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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Climpson, Joseph (1894–1973)

by N. S. Foldi

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Joseph Climpson (1894-1973), soldier and policeman, was born on 23 May 1894 at Redfern, Sydney, second son of native-born parents Richard Climpson, labourer and later printer, and his wife Margaret, née Morris. Between 1911 and 1914 he completed three years compulsory military training while working as a letterpress printer.

Of medium height, with blue eyes, auburn hair and a fair complexion, Climpson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 August 1914. He landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 with the 1st Division Signal Company, and was promoted lance corporal next day. Mentioned in General Sir Ian Hamilton's dispatch of 11 December, he was transferred to 4th Division Signal Company on 12 March 1916. He sailed for France on 2 June, was promoted corporal on 16 June and saw action at Pozières in July. For his performance during this and later engagements on the Somme he was promoted to sergeant on 2 November and awarded the Military Medal in December.

In April and May 1917 the 4th Division was engaged in severe actions before the Hindenburg Line. Climpson was awarded a Bar to his M.M. and on 15 June was promoted to warrant officer class 2. On 4 October he was posted to the Signal Service Officers Cadet School in England; he was commissioned second lieutenant on 23 March 1918 and returned to the 4th Division.

On the night of 24 and 25 April 1918, during the great Australian counter-attack which recaptured Villers-Bretonneux, Climpson was in charge of the signallers at the headquarters of the 13th Brigade. All the brigade's communications had to be improvised in a very short time: 'this was accomplished by the energy with which he led his party of linesmen … lines were laid under incessant fire and maintained almost continuously throughout the attack'. On 26 April he was evacuated suffering the effects of gas. His gallantry, cheerfulness and devotion to duty won him the Military Cross, thereby completing a rare series of decorations. He was promoted lieutenant on 23 June 1918.

Climpson returned to Australia in June 1919 and on demobilization he joined the New South Wales Police Force. After training at the Police Depot in Sydney he was stationed at Wagga Wagga. On 7 April 1920 at Surry Hills he married Dorothy May Stevens, whom he had met in Britain. Briefly at Whitton in 1921, he was at Adelong in 1921-25 and at Maude in 1925-29; he attained the rank of constable 1st class on 1 July 1928. Next year he was transferred to Tarcutta and was stationed at Tumbarumba in 1934-42, Grenfell in 1942-45 and promoted to sergeant 3rd class at Bourke in 1945-47. Returning to Sydney he served at Burwood, Auburn and Parramatta police stations. He retired as a sergeant 2nd class on 22 May 1954.

As a country policeman, Climpson was involved with the Boy Scouts' Association and organized amateur concert parties. About 1968 he moved to Cooma where he died on 15 January 1973 and was buried in the Catholic cemetery. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vol 2 (Syd, 1924), and The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937)
  • London Gazette, 28 Jan, 8 Dec 1916, 16 Sept 1918
  • information from New South Wales Police Dept, and The Scout Assn of Australia (New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

N. S. Foldi, 'Climpson, Joseph (1894–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 12 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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