Private John Joseph Murphy was the husband of Mary Ann Murphy, (nee Quinn) Cookstown, Co. Tyrone and had 7 children. During the withdrawal of troops from Northern France, soldiers including John Joseph Murphy were being evacuated on board the S.S. Lancastria when it was attacked by German Bombers on 17th June 1940. One of the bombs went down the funnel of the Lancastria and she sank within 30 minutes, with the loss of between 2000-4000 soldiers.
The town of Dunkirk is located in the department of Nord in the extreme northern tip of France approximately 12 kilometres from the Belgian border. During the First World War Dunkirk was a major port of debarkation for the British Expeditionary Force in September and October 1914. Throughout WWI it was a seaplane base and later an American Naval Air Service base. The town was also a French hospital centre and the 8th Canadian Stationary Hospital was there from November 1918 to April 1919. Although an estimated 7,500 shells and bombs fell on the town during the war, ship building and other port activities continued. During the Second World War, Dunkirk was the scene of the historic evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in May 1940.