Keeping the ANZAC spirit strong

ANZAC Day is a time for rememberance and recognition. The 94-year-old WW2 digger and aged care resident, Tom Murphy, tells his story as he prepares to attend the Premier of Victoria’s ANZAC Day luncheon next week.

Above: World War Two digger, Tom Murphy

By Yasmin Noone

The 94-year-old World War Two digger and aged care resident, Tom Murphy, has in-hand his personalised, gold-edged invitation to the Premier of Victoria’s special 97th Anniversary of ANZAC Day luncheon to be held at the National Gallery of Victoria, next Monday.

“When they put forward the names of the people who should go [to the luncheon],  they asked me if I would be interested in going,” Mr Murphy says joivally, explaining how he came to receive the invitation to next week’s event. “I said yes. Getting an invite was not a guarantee. It was more like raffle where they picked the names out of a hat. And they picked mine!”

The Villa Maria Berwick resident reassuringly confirms the importance of that embossed invitation. “It’s an honour to be invited. It is a privilege…You never know who you will meet at these sorts of things.”

Two Villa Maria volunteers, who have been visiting veterans and their widows at Villa Maria Berwick for the past two years, nominated Mr Murphy for the invitation on behalf of the Berwick RSL, of which he is an honorary member. They will also accompany him to the event next week.

“It’s very good, they keep me in touch with everything that’s going on and I’m so honoured to be given the opportunity of going to the luncheon.”

The  veteran says he  remembers his first taste of warfare well – he was on a ship of Australian Imperial Force (AIF) troops deployed to the Libyan port of Tobruk, during the Siege of Tobruk in 1941.

“…Our ship glided in during the dark at about 2am. There were 200 of us on a steel deck and we were machine gunned on the way in.  Bullets were whizzing past everywhere but not one of us was hit.

“I just thought, well, this is what I signed up for.  A few minutes before the firing started I’d actually mentioned to a friend of mine that people pay thousands of pounds for a cruise on the Mediterranean, and we’re here for nothing!”

The active RSL-club member joined the army in 1939 and was stationed at Fort Queenscliff. After Tobruk he was deployed to other places including Alexandria, Syria, El Alamein and Italy.

“I’ve had an interesting life – I’ll put it that way.”

Like all diggers, ANZAC day means a great deal to Mr Murphy.

“…[The ANZACS] went to war, willingly, to safeguard their own country. Even though [the war] was overseas to start with, we are a part of Britain.

“And, as the war expanded into the islands it came very close to coming here. So, when we were brought back from the Middle East straight away to New Guinea and I finished up in north Borneo.

“ANZAC Day is a remembrance day of those who did not come back. It’s not a celebration.

“I worked with an English man one time who asked, ‘How do you celebrate ANZAC Day? I said, ‘How do you celebrate war’? We don’t.

“The day is not a glorification of war. It’s getting together with your friends and marching from the city down to the shrine but as you get older, it gets harder and harder. While I am able to go, the legs are not.”

All up, Mr Murphy served for 12 years and in between married his first love, Joan, and had a daughter.

Mr Murphy and his wife, Joan, were married for 50 years until she passed away. Mr Murphy was then married to his second wife, Amy, for 15 years, before she died last year.

“After Amy passed away the doctors said I shouldn’t be living on my own any longer, so I moved from Hawthorn to here at Berwick to be closer to my daughter who lives in Cranbourne.”

Now, Mr Murphy is enjoying a quieter life at Villa Maria Berwick.  And despite four heart attacks, he is in good health.

“For the first time in my life I have found out you can do exercises sitting down!” he laughs.”

The great-grandfather of four, who enjoyed a successful career in radio repairs following the army, said he reflected on his time in the war positively.

“You never think of the bad times, you only think of the good ones.  It’s finished now so you shouldn’t dwell on things.” 

Tags: anzac, berwick, national-gallery-of-victoria, nga, premier-of-victoria, rsl, rsl-club, villa-maria, world-war, wwii,

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