|Date of Birth||August 8, 1887|
|Place of Birth||Stirling|
|Next of Kin||Mother: Catherine Dempster, Keewatin, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Shipper|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Address at Enlistment||Keewatin, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||May 11, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||28|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||February 13, 1952|
|Age at Death||64|
|Buried At||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Burnaby, British Columbia.|
|Plot||Lot 181 Grave 7|
Andrew Dempster was one of four brothers, the sons of John and Catherine Dempster, to volunteer for service during the war. He had been born on 08 August 1887 in Stirling, Scotland.
The family included John (1861) and Catherine (1861); sons William (1894), Thomas (1887), his twin brother Andrew (1887); Daniel (1888); John (1896) and James (1903); and daughters Julia (1890) and Mary (1897).
John and Catherine brought their family to Canada in 1907 from Glasgow, Scotland where John was a baker. He’d found employment for himself and his older sons at the Lake of the Woods Milling Company in Keewatin where they settled.
By the 1911 census the family was well settled in the community, although Daniel had died in 1909 at the age of 11. The census records they were living in a house on Nelson Street and John, Thomas and William were employed at the flour mill. Andrew worked at a sash factory and John at a sawmill. James, the youngest boy was still in school. Julia and Mary were also living at home.
By 1916 Andrew was also working at the flour mill. His twin brother Thomas had been among the first men from the community to enlist in 1914. On May 11, 1916, Andrew enlisted with the 141st Battalion, one of three regional battalions to be raised throughout Northwestern Ontario during the war. Andrew joined his older brother William in training. (He’d enlisted in late April, also with the 141st.)
After a year of training in Kenora and Port Arthur the 141st sailed for England at the end of April 1917.
Numbering just over 500 men and officers it was well understrength for a Canadian infantry battalion of the period which was expected to field 1,100 men. On arrival in England the battalion was disbanded and the men transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion which provided replacement troops to other Manitoba Military District battalions already fighting in France. Andrew was transferred to the 8th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles), his brother Thomas’ unit, on the Sept. 7, 1917 and sent to France. He joined the unit in the field on Oct. 4, 1917.
During the second battle of Passchendaele, Oct. 26 to Nov. 10, 1917, Andrew received scalp wounds to his head, and gun shot and shrapnel wounds to his buttocks and thigh.
The 8th Battalion was part of the Canadian 1st Division, which along with the 2nd Division had been held in reserve for the second stage of the battle. On Nov. 8 the battalion was given the task of relieving the 13th Battalion on the front lines and helping secure the ridge behind the village of Passchendaele to solidifythe frontline. The battalion came under heavy artillery bombardment during the three days of fighting recorded the battalion’s war diary, at times over a quarter its troops were buried under dirt and debris from the shelling. By Nov. 11, when it was relieved, the battalion’s effective strength had been reduced to 235 officers and men with just 150 men left in the frontline according to war diary entries, a fifth of its nominal size.
Andrew was treated at hospitals in the field and in England before being discharged to barracks with the Manitoba Regimental Depot for further recuperation. He returned to active duty in March 1918 and spent time training with the 18th reserve battalion before rejoining the 8th Battalion in France in August. He was wounded a second time at Cambrai on Sept. 28, 1918. This time he suffered a serious injury to his left arm and fractured ribs.
The 8th Battalion War Diary records the unit suffered high casualties during the battle designated as the Bourbon Woods Operation, part of the opening phase of the Canal du Nord battle. At the end of the three days of fighting, 64 officers and men were dead, 281 had been wounded by shrapnel and gun fire, three suffered gas injuries and 32 men were missing.
Andrew was hit by shrapnel that entered his left arm at the elbow, causing considerable tissue and nerve damage. He also had three broken ribs from the same shell blast. Treated in hospital in France, he was transferred to England for further treatment in November 1918 and invalided to Canada in April 1919 for further treatment at the Tuxedo Military Hospital in Winnipeg. Multiple surgeries in England and Canada, along with massage and electro-stimulation therapy failed to fully repair the damage to the main nerve in his upper arm.
A medical file entry in November 1919 at the Winnipeg hospital noted further treatment would unlikely provide further progress and he was deemed to have lost 80 per cent of the strength in his left hand, leaving him with a permanent disability. On 26 November 1919 he was discharged due to being medically unfit for further service.
Andrew returned to Keewatin to live with his parents and sister Mary. Andrew’s father John died in 1926 and the next year Catherine, Mary and John moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. Andrew’s sister Julia and her husband James Hemphill had moved their family there in 1926. Eventually the rest of the family would also move to the same East Side Vancouver neighbourhood.
Andrew passed away from a heart attack on Feb. 13, 1952 at the Shaughnessy Veterans Hospital.
He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Burnaby, B.C.
Andrew’s service is commemorated on several Keewatin plaques.
by Bob Stewart
Grave marker photo provided by Mike Melen.