Allen Mortimer Kemp, No. 12/2553, 1st Battalion, Auckland Infantry Regiment. Died of wounds, 13 February 1917.

Born in Auckland in 1891 to parents Marian and Richard, Allen Mortimer Kemp was the eighth of ten children. The family farmed at Brookby, south-east of Auckland, where Allen grew up. Of average height with brown hair and brown eyes, Allen was working as a carpenter in Auckland when war was declared in August 1914. The 23-year-old signed up a few days later, the first of his family to enlist.

In late August, Allen was part of the Samoan Expeditionary Force which seized German Samoa in New Zealand’s first military action in the war. He returned to Wellington in April 1915 and transferred into the Auckland Infantry Battalion. In June, Allen again left New Zealand, this time to join the New Zealand forces fighting at Gallipoli. He arrived in time to be wounded during the August assault on Chunuk Bair and was evacuated to hospital in England.

Allen rejoined his battalion in November and spent Christmas in Egypt. In April 1916 the newly-formed New Zealand Division left Egypt to occupy the Armentières sector of the Western Front in northern France. Here, Allen was shot in the shoulder and once again hospitalised in England. While he was recovering, Allen’s mother Marian died. All four of her sons were now away at war. Allen returned to France in November and was promoted to lance-corporal the following January. His time in this new rank was shortlived.

On the evening of 10 February Allen led a patrol into no-man’s-land. Witnesses later stated that Allen was ahead of his men when shots were fired and the enemy appeared. His order to his men to go back was the last that was heard of him. At a court of enquiry three days later, Allen was declared missing, presumed to be a prisoner. Three months later, official word of his fate was received from the Dutch embassy in Berlin. Allen had been wounded when he was captured and died in a German field hospital in Haubourdin, France, on 13 February. He was 25 years old.

Allen was the first of his family to die in the war. His youngest brother, Ralph, was killed in action at Passchendaele later in 1917. His two other brothers survived the war, though one was a prisoner of war in Germany for a time. Allen is buried in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery in Souchez, northern France and is remembered on the Alfriston-Brookby First World War memorial.

Further information

Auckland War Memorial Museum Online Cenotaph record

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record

'Men who have fallen', New Zealand Herald, 25 September 1915, p. 9

'Roll of honour', Auckland Star, 12 July 1916, p. 6

'Prisoners of war', Auckland Star, 23 May 1917, p. 2

'Prisoners of war', Auckland Star, 25 July 1917, p. 10

'Roll of honour', Auckland Star, 3 November 1917, p. 5 

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