SERVICE NO: 925
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1893
PLACE OF BIRTH: Digby
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 10 April 1916
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Hamilton
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 24
UNIT: 39th Battalion, C Company
EMBARKED: 27 May 1916
TROOPSHIP: HMAT A11Ascanius
FATE: Killed in Action – 29 May 1917 – Ploegsteert, Belgium
James Kilkelly was born at Digby in 1893, a son of Bartholomew Kilkelly and Sarah O’Brien. James was a student at the Digby State School. In 1904, when James was eleven, his father died. During his time in Digby, James spent three years with the Digby Rifle Club. Around 1914, Sarah and her family moved to Hamilton and residing in French Street.
War broke and James’ brother John enlisted on 20 July 1915. It was the 10 April 1916 before James followed him, leaving Australia just weeks later. James arrived in England in July and was in France around 24 September 1916. Within four days of his arrival, James was sick in hospital with mumps and he remained there for three months. He returned to his battalion on 28 December at Houplines in northern France. He was with the 10th Platoon of C Company.
In May 1917, the battalion was at Ploegsteert and toward the end of the month, they moved from the trenches to camp at the Catacombes west of Ploegsteert. A raid on enemy trenches was planned for the night of 29/30 May. James was nominated first bomb carrier and was on a parapet when he was hit with shrapnel to the back, close to his lungs and killed. His body was returned to camp and buried at the Military Cemetery on the edge Ploegsteert Wood. While the raid achieved objectives, four men were killed and thirty-three wounded.
On 11 June 1917, the Reverend Father Timmons visited Sarah Kilkelly to deliver the sad news. Eighteen months later, Sarah’s other son John safely returned home in January 1919.