Per his military service record (regimental no. 4862), James McKeown was born at Mudgee, N.S.W. He gave his age as 37 years, his marital status as married, and his occupation as dealer & skin buyer. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 8 ¼ inches tall, weight 11 stone 4 lbs., with a dark complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair. His religious denomination was Roman Catholic. He claimed that he had 15 months active service in South Africa. He completed his medical on the 8th October 1915 at Gilgandra, and was attested by Captain Nicholas at Gilgandra on the 9th October 1915.
After completing the Coo-ee March he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.
In his service record the rank of Acting Corporal was assigned on the 9th October 1915. He was referred to as ‘Corporal McKeown’ in an article about some of the Coo-ees being home on leave in the The Gilgandra Weekly (7/1/1916, p. 3), and again as one of the corporals in an article listing the Coo-ees’ platoon sergeants and corporals at Liverpool Camp in the Leader (14/2/1916, p. 6).
On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Lower Miller Street, Gilgandra, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as wife, Mrs R. McKeown, Lower Miller Street, Gilganda, N.S.W.
On 8th March 1916 with the rank of Acting Corporal, McKeown along with many of the other Coo-ees departed Sydney on the HMAT Star of England, arriving in Egypt on the 11th April 1916.
On the 20th of May 1916 he was transferred to the 45th Battalion.
On the 7th June 1916 Private McKeown was made Acting Corporal, and left Alexandria aboard the Transport Huntspill bound for France, arriving at Marseille on the 14th June 1916.
Acting Corporal McKeown served with the 45th Battalion while it was undertaking training, and relieving on the front line, on the Somme battlefields in France. On the 12th October 1916 he reverted to the rank of Private.
On 22nd November 1916 Private McKeown went to hospital from the field, then rejoined his Battalion in the field on 4th December 1916.
On 26th December 1916 he was sent to hospital, and admitted to No. 1 Australian General Hospital in Rouen on 31st December 1916 with Myocardis.
On 1st January 1917 Private McKeown was evacuated to England sick with Bronchitis, and was admitted to the Lewisham Military Hospital on 2nd January 1917. On 29th January 1917 he was transferred to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford.
He was returned to Australia with Cardiac Insufficiency on the 4th May 1917 aboard the Hospital Ship Themistocles. He arrived in Australia on the 5th July 1917, and was discharged as medically unfit on the 31st July 1917.