James Dalton DINNEEN
Mentioned in Despatches

Serial Number: 66239
RAF Trade: Pilot
Date of Enlistment: circa 1915
Rank Achieved: Captain
Flying Hours:
Operational Sorties:

Date of Birth: 16th of July 1883, at Cambridge, New Zealand
Personal Details: James was the son of Michael Dalton and Mary Victoria Dinneen, of Auckland. He gained a Bachelor of Arts at the University of New Zealand and became a teacher with Auckland Garmmar School. On his departure from the school to travel to England he was presented with a wristlet watch by the headmaster Mr. J.W. Tibbs on behalf of the staff.

Service Details: James set sail for Britain aboard the steamer Remuera from Wellington on the 11th of February 1915, accompanied by his sister Miss C. Dinneen, with the intention of learning to fly and joining the Royal Flying Corps. He did join the RFC and gained his Lieutenant's commission on the 7th of February 1916. He was then promoted to Captain on the 1st of March 1916. However an eyesight problem saw him grounded and he transferred to the 1st Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment.

The Chronicles of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, dated the 28th of March 1917, p. 65, records the following:

"Copies of the Auckland Weekly News recently to hand, contain the following appreciation of a deeply lamented officer who fell at the Somme in September last:- Captain J. D. Dinneen, reported as having died of wounds, was formerly a member of the teaching staff of the Auckland Grammar School.

He left New Zealand in February, 1915, to volunteer for service in the military wing of the Royal Flying Corps. In this arm of the service he received a lieutenancy, and qualified as a pilot, but had to relinquish his commission owing to a defect in eyesight.

Qualifying then in infantry work he became a captain in the Auckland Battalion of the Expeditionary Force, and in that capacity has lately been fighting in France.

Captain Dinneen was a B.A. of the New Zealand University.

The circumstances in which Captain J. D. Dinneen met his death on the battlefield are related in a letter received this week by his mother, Mrs. M. D. Dinneen, of Manukau Road, Remuera, from Lieut.-Colonel Plugge, commander of the First (Auckland) Infantry Battalion of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, who writes:-'Captain Dinneen was wounded on September 27th. He was gallantly leading his company to the attack on Grid Trench, and, although he was twice wounded in the arm by machine-gun fire, he went on, but a shell burst close to him, fracturing his thigh, and a fragment striking him in the chest. We were not able to get him in until September 28. Three men were hit in attempting it, but one of his men got out to the shell-hole with food and drink, and covered him up. I saw him when they got him in, and immediately arranged for a change of stretcher-bearers. He was quite cheerful, and only wanted something to drink. My doctor told me afterwards that he had hopes that his fine constitution would pull him through, and it turned out that he had been hit by a phosphorus shell.'

In expressing his sympathy with the family in their bereavement, Colonel Plugge adds:- 'He was a splendid company officer, beloved by his men, and absolutely devoid of all fear. I miss him not only as an officer but as an old personal friend, and, though I was responsible for his joining the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, I do not regret it, and I dont think that he would.'"

James was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches for his bravery. The citation read

"For gallantry and devotion to duty. He led his company brilliantly in the attack on Grid Trench on September 27th 1916. He was first hit by a machine gun bullet, but kept on till hit by a shell. Unfortunately he has since succumbed to his wound. D.O.W. France 1 October 1916." (London Gazette, 4 January 1917, p. 261, Rec. No. 491)

Date of Death : 1st of October 1916, in France, from wounds, aged 32
Buried: Plot III.A.24., Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-l'Abbe, Somme, France

Connection with Cambridge: James was born in Cambridge, NZ

Source: Auckland War Memorial Museum


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