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84230 Gunner P Murphy 66th Bat. RFA PoW Colenso 15/12/1899 4 years 1 month ago #56812

  • azyeoman
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Here is one of the most desirable PoW medals for the Anglo-Boer War.  It's a medal to a gunner who served with the 66th Battery, RFA at the battle of Colenso, which was Britain's third defeat during what became known as "Black Week" in December 1899.

84230 Gunner Patrick Murphy, 66th Bty. R.F.A. was born in Carlow.  He was the son of Peter Murphy and his brother was John E. Murphy.  He was a farm laborer.  He married Amelia Wilson of Bristol, and they had three children: Louis William John (20.9.1895), Gladys Amy (29.7.97) and Lillian Audrey (2.6.1900).  On 23 March 1891, he enlisted in the Royal Artillery, but his papers were signed on 27 March at Woolwich and state that he was 18 years old, which would mean he was born in 1883.  He was 5'6" and weighed 137 lbs, and had grey eyes and brown hair.  What makes one wonder about his birth date, which was not written on the duplicate papers, is that on 18 January 1892, he was awaiting trial for fraudulently enlisting while he was a serving soldier of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers - 3297 Pte. John Bolger.  Would he have been 18 when "reenlisting" again?  He was convicted and spent 42 days in prison from 18 February to 5 March 1892.  Upon his release, he rejoined the RA and "transferred" to Gunner on 18 February 1899.  

Next on his papers is that he was recalled to the colors on 9 October 1899 and posted to the RA.  He served in South Africa from 23 October 1899 to 15 October 1900 (358 days) before going home.  His total service at home was 11 years 339 days from 23 March 1891 to 22 October 1899 and then from 16 October 1900 to 17 February 1904.   His sole injury was a broken right hand on 29 August 1898.

He was awarded the QSA with: T, RL and OFS clasps (WO 100/142/p.141).  He was serving with the 66th Bty. RFA in S. Africa when he was captured on 15 December, 1899 at the famous battle of Colenso where the 14th and 66th batteries took up a positions 700 yards from the south bank of the river and were immediately engaged by 1,000 Boer riflemen hidden on the north bank.  In the ensuing battle, casualties mounted in both batteries and ammunition was low, which forced the men to retire with the wounded to a donga to the rear of their 12 guns.  General Buller wanted his guns back and called for volunteers to rescue them.  Capt. Schofield (ADC) and Cpl. Nurse RFA went with two limbers and managed to rescue two of the twelve guns.  They were later awarded VCs for their bravery.  (For an excellent account of the battle, read Darrel Hall's Halt! Action Front! with Colonel Long at Colenso printed by Covos-Day books, 1999).

Murphy was later released at Waterval on 6 June 1900.  The 66th suffered 4 KIA, 10 WIA - one of which died of wounds later and 24 PoWs according to the Army & Navy Gazette (p. 1217).

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