No.855 Bombardier Herbert (Bert) Thomas Dempsey
Herbert Thomas Dempsey was born at Surrey Hills in 1895 to Thomas Dempsey and Emily Alice Ray. They had married in Victoria in 1894.
His siblings were:
- George Walter Dempsey (1896-1957) (A.I.F. No 22925) and
- Percy Faris Dempsey (1900-1959)
In 1909, the Dempsey family were living on the Metropolitan Farm at Werribee where Bert’s father was working as a labourer. He had been in their employee for about 20 years.
After leaving school, Herbert served an apprenticeship in plastering with Mr George Ray of Richmond for 3 1/2 years. At the end of the war he was then able to return to that industry and went on to become a plastering contractor.
Bert also had prior military experience, having spent one year as a Bombardier with the 3rd A.F.A, 25th Regiment that were based at St Kilda.
[3rd Field Artillery Brigade. - Royal Australian Field Artillery, 25th Battery (St Kilda).]
Herbert Thomas Dempsey took the Oath of Enlistment in the A.I.F. at Albert Park Barracks in Melbourne on 17 August 1914 and was then sent to the Broadmeadows Military Camp for training. On completion of basic training he was then appointed as a Bombardier to the 4th Battery A.F.A., A.I.F.
He embarked from Hobson's Bay in Melbourne on 20 October 1914 per HMAT Shropshire A9 with the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade, Number 4 battery, and travelled to Egypt. The compliment was four officers and 192 other ranks. En-route, they stopped at the Port of Albany, Colombo and Aden, before reaching their new camp at Mena, near Cairo.
Mrs. Dempsey received a letter from her son Bert, writing of how " ... a blue funnel steamer collided with them about 4 a.m. .." Other Werribee boys that were also on the same boat were Conron, Newland, Ogilvie and Thomson.
Werribee Shire Banner, 24 December 1914, p.2.
Once settled in to the new camp, the regular training continued, and on 28 January 1915 they were ordered to bivouac near Wadi El Gezair. They remained there for about one month, before returning to Mena. During his time in Egypt, Bert Dempsey was transferred back on strength with the 4th Battery A.F.A. The Commanding Officer of the 4th Battery A.F.A. in Egypt was Major Owen Phillips. When interviewed after the war, Bert said that discipline during his time in Egypt was very strict.
On 8 April 1915, the main body of soldiers in the 4th Battery left the Mena camp by train and arrived at Alexandria on the following day. After embarking on the HMAT A10 Karroo they sailed off to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces and arrived at the Port of Mudros (on the island of Lemnos) on 12 April 1915. All ranks then began practicing disembarking into boats in marching order. On the following days they again practiced disembarkation and landing of their guns, wagons and horses.
At 2 am on 25 April 1915, [Anzac Day] the 4th Battery, Australian Field Artillery sailed for Gallipoli and arrived there at 1.30 pm. They began disembarking by 3 pm., and their first 18 lb gun was pulled up on the shore by men. Firing commenced at about 6 pm on enemy positions at Gaba Tepe. They fired a gun flashed on Gaba Tepe, and silenced that gun position. On the next day the remainder of the guns were landed and began firing on designated positions. Two guns were positioned in emplacements made by engineers, and one (B sub) was sent under O.C. 3rd Brigade. Between 50 and 677 rounds were fired each day after the initial landing.
The 4th Battery, 2nd Field Artillery Brigade was in continuous service throughout the Gallipoli Campaign, and fought with distinction in the defence of Quinn’s and Courtney’s Posts, and the bombardment of Lone Pine in August 1915.
There is no doubt that Bert Dempsey served on Gallipoli, but his Service Record does not cover this time. A long time after the war, in 1976 he signed a Statutory Declaration advising the Army of his term of service there. He named the ship which he travelled on, and his Commanding Officers (Major Owen Phillips 2nd Field Artillery, No 4 Battery, and Colonel G Johnson). He also stated that he still had his original pay book detailing his time there, as well as statements from fellow soldiers who were also there, to support his claim.
Corporal Bert Dempsey wrote a letter to his mother in 1915, in which he described the landing at the Dardanelles. While under heavy gunfire, his battery had to pull their gun ashore through the sea for about a quarter of a mile. For that they had been recommended for a gallantry award. Their four guns had fired 1,200 shots on the first day, and his gun managed 450 of those. His letter was published in the Werribee Shire Banner, 26 August 1915, p.3
Herbert’s mother wrote to the Army on 10 May 1915, to advise them that her husband had died, and that she was now the Next of Kin for her son Herbert Dempsey. She had been forced to leave the Metropolitan Farm at Werribee, and was now living with a Mrs A. Thomas at Robinson Road, Surrey Hills, Victoria. Her husband Thomas died in the Melbourne Hospital on 9 March 1915, after an accident at the rear of their home on the Metro Farm in Werribee. He was getting out of his spring-cart when he was jammed against a gate post by the shaft of his vehicle.
Late July 1915, Corporal Dempsey was evacuated sick from Gallipoli suffering with typhoid fever and a gunshot wound. Typhoid caused many deaths and debility during the Great War, and it was caused by poor hygiene and lack of sanitation. The heat and flies associated with trench life ensured that typhoid remained a common affliction throughout the war.
Bert stated after the war that he received a gunshot wound while he was manning one of the unit’s guns. A mate who was standing next to him had his [illegible] blown off at the same time.
After a period of treatment at El Zeben in Egypt Bert was scheduled to embark for England on 2 August 1915 per HMT Berrima, but he was too ill to travel.
