix 1) requesting a War Gratuity for his commissioned service; it was refused by the War Office. Standing out in opposition to the repeated commentary about the poor treatment that returning servicemen faced in the southern counties of Ireland, and, after 1922, in the Irish Free State, is the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust. The Trust was constituted under the Irish Free State (Consequential Provisions) Act 1922 to build houses (cottages as they were known) in Ireland for ex-servicemen. Although not without its troubles, the Trust had built 3,672 cottages or houses by 1933 (2,626 in the Irish Free State and 1,046 in Northern Ireland) and the final figure was over 4,000.6 In County Limerick seventy-five houses had been built by March 1928. In Limerick City they were built at Rosbrien (twelve semi-detached cottages) and at what would become Bengal Terrace (fifty houses).7 It was in Bengal Terrace that Murphy finally came to reside with his wife and two young children in April or May 1938.8 The geography of Limerick, with its abundance of limestone, clay and shale, makes it well suited to the production of cement and Murphy found work as an assistant foreman in the new Mungret Cement Factory.9 On Sunday 10 April 1938, not long after work began to establish the cement works, an explosion killed Murphy and two other men—John O’Donovan from Ballybrown, Clarina and James McCarthy from Patrickswell. The foreman, Alexander Gibson escaped unharmed, and Martin Sharman suffered only minor injuries.10 The inquest was conducted on Tuesday 12 April by Limerick City Deputy Coroner Mr J S MacNeice, delayed by a day to allow for the arrival of Mr J Lavan, an inspector from the Department of Industry and Commerce. Each of the families of the deceased was represented by a solicitor and there was also present a representative of the Transport and General Workers Union. In addition to the circumstances of the blast, the fact that the men had been working on a Sunday was questioned; a practice that was later condemned by a number of bodies and in the press. The inquest heard how the bore hole had an obstruction about six feet down and that Murphy had been tamping down the gelignite when the blast occurred. Murphy, who was leaning over the bore hole was killed instantly by the blast and O’Donovan and McCarthy were blown over the quarry edge and fell forty feet. Both were seriously injured; McCarthy died before arrival at the County Infirmary and O’Donovan died soon afterwards. A large crowd of 500 people attended the removal of John Murphy’s body from St John’s Cathedral to Hospital, a town five miles to the east of Bruff, and then to Knockainey. Canon Anthony Humphries, the parish priest of Knockainey, and Reverend C Lee the curate at Knockainey, officiated at his funeral. I am very pleased to have been able to put the final touches, tragic though they are, to this story of a most intriguing soldier. Appendix 1
The letter written by Murphy to the King in 1929.
(From the personnel record for J J Murphy, National Archives WO 339/97762)
London I humbly beg to petition your most gracious Majesty. I served in the Great War, with your Majesty’s expeditionary armies 1st in the Royal Irish Fusiliers 8th Battn, 16th Irish Division with which Battn I was awarded the DCM and Parchment of Merit and recommended for your Majesty Commission passed through 20th OC and was gazetted to Royal Irish Fusiliers 36th Ulster Division. I was but a very short time on active service with the 9th Roy Irish Fus when I was recommended for DSO and was awarded the MC. I was very soon after promoted (Act) Captain in addition and was again recommended for DSO and was awarded (Bar) to MC. I was always a volunteer for all stunts, which fact can be verified by Colonel Ford DSO, MC of the late 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. I served 12 years in Royal Marine Arty prior to Great War. Served on board your Majesty’s Ship Commonwealth in the 3rd Battle Squadron during the Balkan States war and Turkey. I, with two more brothers served in Great War. One got killed at Loose and other got killed by accident whilst cycling in this district on 28th December 1915. I have never received Gratuity or grants of any description for my services in the Great War. I was earning an average £9 to £10 per week when I joined up for Great War and through my absence the contract was lost. I was called to the War Office through an adverse report and afterwards was asked to forward the resignation of your Majesty’s Commission, which order I complied with. The real facts of the case is that I was suffering from Dysentery and was several days fasting, as I did not want to leave my company who was devoted to me as I was to them. After the resignation of your Majesty’s Commission I volunteered for North Russia with the Russian Relief Forces. Travelling at my own expense from Ireland to London to volunteer. I served in North Russia with 45th Royal Fusiliers, details with the rank of WO Class 2 and was recommended for Bar to DCM or Commission on the field. I choose Commission and would have undoubtedly have received your Majesty’s Commission again but for the early withdrawal of the British troops. Consequently, I got neither. Shortly after being demobilised I joined the 2nd Batt Leinster Regt and served with that regiment until it was disbanded in 1922. On arriving home the only occupation I could get was breaking and quarrying stones for the roads. I followed that humble occupation until early this month when the quarry I was working in closed down. Consequently I am now left with nothing in front of me but starvation. I have no home of my own but living with my parents who are both old and feeble. If I was to get War Gratuity I would be able to emigrate and be able to help my parents in their old age or if I got a grant from United States Fund I would be able to get a living at home by purchasing and running a taxi car. I have wrote before and was recommended for grant, the answer I enclose. I never looked for disability pension as I considered I was medically fit. I was wounded and suffered with double pneumonia during the Great War. I beg the honour to remain your Majesty’s most humble servant. 1 His career is outlined in Blacker’s Boys Chapter Nine (Pages 233-235) and in Appendix 5. 2 For the official report on the North Russian Relief Force see: Command Paper: The Evacuation of North Russia 1919 dated 1920. 3 For more on the men that made up the North Russian Relief Force see: Clifford Kinvig. (2007). Churchill's Crusade: The British Invasion of Russia, 1918-1920. London: Continuum. 4 Other former members of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers who served in the North Russian Relief Force were: 45th (Service) Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) 46th (Service) Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) Lieutenant Eric Hope Gilmer. Mentioned in Despatches. Sergeant Harold William Hammersley. Awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. 5 For a contemporary account of the actions of the Sadleir-Jackson Brigade see: G R Singleton-Gates. (1920). Bolos & Barishynas: Being an account of the doings of the Sadleir-Jackson Brigade, and Altham Flotilla, on the North Dvina during the Summer, 1919. Aldershot: Gale & Polden Ltd. 6 For more on the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust see: Andrew Hayes. (2011). Housing Initiatives for British Army ex-Servicemen in post-war Ireland, 1918-1923: A New Departure or a New Plantation? Dublin: National University of Ireland, University College Dublin, College of Arts and Celtic Studies, Master of Arts Dissertation. 7 The work of the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust in Limerick may be found in: Anthony O’Brien. (1998). The Soldiers Houses in Limerick. The Story of the Irish Sailors and Soldiers Land Trust. Limerick: The Old Limerick Journal, Winter 1998 Edition. The Old Limerick Journal is a fascinating historical resource and may be found here: 8 Anthony O’Brien recorded that Murphy’s daughter Mary still lived there in 1998. 9 Owned by Irish Cement, which opened its first plants in Drogheda and Limerick in 1938. 10 The information about the incident and the subsequent inquest is taken from the Limerick Leader of April 1938, copies of which were provided by Sharon Slater of Limerick’s Life.

Source: http://www.9thirishfusiliers.co.uk/Downloads/2013/Update%202%20-%20January%202013.pdf

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