McGimpsey, James Campbell (No. 21395)

McGimpsey, James Campbell (James)


No. 21395, 8th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)

Died of wounds on Saturday 13 April 1918 (aged 27)


Etaples Military Cemetery, France (Grave XXIX. B. 11A)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Canadian Virtual War Memorial (CVWM)

Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance

War Memorial in the grounds of the Legislative Building in Winnipeg

War Memorial in what was Eaton’s store (now a sports complex)

Newtownards and District War Memorial

First Newtownards Presbyterian Church


James Campbell McGimpsey was born on 4 April 1891 (he declared 28 March 1891 at attestation) and he was the second son of Robert and Grace McGimpsey (nee Campbell) who were married on 4 February 1887 in Carrowdore Presbyterian Church.  Robert McGimpsey from Belfast was a son of David McGimpsey, a farmer.  Grace Campbell (aged 20) from Ballymacruise was a daughter of James Campbell, a farmer.

The McGimpsey family lived in the Teacher’s Residence, 25 East Street, Newtownards.  For more than 40 years Robert McGimpsey was the Principal of East Street No. 2 National School (located in the grounds of First Newtownards Presbyterian Church and known locally as ‘McGimpsey’s School’) and he and Grace had twelve children:

David (born 1 August 1887 in East Street, Newtownards)

Jane (Jeannie, born 18 May 1889 in East Street, Newtownards; died of peritonitis in Ballymacruise 30 July 1897 aged 8)

James Campbell (born 4 April 1891 in East Street, Newtownards)

Robert (Bertie, born 4 August 1893 in East Street, Newtownards)

William (Billy, born 20 November 1895 in East Street, Newtownards)

Hugh Campbell (born 18 June 1896 in East Street, Newtownards)

John Gilbert (known as Albert, born 8 August 1898 in East Street, Newtownards)

Edward Bruce (born 17 May 1900 in East Street, Newtownards)

Marion Edith May (born 1 September 1902 in East Street, Newtownards)

Sydney George (born 5 June 1904 in East Street, Newtownards)

Ethel Jane (born 4 February 1906 in East Street, Newtownards; died of gastro enteritis 12 April 1906)

Grace Adeline Maud (born 24 June 1907 of gastro enteritis; died of pneumonia 22 September 1907)

Eight of the children, including James, were baptised in First Newtownards Presbyterian Church.

Their father, Robert McGimpsey, died on 3 March 1941 (aged 75)

James McGimpsey moved to Canada where he worked as a dry goods clerk in the T. Eaton Company (founded in 1869 by Timothy Eaton and at one time employing in excess of 30,000 people).  On 23 September 1914 he enlisted in Valcartier, Quebec where there was a large military training camp with space for some 32,000 men in tents and 8,000 horses.  In his attestation papers it was noted that he was 5 feet 7 inches tall with a dark complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.  He sailed from Quebec to England aboard the SS Royal Edward on 4 October 1914.

Private James Campbell McGimpsey (No. 21395) went to France in February 1915 and that year he suffered gas poisoning.  On 26 September 1916 he suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his right arm and was hospitalised in England (4th London General Military Hospital Denmark Hill Chiseldon).  He was granted two weeks home leave which he spent in Newtownards.  At that time four of his brothers were also on active service – David, James, Bertie (who worked on the building of the Titanic) and Billy (who grew up on an adjoining farm owned by Martin McGimpsey, an uncle by marriage and whose grandson James McGimpsey was also killed in action).  Another brother, Hugh, had been injured in a weight-lifting accident and was unable to serve.

David McGimpsey moved to Australia, served in the Australian forces and was taken Prisoner-of-War.  Private Albert McGimpsey Machine Gun Corps was wounded by shrapnel on 6 September 1916 and Lance Corporal Billy McGimpsey was taken Prisoner-of-War on 1 July 1916.  After the war Billy moved to Canada and he worked for the T. Eaton Company.

Private James McGimpsey was 27 when he died at 9.00 pm on 13 April 1918 in 24 General Hospital Etaples as a result of multiple head injuries sustained three days earlier.  Captain J.W. Williams, Chaplain, wrote to James’s mother to express his condolences and he outlined the circumstances in which James sustained his fatal injuries, ‘On the morning of 10 April an enemy raiding party came over and during the fight that ensued your son behaved very gallantly.  He fired the machine-gun until the pans were empty and then he flung the pans at the enemy and went at them afterwards with the empty gun.  Finally, he was wounded by a hand-grenade thrown by the enemy.  He was taken out that day and died in hospital on 13 April’.

Captain Williams went on to say that James Campbell was being recommended for some honour and he also quoted the orders that had been issued by Lieutenant-General A.W. Currie who commanded the Canadian Corps, ‘In the coming battle you will advance or fall where you stand, facing the enemy’.

Private James Campbell McGimpsey (No. 21395) was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, France and he is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in First Newtownards Presbyterian Church.

The President of the T. Eaton Company wrote to Robert McGimpsey to express his sympathy.  The family placed Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices in the Newtownards Chronicle and the one in the 19 April 1919 edition contained the verse:

In the graveyard sweetly sleeping,

Where the flowers gently wave,

Lies the one we loved so dearly

In a lonely, far off grave