Bid to solve mystery of Pte Dempster’s medals

Medals awarded to Thomas Dempster, who fought in the First World War
Medals awarded to Thomas Dempster, who fought in the First World War
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THEY were earned bravely on the battlefield almost 100 years ago.

However, while these two medals may have been long forgotten, to one family they could prove to be a fascinating missing link with history.

A fresh hunt has been launched for relatives of West Lothian-born Private Thomas Dempster decades after his campaign honours were rescued from the rubbish.

Dan Humphries, 30, from Colchester, has taken up the search from his father who originally found Pte Dempster’s British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal while clearing a house in Wivenhoe, Essex, in the 1970s.

Bank worker Mr Humphries said: “My father didn’t want to just throw them out but they ended up getting put in a drawer and forgotten about.

“Then, with the 100-year anniversary coming up, we’d been talking about the First World War a lot, and I decided to see if I could find out more about them and perhaps return them to their rightful owner.”

Both medals were inscribed with the words “D-8948 PTE TC DEMPSTER 5-D.GDS”, which Mr Humphries discovered referred to Private Thomas Cowan Dempster of the (Princess Charlotte of Wales) Dragoon Guards, now known as the Royal Dragoon Guards.

He contacted the regiment and found that Pte Dempster had served in France from 1916 and returned home uninjured in 1919.

An appeal for information then led him to discover that he was born in West Calder on June 10, 1893.

“I also discovered he got married to Iva Miriam Gould at the St Mary the Virgin Church, Wivenhoe, Essex, on 29th April 1920. Thomas died in Hillingdon, London, in 1977 and as far as I’ve been able to ascertain he didn’t have any children, but it’s likely that he has some family out there somewhere.”

Rhona Gordon, a library assistant and member of the West Lothian Family History Society, who has been helping with the search, said: “It’s wonderful what Dan is doing, going to all this trouble to try to return the medals.

“I wanted to help because I’m very interested in history, but also because my grandfather and his brothers fought in the First World War.

“They all came back, but a lot of other families weren’t so lucky.

“I think people really need to be reminded of what those men did for us – if it wasn’t for them we probably wouldn’t be here right now.”

• Are you a relative of Pte Dempster? Get in touch with the Evening News on 0131 6208733 or e-mail


THE British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal were known as “Squeak” and “Wilfred”, named after two characters in a Daily Mirror cartoon strip concerning the adventures of three orphaned animals.

Des Brogan, history expert and director of Mercat Tours, said: “The [Dragoon] Guards were generally thought of as the elite in the army, and though it’s hard to be sure without knowing the exact date he [Thomas Dempster] was deployed to France, if it was during 1916 it is likely he fought in the Battle of the Somme. No-one who survived could cope with it for more than a couple of weeks.”