Captain Murphy, 26th Infantry Battalion

When Captain Joseph (Kevin) Murphy, MC returned to Australia in January 1919 he was still recovering from wounds received in action in Northern France. We are very fortunate at the State Library of Queensland, to have a collection that relates to his service, including his medals, and postcards he sent to his young cousin Alma.

Postcard to Alma Murphy

Postcard to Alma Murphy, May 1918

Discovering his story has been quite a journey as we were unable to locate an image of the man. Many hours and minds have been turned to finding Kevin Murphy, finally his portrait was found amongst those published in The Queenslander Pictorial of the time.

Joseph Kevin Murphy

Portrait of J Kevin Murphy, published 1916

Aged just 23, Kevin Murphy was assigned to the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, and when he arrived in Egypt they joined the reinforcements on Gallipoli, at a time when the unit’s strength was severely depleted. After the Evacuation in December 1915 he was reassigned to the 26th Infantry Battalion, to then serve in France and Belgium.

AWM 26thBattalion 1919 E04212

AWM image: E04212  |  26th Infantry Battalion, Marchienne-au-Pont, Belgium, 1918

Wounded four times and evacuated on three occasions, he sent letters and cards to his family in Queensland. In particular he wrote to his young cousin Alma Murphy who was only six when he and his three brothers enlisted. They had a running joke about ‘currant bread’ which appears throughout his correspondence.

Postcard to Alma

Captain Murphy was Mentioned in Despatches, in September 1917 for leading a successful advance during the attack at Polygon Wood, and awarded the Military Cross for ‘personal gallantry and inspiration to his men’ at the battle of Villers-Bretonneux in July 1918.

Captain Murphy's Medals

In 1918 Captain Murphy was engaged in the retrieval of the German tank known as Mephisto, now on display at the Queensland Museum.  Working parties prepared a track to enable the tank to be towed back to base. Covering artillery fire was arranged to disguise the noise of their work as they faced many difficulties including gas-attacks launched by the Germans.

Mephisto Tank AWME02877

AWM Image: E02877  |  German tank captured by 26th Australian battalion, 1918

When Captain Murphy was wounded for the fourth time he was evacuated and returned to Australia, just prior to the Armistice. He was admitted to the Military Hospital at Kangaroo Point for several weeks to receive treatment for a gunshot wound to his right elbow.

Postcard to Alma

Postcard to Alma Murphy, April 1916

He returned to his family and his position in the Bank of Queensland, and in 1922 married Millicent Yorke Black. Kevin and his wife were involved in many community organisations in North Queensland including the local Hospital, School of Arts, Racing Clubs and the CWA.

Captain Murphy’s gallant and highly decorated service has been commemorated in the State Library’s Distant Lines Exhibition, and his small but no less valuable Collection, has now been digitised and transcribed.

Further Reading:

Marg Powell
QANZAC 100 Content Technician
State Library of Queensland