David Alexander Murphy, commemorated on Wikipedia

Guest blogger: Kerry Raymond, Q ANZAC 100 First World War Wikipedian in Residence

An important part of my role as First World War Wikipedian in Residence is helping other Queenslanders to add First World War content to Wikipedia. Recently I was privileged to meet with John and Jacklyn Hine here at the State Library of Queensland. John and Jacklyn are family historians and have researched their relative David Alexander Murphy, a young cabinet maker from Roma who enlisted in the First World War.


 Signed photo of David Alexander Murphy Lance Corporal 15th Battalion of Roma

Image source: Wikimedia commons

David Murphy enlisted in Roma on 29 May 1916 at the age of 21 years 8 months. Having joined the 15th Battalion, he embarked the troop ship Kyarra on 17 November 1916. He served on the Western Front and was promoted to Lance Corporal on 22 September 1917, 4 days before he was killed in action in the Battle of Polygon Wood near Ypres, Belgium. Over 20,000 British and Australian soldiers were killed and wounded in that battle. Perhaps the chaos of such a battle is the reason that the military authorities were unable to locate David Murphy’s personal effects to return to his family nor be able to establish if and where he was buried. He was subsequently commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, reserved for fallen Commonwealth soldiers without a known grave.


 Roma War Memorial
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Closer to home, the citizens of Roma had honoured David Murphy’s sacrifice in two ways. Firstly (and not so unusually) his name is listed on the Roma War Memorial. But rather more unusually, Roma planted a bottle tree in his honour, one of many bottle trees in the Heroes Avenue that now line the route from the Roma railway station to the war memorial itself in Bungil Street, the route taken by Roma’s Anzac Day march.

While each tree originally had a plaque naming the man honoured, most of the plaques were dislodged and lost as the tree grew. John and Jacklyn Hine have visited Roma and researched the trees and now believe they can identify the soldier associated with each tree. David Murphy’s tree was one of a small number of trees that did not survive, but those trees has been recently replaced with a new bottle trees.


Bungil Street in Roma is lined on both sides with bottle trees in memory of Roma’s fallen First World War soliders

Image source: Wikimedia commons

During their visit to the State Library of Queensland, I taught John and Jacklyn Hine the basic skills of contributing to Wikipedia using the new Visual Editor software. They learned how to add and format basic text, create links to other Wikipedia and how to add citation so the information in Wikipedia can be verified by others. They also learned how to upload photographs; fortunately First World War photographs are generally out of copyright which is important as Wikipedia cannot accept material if it would cause a copyright violation.

While poor David Murphy did not have many lucky breaks, the Hines were more fortunate. Shortly before they had contacted me, I had just written a Wikipedia article about the Roma War Memorial and Heroes Avenue. So when the Hines visited the library, Jacklyn Hine was able to use some of her new Wikipedia skills to add some information about David Murphy and some of the other Roma fallen soldiers to that Wikipedia article, together with a photo of David Murphy. The Hines are looking forward to adding more information to that article based on their research on David Murphy and Roma’s other fallen soldiers.

If you are interested to learn how to add the history of Queensland during the First World War on Wikipedia, please contact the team via the email address qanzac100@slq.qld.gov.au.
Read the Wikipedia article on the Roma War Memorial and Heroes Avenue  and David Alexander Murphy’s military service record in his First World War held at the National Archives of Australia.
Kerry Raymond, First World War Wikipedian in Residence