Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthJune 14, 1882
Place of BirthStirling
CountryScotland
Marital StatusMarried
Next of KinWife: Annie Dempster, Keewatin
Trade / CallingFlour Packer
ReligionRoman Catholic
Service Details
Regimental Number820711
Service Record Link to Service Record
Battalion44th Battalion
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Infantry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentKenora, Ontario
Address at EnlistmentKeewatin, Ontario
Date of EnlistmentApril 29, 1916
Age at Enlistment33
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Death Details
Date of DeathMay 7, 1963
Age at Death81
Buried AtForest Lawn Cemetery, Burnaby, British Columbia

Dempster, William

William Dempster was one of four brothers, the sons of John and Catherine Dempster to volunteer for service during the war. He was born on 14 June 1882 in Stirling Scotland.

The family included John (1861) and Catherine (1861); sons William (1882), 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 of six boys and two daughters 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, sons 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 William was also working at the flour mill and he was married with a young son, John. His wife was Annie Smith, who’d come to Canada in 1914 from Scotland.

His brother Thomas had been among the first men from the community to enlist in 1914, followed by John in 1915. On April 29, 1916 William answered the call for recruits, joining the 141st Battalion, one of three regional battalions to be raised throughout Northwestern Ontario during the war. William was soon joined in training by his brother Andrew, who enlisted in the 141st on May 11. Unlike his three brothers, William had some military experience, having served four and half years with the 1st Fife Royal Garrison Artillery (Volunteers),13th Company before the family came to Canada.

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. While Andrew was transferred to the 8th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles), their brother Thomas’ unit for service in France, William was assigned to the 44th (Manitoba) Battalion  on 09 September 1917.

William was hospitalized on 27 October 1917 with shrapnel wounds to his face. He was discharged to base details on 23 November 1917.  He was wounded a second time on 28 September 1918 with a shrapnel wound to his right side and abdomen. William was invalided to England and recuperated in hospital until 17 December 1918 when he was transferred to the 18th Reserve Battalion until being struck off strength to Canada on 08 March 1919. His official discharge came on 21 March 1919 in St. John, Nova Scotia.

During his time overseas, Annie with their son John, returned to her family’s home in Scotland while her husband fought in the trenches. A second son, Robert, was born there in 1918 before the war ended and the family returned to Keewatin where a third child, daughter Anne, was born.

The 1921 census lists the family as living on Government Road and William had returned to work at the flour mill.

In 1948, William retired and he and Annie moved to Vancouver, sharing a house with his sister Mary and brother Andrew, who was an invalid due to his war wounds.

William Dempster died May 7, 1963 from injuries received three days earlier when he was struck by a car.

He is interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Burnaby, B.C.

William’s service in WW1 is commemorated on several Keewatin plaques.

by Bob Stewart

Photo of William provided by Shawn Dempster
Grave marker photo courtesy of Mike Melen

Dempster-William-1 Dempster-William-2 Dempster-William-3 Dempster-William-4 Dempster-William-5 Dempster-William-6

 


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