Friday, 13 February 2015

Carrickfergus Remembers Corporal James Sempey

NAME; Sempey,  James
RANK; Corporal
SERV. NO; 19751
UNIT/SERVICE; 12th Battalion“B Coy”
REGIMENT; Royal Irish Rifles
BORN; Ballyclare
LIVED; Carrickfergus
FATE; Killed in Action 10 February 1916 aged 29
CEMETERY; Mesnil Ridge Cemetery, Mesnil – Martinsart – Somme, France – G.7
CHURCH; Unknown 
REMARKS; James was born in Ballyclare in 1888 the son of Hugh and Isabella Sempey and brother of Hugh junior (who also served with the Army Service Corps).  Prior to the war he was living in Carrickfergus with his wife Sarah and working in the Sullatober bleach works, he was also a member of the Sullatober Flute Band.

James enlisted into the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in late 1914 and following training was posted to the Western Front in October 1914.  On 10th February 1916 James was hit by bomb and killed instantly aged 29.  

By the time of his death James was living in Ballyclare with his wife and four children who were informed of his death in a letter from Rev A Gibson, Presbyterian Chaplain (Lurgan) who in the course of his letter wrote “Your husband was killed yesterday by a shell.  He and several others were in a field close to a village when a shell burst near to them, and, unfortunately your husband received a wound at the base of the skull which killed him instantly and three others were injured.  Your husband was a fine man and was held in high esteem by the officers and men of his regiment.  His loss will be keenly felt by all of us and we shall miss him very much.  He gave his life in a great cause and he has not died in vain.” 

James body was buried at Mesnil Ridge Cemetery, Mesnil – Martinsart on the Somme.

The Battalion war diary notes the following - The month of February found the 12th Rifles still at Ribeaucourt although various companies were detached on work parties to units in the surrounding areas.
 On February 3, there was an exciting episode when a French pilot landed his machine near to the 12th Bn. Apparently he had ‘lost his way’ and had to stay the night.
 The next day, the Frenchman repaid (one assumes) the officers of the Bn. for their generosity. The war diary records:
 “French pilot took the following officers for a short trip in the aeroplane:- Lt. Col. G. Bull, Captain G. Thompson, 2nd Lts. Hanson, Moore and Stuart.”
Frivolities over, the Bn. marched into billets at Mesnil (a village behind British lines) on February 8, taking over from the Rifle Brigade.

 A three day ‘settling in’ period followed but on February 10, a German aeroplane ‘with British marks’ dropped four bombs on Mesnil, killing one man and wounding three others.

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