Researched and written by Anne Wright
2/Lieutenant M Kemp-Welch
10th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment
Killed in action, 11.4.1917
James Kemp-Welch and Hannah Olivia Brown married at St. Ives in Huntingdonshire in 1879. James’ wife is sometimes referred to as Olive in records but the marriage details and the 1881 Census refer to her as Hannah. They had two children, Maurice (b.c.1880) and Olive Dorothy who was three years younger. They were born in Barton Regis in Gloucestershire. In 1881 Maurice and his parents lived at 21, Cotham New Road, Westbury upon Trym in the same county. His father was a factory manager. By 1891 the family had moved to Parkstone, St. George’s Avenue in Weybridge. Maurice was educated at Clifton College and King’s College, Cambridge from where he graduated with a degree in Natural Sciences in 1902. He became a member of the Chemical Society and after leaving university went into business dealing with the commercial chemistry of oils. In 1911, while still based in Weybridge, but now at Olantye on The Heath, he was a motor and tyre dealer. During the summer of this year he married Margaret Fraser Pattillo in Chelsea; their daughter, Margaret, was born on 28 October 1912. Immediately after the outbreak of war he focused on adapting German methods in rubber and with a colleague created a process of coating canvas with rubber. His obituary (1918) in The Journal of the Chemical Society Transactions observed that one of the characteristics of his work was ‘science for science’s sake’.
On 19 June 1916 2/Lieutenant Kemp-Welch was one of a group of officers who reported for duty with the 10th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment of the 62nd Brigade in the 21st Division. They were in billets at Meaulte and Maurice was posted to ‘D’ Company. He saw action very quickly as the battalion went into the trenches the next day and came under bombardment on 23-24 June including a gas attack. Although relieved on 29 June the 10th Yorkshires were back in the field on 1 July for the opening forays of the Battle of the Somme. They were relieved on 3 July and then ten days later were in Mametz Wood (west of Albert) where troops were assembling for what would become known as the Battle of Bazentine Ridge (14-17 July). On 15 July they were burying their own and German dead before being ordered to take a stretch of road in front of Bezantine Le Petit; ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies took the lead. They achieved their objective and secured a front of 6000 yards. August was largely taken up with periods in the trenches near Arras which was a relatively quiet time spent improving their surroundings. Maurice and his comrades had a more hazardous time in the front line near Gueudencourt in mid-September when they were subjected to heavy shelling in atrocious wet and muddy conditions. A comforting tot of rum was welcome on some mornings!
By the end of October the 10th Battalion was again in the front line, this time in the Quarry Sector which was part of the Hohenzollern Redoubt. For the next two months they settled into the routine of rotating in and out of the trenches and January 1917 was spent on training. Maurice went on leave on the 15th of this month. At the end of January they were in camp near Poperinghe (west of Ypres) with February spent in and out of the trenches once again and with much of March taken up with training, marching and practising formations for attack. All these preparations were to be put to good use in the first Battle of Scarpe, 9-14 April (part of the Arras Offensive). Maurice was involved in an attack on the Hindenburg Line on 11 April but the enemy wire had not been touched by British artillery fire and was too thick to get through. He and his fellow officer Lieutenant Pratt were killed.
Maurice’s body was not recovered and he is remembered on the Arras Memorial (Bay 5) in the Faubourg- d’Amiens Cemetery, on the First World War Memorial in the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge and on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Memorial (Burlington House, London). His father, a prominent resident of Weybridge, being a JP and member of the Urban District Council was still in Weybridge in 1918. Maurice’s widow did not remarry and died in London in 1959. Their daughter, Margaret, married in 1934 to Neil Gossage; they had a son and a daughter.
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriages Index, 1837-1915, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
1913 Kelly’s Directory, UK, City and County Directories, 1766-1946, www.ancestry.co.uk
1918 Obituary Notices: Maurice Kemp-Welch, Journal of Chemical Society Transactions, www.rsc.org
Tomkins Family Tree, www.ancestry.co.uk