James Michael DEMPSEY

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DEMPSEY, James Michael

Service Number: 4400
Enlisted: 14 September 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 24th Infantry Battalion
Born: Clifton Hill, Victoria, January 1896
Home Town: Kew, Boroondara, Victoria
Schooling: St Ignatius Primary School, Richmond
Occupation: Railway clerk
Died: Killed in Action, France, 5 October 1918
Cemetery: Calvaire Cemetery, Montbrehain
Plot D, Grave 11
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Kew War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

14 Sep 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 4400, Melbourne, Victoria
21 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 4400, 24th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
21 Mar 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 4400, 24th Infantry Battalion, RMS Malwa, Melbourne
23 May 1918: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 24th Infantry Battalion
5 Oct 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 4400, 24th Infantry Battalion, Montbrehain

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

Provided by Michael Ganey for the Montbrehain Centenary, 5th Oct 2018

James Michael Dempsey was the second son born to Michael and Bridget Dempsey in Clifton Hill, Melbourne, on the 15 December 1895. He had an older brother John and three sisters, Mollie (Mary), Theresa (Elizabeth) and Maggie (Margaret). His older brother died in 1905 in a drowning accident and his father Michael died suddenly in 1909. James was then the sole breadwinner in the family.

His Attestation paper showed that he was a clerk with the Victorian Railways when he enlisted on the 14th September 1915 and it listed his age as 19 years of age. He initially served with the 24th [Depot] Battalion in Royal Park, Melbourne. He was then transferred to Broadmeadows for training as part of the 11th reinforcements to the 24th Battalion. He sailed from Melbourne on the RMS Malwa on the 21st of March 1916, and finally was taken on strength on the 19th September 1916. In November he was suffering from Myalgia and influenza and was hospitalized in Etaples. When he recovered, he rejoined the Battalion on Christmas day.

That Christmas and winter was one of the coldest on record and he was again hospitalized in February 1917 suffering this time from trench foot. This kept him in England until he fully recovered and he was finally classed as fit for active service on the 11th of November 1917 and he rejoined his unit in France. He then served with the battalion until June 1918, when he was struck down again, this time by intestinal issues. He rejoined the line in July as a newly appointed Lance Corporal.

He was killed in action at Montbrehain on the 5th October 1918. How he died is unknown. Lance Corporal James Dempsey lies in the Calvaire Cemetery in Montbrehain in plot D. 11. His mother Bridget requested the simple inscription, ‘Rest In Peace’ to be engraved on his headstone.’

A ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ with James’s name inscribed on it, has found its way to the Australian National Museum. It is used as ‘tactile’ teaching aid to teach Australian school children about World War 1.

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