William Murphy was born in the Parish of Northwood on the Isle of Wight. His father was a Scot from Edinburgh. On his attestation papers his nationality would be listed as “English”. Educated at Northwood and Newport William moved to Shanghai and worked as a Merchant’s assistant in a firm of importers. At Shanghai William and his wife settled down as ex-pats. In 1915 William joined the Shanghai Volunteers. He remained a member of the Volunteers for 2 years before he, at his own expense, crossed to Canada on the 22nd December 1916. He attested in the Canadian Army Service Corps in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force at Vancouver, British Columbia on the 25th January 1917. After basic training in Canada Private W. G. R.. Murphy No. 200222 was posted to Shorncliffe, near Folkestone. Here on the 4h August 1917, William applied for a Commission in the Chinese Labour Corps. On his letter of application he listed his qualifications as follows:
“5 1/2 years business experience in Shanghai during which period I personally supervised a large staff of native workpeople. 2 years Shanghai Military Vol unteers through which I frequently worked with the native company both on Parades and in camps.
I have a fair knowledge of Mandarin and am conversant with the best methods of producing results from these people.”
His certificate of recommendation was signed by Major General steel who was the Major General Commanding Troops, Shorncliffe, on the 17th August 1917. The Certificate of Nomination to a Particular Unit was signed by the Officer in Charge, Chinese Section, Labour Concentration Camp, Folkestone
Upon acceptance William Murphy was to be discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force enabling William to take up his commission. He was appointed temporary Second Lieutenant on the General List for employment with the Chinese Labour corps with effect from the 7th of September 1917, and was struck off the strength of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada on his Commission in the Imperial Army on the 8th September 1917. 2nd Lt W. G. R. Murphy first crossed to Boulogne, on the 26th of September 1917, when he was posted to Labour Corps Base Depot at Boulogne. On the 18th December 1917, while at Aberville, William was admitted to hospital with Bronchitis. A long standing perforation of the tympanic membrane, not caused by shell shock was also diagnosed. He was granted leave to an Officer’s Hospital from the 29th December 1917 until the 4th March 1918. He embarked from Le Havre on the 29th of December and disembarked at Southampton on the 30th December 1917. William survived the war and was released from service on the 31st May 1919 and relinquish his commission. He was to retain the rank of Lieutenant. William’s claim for travel expenses, presumably, from and to Shanghai, was deemed time barred in 1919.