Living Memorial | Winston Murphy
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Winston Murphy

About This Project

Jamaican-born Winston Murphy was a merchant seaman who served in World War Two. He is a survivor of a ship that was torpedoed while he was serving in the North Atlantic Ocean, off Nova Scotia, in freezing mid-January weather.


The Merchant Navy ship Refast was targeted by a German submarine, know as a U boat, in 1942. The attack happened when Murphy and the only other black man among the 42-strong crew, Victor Brown, heard a loud bang on the ship. Responding to this, Murphy rang the dinner bell, prompting everyone to run to the middle of the ship where its two big lifeboats were kept. The torpedo had hit its port side, killing all the seamen based in that part of the vessel. Luckily Murphy was on the starboard side of the ship and was able to escape on a lifeboat cut loose by quick-thinking Victor using an axe. The crew of HMS Malagas later rescued the brave pair and the other survivors.


Now at the age of 94, Murphy still remembers the cups of coffee he was greeted with after his rescue. The death toll of black merchant seamen during the war was high. Out of the 15,000 who signed up, 5,000 died in combat. Murphy was fortunate enough to have been one of the survivors.



HMS Malagas, merchant seaman, Navy