Rank: Private
Number: 132017
Unit: (Probably) 31st Battalion MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 6 September 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Ploeegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Belgium

William Kemp and Sarah Jones had married at St Mary's Church, Cheadle in 1891. Ten years later, when a national census was taken, they were living at 3 Harwood Street, Stockport and now had five children - Samuel (then 9), Lily (8), William (6), Ellen (4), John (2). Sarah's widowed mother, Ellen, was also living with them. By the time of the War, they had moved to 101 Belmont Street, Heaton Norris.

When War was declared in August 1914, William, junior, was quick to volunteer for the army. John probably didn't enlist until he was 18. He was assigned to the Royal Lancaster Regiment for training purposes (service number 37828), but never served overseas with the Regiment. He was, no doubt, transferred to the specialist machine gunners when he had finished his training.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists John's unit at the time of his death as the 31st Company of the Machine Gun Corps. This is an error. Numbered Companies of the Corps had ceased to exist in the spring of 1918 when they were merged into new larger Battalion formations attached to each infantry Division of the Army. In late 1918, the Battalion that the 91st Company had joined was in Egypt and cannot, therefore, be the unit that John was with when he was killed in Belgium. It is probably a simple clerical error dating from the time of the War and probably should mean that he was with the 31st Battalion of the Corps.

In the spring of 1918, news will have come to Belmont Street that William had been killed during the German spring offensive. The family will still have been grieving when news of John's death came in the autumn.

On the day he was killed, British troops undertook a successful advance near Armentieres. The Battalion's War Diary is missing from the National Archives' collection and is not possible to know how John was killed. He has no known grave and it is known that machine gun posts were particular targets for enemy artillery. It seems probable that his gun emplacement took a direct hit and there was nothing left of him to bury.

© 2006. Design and Layout are the property of Ihelm Enterprises Limited and cannot be reproduced without express permission.
Enter Search Phrase Here:(search may take up to 30 seconds) 
Close Search Window