Spr Colin Stephen Murphy, 1st Fd Sqn 24 May 1944

Sapper Colin Murphy
Sapper Colin Stephen Murphy's Headstone in the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery

Colin Stephen Murphy was born on 24 September 1919 in Glace Bay, NS, to James and Mary Murphy. He grew up in a large family of six sisters and five brothers.

Colin was a miner by trade and enlisted in the reserve force on 17 April 1941 stating his preference was to join the artillery. By June he had transferred to the Canadian Army Active Force in the Royal Canadian Engineers. He went on to train in Halifax and Petawawa where he qualified as a Group ‘B’ Concreter.  By December of that year, he had arrived in the UK two days before Christmas and sent to the Engineer Reinforcement Unit. In March 1942, he was sent to the 14th Field Company and in November, to the 1st Field Squadron.

The 1st Field Squadron arrived in Naples, Italy early in November. Like the 10th  Field Squadron who arrived a few days later, they took over well-used equipment and vehicles from the British 7th Armoured Division, the 'Desert Rats' who had arrived in Italy only two months earlier from North Africa via Syria and were now on their way home to England. The Squadron was moved over 200 miles southeast to the Taranto area and attached to the 2nd New Zealand Division. Despite having to complete a great deal of vehicle and equipment maintenance, they immediately got to work on bridging and route repair and construction tasks. As the 5th Armoured Division gained strength in Italy, the 1st Field Squadron moved closer and closer to the front relieving other Eighth Army formations. The Squadron then moved back towards Naples to the city of Caserta. Again, bridging and mine training, rest and maintenance, as well as planning for the Liri Valley operation occupied their time. In mid-May, the 5th Armoured Division started moving forward to the Hitler Line in anticipation of breaking through to Rome.

At 0800 hours on 24 May, the leading troops of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division drove forward. With each of the three armoured regiments, were parties of sappers from the 10th Field Squadron in reconnaissance tanks (M2 Grant tanks called Honeys) - 18 parties in all. Behind them came the 1st Field Squadron and the 14th Field Company fully engaged in opening a route through difficult country to by-pass the town of Aquino. Although the unit war diary reports 'Jerry is running', shelling was intense. Three sappers were wounded and Sapper Colin Stephen Murphy was killed. He is buried in the Cassino Commonwealth Cemetery.

Note: Brothers John and William served in the Canadian Army while brother David served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Flight Sergeant David Matthew Murphy was a bomb aimer on Lancaster III PG-E LM643 with 619 Sqn (RAF) and was killed on operations when his plane was shot down by flak over northern France the day after his brother died in Italy.

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