A Moment in Time

Observer Captain John Murphy BA …..

A Moment in Time

I first met John Murphy soon after I joined the Royal Observer Corps in 1965. He was a full time observer officer stationed at Preston. He had previously been in the Parachute Regiment and could have been the only full time officer to have the parachute wings on his arm. He was a typical lad, bright, intelligent and with a great sense of humour. After he left Preston I would see him every year at one of the annual R.O.C. camps. We would usually have a beer, cigar and a chat. It was during one of these chats in 1980 at R.A.F. West Raynham that he told me the following story when he had been in the Parachute Regiment.

He was on a NATO exercise in France jumping from a French Air Force Nord Noratlas with French parachutists. He jumped and his parachute opened when he observed a Frenchman opposite him with his chute unopened. In a subconscious action, he grabbed at the man and caught him and held on to him until they reached the ground. The man’s thanks took some time as can be imagined. Years later John had climbed up the promotion ladder and attended a meeting in NATO H.Q., he got talking to a French general who asked him about his parachute wings. To John’s surprise when the general heard about the rescue incident he knew all about it. He told John he would send him a set of French parachutists wings as thanks for his brave act. After telling me the story John said he would send me the wings as he knew I collected badges.

It took a while but I received them in 1982. John rose up the promotion ladder to become an Observer Captain and in 1988 he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Royal Observer Corps, but he still came to visit me at Woodvale Post whenever he came to Liverpool.  In July 1991 he organised and was in charge of the Royal Review of the Corps and the issue of the new R.O.C. Banner by Her Majesty the Queen at the R.O.C.  H.Q. at R.A.F. Bentley Priory, outside London.  John escorted Prince Phillip round the afternoon garden party but still took time to come over and say hello to me.  That was the last time I saw him. 

John left the corps in 1992 when it was stood down; sadly he died around 2014. 

As I am now 80 I would like to have the story and wings placed where they would be safe and open to the public.

Written by Ex. Chief Observer Donald Brereton, Woodvale Post, Merseyside and donated by Donald Brereton in 2017

Submitted by::  Huby Fairhead

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