On 9 August 1915, he was admitted to No 17 General Hospital at Alexandria again suffering with fever. Then after a two month stay he was discharged to the Enteric Fever Convalescent Camp at Port Said on 6 October 1915.
He remained there until 15 November 1915, when it was decided that he should return to Australia for a three month change. He embarked on 15 November 1915 per HMAT Karoola A63, and arrived in Melbourne on 4 December 1915. He was listed among the Wounded Returning on the HMAT Karoola in the Weekly Times, 20 November 1915, p.8.
Two days after arriving home, his younger brother George Dempsey (No.22925) enlisted in the A.I.F., and was appointed to the 8th Field Artillery Brigade.
Corporal Bert Dempsey's service record does not record his movements after he arrived back in Australia. It does state that he was discharged from the 3rd Military District on 6 August 1916, and that he was still suffering from the effects of typhoid.
Bert Dempsey's return home was announced in the Werribee Shire Banner, 6 January 1916, p.2. Even though he was suffering with a bullet wound in his arm which wouldn't heal, and that he had a severe attack of enteric fever, he was reported as being in the best of health. He was still under treatment at the Base Hospital, and he said that when he had recovered, he was willing to return to the Army in a training role.
On 15 March 1917, his War service pension was reduced from 45 shillings to 20 shillings per fortnight. At this time he was living at 114 Mont Albert Road, Mont Albert.
At a function held at Werribee in May 1917, five local returned soldiers were entertained and then presented with gold medals. Those honoured were Private Conron, Bugler Lewis, Bombardier Dempsey, Private Chamberlain and Private McGregor. The cost of the medals was borne by the Werribee Shire Council.
Werribee Shire Banner, 10 May 1917, p.2.
Bert was still living at Mont Albert and working as a plasterer at the end of 1917. He filed a law suit for non-payment of work against clients for the value of £14/6/-.
Camberwell and Hawthorn Advertiser, 18 January 1918, p.3.
Between June 1920 and March 1921, Herbert had moved and was then living in Korumburra. His 1914-15 War Medal and British War Medal was mailed to him there. At this time, he applied for a Soldier Settlement block, but the file has not been released yet.
By 1922 he had moved back to Melbourne and was living at 34 Talbot Avenue, Canterbury with Bessie, Emily, George, Percy Dempsey. In 1923 he was the registered owner of the property and paid rates on it.
In 1925, Herbert Dempsey married Laura Constance Hill in Victoria and they moved to 20 Acheron Avenue Camberwell. They remained there for the remainder of their lives.
It was the same year that Bert became a member of the Victorian Coursing Club. He trained his own dog Peggy’s Guard, which he raced with considerable success around Victoria.
The Australasian, 23 May 1925, p.27.
He later went on to have further successes with other dogs.
In 1929 he was returning home after a trip to Werribee with his brother Percy when they were involved in a traffic accident near Laverton. No-one was seriously injured but several cars were severely damaged.
Werribee Shire Banner, 2 May 1929, p.2.
Bert continued as a plasterer until his death in 1968 at Cambrian Hill. He was then aged 73 years.
It is not recorded if Bert and Laura Dempsey had any children.
Medals & Entitlements:
- 1914/15 Star
- British War Medal
4th Battery A.F.A. - The 4th Field Artillery Brigade was raised on 23 September 1915, following the formation of the First Australian Imperial Force and the raising of the 2nd Division in Egypt in 1915. It comprised of recruits from the pre-war militia's 7th Field Artillery Brigade, based at St Kilda, Vic., and the 8th Field Artillery Brigade. The brigade went into camp at Albert Park, Melbourne, where it did its initial training. It consisted of three artillery batteries: 10, 11, and 12 Batteries.
25th Battery (St Kilda), 7th Brigade, A.F.A.
The Age, 17 November 1913, p.10.
25th Battery (St Kilda), 8th Brigade, A.F.A.
The Age, 30 October 1915, p.22.
18lb Gun – The quick firing 18 pounder gun mas the main type of field gun used by the Allies in WW1. Typically a gun and its ammunition limber would be towed by a team of six light draught horses, and manned by a crew of one Sergeant and five other ranks. 76 of these guns were sent from Australia to Gallipoli and France during WW1. http://www.artilleryhistory.org/ad_18_pound_project.html
A.F.A. – Australian Field Artillery.
D.S.O. – Distinguished Service Order.
F.O.O. – Forward Observation Officer.
The Werribee Shire Banner, 13 September 1917, p.2 reported that Mrs T Dempsey's brother, Major John Ray of the 2nd Division Field Artillery had been awarded a D.S.O.. It also noted that two of her own sons had fought for the Allies, being Bert Dempsey and George Dempsey. Major Ray was later killed in the war, and had also received two Mention in Despatches.
The name "Dempsey, B" (Bert / Herbert) from the Metro Farm first appeared in the Roll of Honor, Werribee Shire Banner, 2 September 1915, p. 3.
Major Owen Phillips was the Commanding Officer of the 4th Battery, 2nd Field Artillery Brigade during the Gallipoli Landing. Because of difficulties in positioning their guns in the rugged terrain, his unit was not fully functional until early May 1915, when the guns were installed on 400 Plateau, where they could protect the front lines. His Battery was in continuous service throughout the Gallipoli Campaign, and fought with distinction in the defence of Quinn’s and Courtney’s Posts, and the bombardment of Lone Pine in August of 1915. (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/phillips-owen-forbes-8039)
Typhoid fever is a type of enteric fever along with paratyphoid fever. The cause is the bacterium Salmonella typhi, also known as Salmonella enterica serotype typhi, growing in the intestines and blood. Typhoid is spread by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with the faeces of an infected person.
Marriage Index Victoria 1921-1942 CD ROM