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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland



12 December 2017

A challenge to connect with the history of World War I by researching stories of ‘local heroes’ became a labour of love for Armagh teenager Ellie Knipe as she uncovered family memories of her great great uncle.

Ellie and schoolfriends Sam McWilliams and Becki Pinkerton, all Cadet Lance Corporals with the Royal School Armagh Combined Cadet Force (CCF) Contingent, were moved by the tale of Private Edward Murphy who lost his life in the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916.  Their recounting of his story earned them first place in the CCF section of the Province-wide competition.

Ellie explained their choice of subject for the ‘local hero’ project, “We had all studied World War 1 in school, plus we do some military history in the Cadets, so we already knew a bit about the war and about some of Northern Ireland’s famous World War 1 heroes.  We decided we would take a fresh approach by researching the life – and death – of one of the so-called ‘ordinary’ soldiers and we chose my great-great uncle, Private Edward Murphy.”

As the Cadets discovered, Private Edward Murphy was born in 1885 in the townland of Clonfeacle in County Tyrone where he grew up on the family smallholding, and attended Benburb Primary School before eventually finding work as a farm laborer.  Just two weeks after war was declared, Edward joined the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers – fondly known back then as ‘The Tyrones’ – and, when that division became part of the 36th Ulster Division, he found himself on the frontline in France.

The first day of the Battle of the Somme, on July 1st, was to become notorious as the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army which suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 fatalities, gaining just three square miles of territory.  Amongst those declared ‘missing, believed killed’ was 31-year-old Edward.

The poignant tale brought history to life in a shocking way for the Armagh teens.  Ellie said, “When we started I knew next to nothing about my great-great-uncle Edward so, as we started the research, we felt a bit like we were taking part in the television programme, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’.  As we found out more, however, we really began to feel personally linked to Edward and the young men who fought alongside him and we understood their hardships and how terrified they must have been as they waited to ‘go over the top’.  Despite that fear, they did what they believed was their duty and many of them paid the ultimate price – which is why Private Edward Murphy is very much a Local hero in our eyes.”

The information accumulated in the young people’s research will now become an important learning resource for others in the Cadet movement. 

Pictured below showing off the certificates which marked their participation in the research challenge are, from left, Ellie Knipe (14), Sam McWilliams (14), both from Armagh, and Becki Pinkerton (15) from Portadown.