Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
13003876   Private John Joseph Murphy
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 06/10/2019
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 50th Company, Pioneer Corps (British Army)
Date Of Birth: 10/12/1896
Died: 17/06/1940 (Killed in Action)
Age: 43
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.
Private John Joseph Murphy
Further Information
The following details of John’s early life (pre WW1) are provisional.
John Joseph Murphy was the son of Joseph Murphy. John was born on 10th December 1896 in the Cookstown area.
The 1901 census lists John Joseph Murphy as age 4, living with the family at house 48 in Coagh Street, Cookstown. His father was a waiter.
Known family: Joseph Murphy, Lizzie Murphy (born about 1887), Ellen Murphy (born about 1890), John Joseph Murphy (born 10th December 1896)
John Murphy served in World War One.
John Joseph Murphy went on to be the husband of Mary Ann Murphy, (nee Quinn). They had seven children.
Private John Joseph Murphy
Known family: John Joseph Murphy, Mary Ann Murphy, Kathleen Murphy, Joseph Murphy, John Murphy, James Murphy (twin), Anthony Murphy (twin), Freddie Murphy. Patricia Murphy.
John Joseph Murphy served with the 50th Company of the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps (A.M.P.C.) during World War Two.
During the withdrawal of troops from northern France in June 1940, soldiers and airmen, including Private John Joseph Murphy, were being evacuated from the port of St Nazaire, in Brittany, France.
On 17th June 1940, Private Murphy was on board the S.S. Lancastria when it was attacked by German bombers. One of the bombs went down the funnel of the Lancastria. She exploded and sank within thirty minutes. Private John Joseph Murphy was 43 years old when he died.
HMT Lancastria
There were approximately 6,000 troops, crew, and civilian personnel on board. Enormous uncertainty remains to the actual loss of life and it is now estimated that some 4,000 lives were lost in the incident.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill felt that the country’s morale could not bare such news so ordered the British press not to reveal the story.
The story of the tragedy later broke in the U.S.A.
Government documents relating to the Lancastria remained classified for many years. In July 2007 another request for documents held by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) related to the sinking was rejected by the British government. The Lancastria Association of Scotland made a further request in 2009. They were told that release under the FOIA would not be given because of several exemptions. In the face of continued campaigning by relatives, the MoD stated in 2015 that all known documents had long since been released through the National Archives.
Private John Joseph Murphy has no known grave and is commemorated on Column 153 of the Dunkirk Memorial in France.
 Column 153 of the Dunkirk Memorial
Private John Joseph Murphy is commemorated locally on Cookstown War Memorial.
In the town of St Nazaire, there is a memorial to the Lancastria. The inscription reads:
Lancastria Memorial in Saint-Nazaire
‘Opposite this place lies the wreck of the Troopship Lancastria sunk by enemy action on 17 June 1940 whilst embarking British troops and civilians during the evacuation of France. To the glory of God, in proud memory of more than 4,000 who died and in commemoration of of the people of St Nazaire and surrounding districts who saved many lives, tended the wounded and gave a Christian burial to victims.’
The CWGC record Private John Joseph Murphy as the husband of Mary Ann Murphy of Cookstown, County Tyrone.
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Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Cookstown area Cookstown Central Born and lived in Cookstown 54.647358 -6.742761
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1901 Census lists Murphy family Lists John Joseph as age 4 living with the family at house 48 in Coagh St, Cookstown, Tyrone
2 Ahoy - Mac's Web Log Photo, memorial details & more information on HMT Lancastria
3 BBC WW2 People's War Details of the Lancastria
4 Photo of Private John Joseph Murphy's inscription
5 French language Lancastria website More photos and accounts of the Lancastria's sinking
6 Lancastria website list of casualties Murphy John Joseph (43) Pte 50 Coy AMPC 13003876*
7 Wikipedia - RMS Lancastria Explains ongoing controversy on the sinking
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2023