Topic: Hugh Dempsey

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Hugh Dempsey (Service no. 25/382) was a First World War soldier with links to Marshland

Hugh Dempsey was born on 29 October 1889 at Marshlands, Christchurch, New Zealand. He was the second son of Mrs Elizabeth Dempsey, and the late William John Dempsey of 51, Caledonian Road, Christchurch[i]. Hugh’s grandparents from both his father and mother side came from Ireland. His mother was born in Rangiora, Canterbury on 12 July 1866, two years after his grandparents immigrated to Lyttelton, New Zealand. His father had occupations of printer compositor and tailor[ii]. Hugh’s father and mother got married in Christchurch on 12July 1886[iii] and had twelve children including Hugh[iv]. The elder brother William Dempsey was with the Tenth Reinforcements of the Army Service Corps in World War I[v]. Hugh received education at Marshland School and St Albans. In his early twenties, Hugh had grown up as a strong and fit man. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall with fair skin, blue eyes, dark-brown hair [vi]. Before enlisting, he worked with his uncle, Mr Hugh Ivinley for A. King & Co Flax Mills in Foxton as a labourer[vii]. He lived in Main Street, Foxton, Wellington[viii].



On 11 October 1915, Hugh enlisted as a rifleman (service number 25/382) of the 3rd Battalion, D Company, New Zealand Rifleman Brigade. On 4 February 1916, the 3rd Battalion left camp, marched through Wellington and embarked on Ulimaroa (Troopship No. HMNZT 42).  The Ulimaroa shipped 3 and 4 Reinforcements NZRB, 3rd Maori Contingent, No.2 Field Ambulance. Along with other soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, Hugh left New Zealand on 5th February 1916 and arrived in Suez, Egypt on 12March 1916[ix]. In Suez, the 3rd Battalion to which Hugh belonged moved to Ismailia by rail and marched to the Brigade camp across the Suez Canal at Ferry Post[x].  In May 1916, the New Zealand Rifle Brigade battalions started their first tour of duty in the trenches in France[xi]. In August 1916, the 3rd Battalion settled down in Huppy for intensive training on the trench-to-trench attack[xii]. In the attack on 15 September 2016, the Battalion fight in Flers Trench at the Somme Front of France, which contributed to the success of the operation[xiii]. Sadly, Hugh was killed in action on 24 September 1916, aged 26, one day before the renewal of another successful general attack along the whole front[xiv].


Hugh was buried at Caterpillar Valley (New Zealand) Memorial and remembered with Honour[xv]. The Memorial commemorated more than 1,200 officers and men of the New Zealand Division who died in the Battles of the Somme in 1916, and whose graves are not known[xvi]. His mother received a memorial plaque. As one of fifty-five ex-scholars of the Marshland school who had taken part in World War I, Hugh Dempsey was honoured in an important function held in the school on Friday afternoon, 6th October 1916. His name was inscribed, along with other nine, on a marble tablet of the Marshland Memorial for his supreme sacrifice[xvii]. Hugh’s mother inserted a memorial on the Press on 26th September 1917. It reads:


is drawn crept over the trenches, he fell midst shot and shell,

far from his home and dear ones, and the country he loved so well.

Though he lies in a soldier’s grave, where the Angels are guiding the sleeping,

His memory is as dear to-day as in the hour he passed away[xviii].

[ii] MyHeritage Family Trees

[iii] MyHeritage Family Trees [online database]. Lehi, UT, USA: MyHeritage (USA) Inc.

[v] Star 17/11/1916

[vi] Material from Archway                

[viii] New Zealand Electoral Rolls, 1853-1981.

[xvii] Roll of Honour Unveiled. Papers Past/Newspaper/6 October 1919/Page 4

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Hugh Dempsey

First Names:Hugh
Last Name:Dempsey