studio image computer colourised from original circa 1916 iphotograph
47281 Sergeant Alfred Ernest Kemp served with the 9th Wellington East Coast Mounted Rifles, Ernest (as he preferred to be called) grew up and joined the Mounted Rifles from his fathers property at Ruatoria, but the ancestral family home was well north in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. Above left Ernest and his wife Dory stand in the gardens of Kemp House (circa 1960) - the oldest European structure in New Zealand. Today the house is a well patronised tourist attraction, along with the equally famous near by Stone Store, both built by missionaries when they arrived in New Zealand in 1819. Top right a computer coloured image of Ernest circa 1917. Below left, a Gallipoli Star, a Turkish medal of valour and one of many keepsakes the greater family keeps today. Below right the 9th Wellington East Coast hat badge.
Lance Corporal A.E.Kemp
Training Camp prior to leaving
New Zealand 1917.
by Steve Butler
from letters and photographs from grandson Nigel Robson.
Born in 1888 Ernest Kemp would have been considered an "old man" when he boarded His Majesty's Troop Ship number 98 on the 13th November 1917. He was then 29 years old and well above the average age of those with him in the 31st Reinforcements of the Mounted Rifles. Perhaps because of his age, but more likely because he was a sheep farmer and therefore by definition a good horseman he already held the rank of corporal when the draft boarded ship in Wellington.
HMNZT 98 was the Union Steam Ship Company's converted passenger ship "SS Tofua" and the run across the globe from New Zealand to Egypt meant that it was late December and the year nearly over before Ernest was transferred into the 9th Wellington East Coast Rifles.
General Allenby meanwhile had kept his promise, and by the 9th December British and Anzac forces were already occupying Jerusalem for Christmas 1917. This was a great morale boost to the allied war effort.
The next move that would finally end the war eleven months later was to launch a two pronged attack into Northern Palestine and then towards Turkey itself. For Ernest and the Wellington Mounted Rifles their job was to advance North then inland to cut off the Hedjaz railway and capture Amman across the Jordan River. They were under command of New Zealand General Chaytor and his collection of units of Anzac Mounted Troops. Included also with the combined Anzacs were English and Indian artillery, and a selection of Jewish and West Indian Infantry. The group was dubbed "Chaytor Force."
Before Amman could be reached there were many skirmishes and actions, including the battle for Jericho and the dangerous crossing of a heavily fortified Jordan River where all bridges and fords were well protected by entrenched Turkish forces.
This colour image taken on the porch of "Kemp House" in the 1960's is of special interest, as Ernest still wears with pride his souvenir Turkish military belt buckle taken from the field of battle on the crossing of the Jordan in 1918.
Treasured Family Memento.
Ernest's American made 'Waltham' wrist watch that he wore to the Great War. The back engraved "43271 - A Kemp - NZMR"
Among the families keepsakes are a Turkish belt buckle, a Gallipoli Star and a Turkish soldiers school diploma taken as souvenirs from actions Ernest was involved with the Wellingtons at a Jordan river bridge crossing at Damieh. The official record of this particular incident is recorded by Lieutenant Colonel Powles in his book "The New Zealanders in Sinai and Palestine," and quoted below:
..."The general line of advance lay along the Roman road along a narrow plain shut in between the western hills and the Jordan and exposed to the enemy’s artillery which was posted on the other side of the river. When within striking distance the Auckland Regiment was sent forward north-east to attack the bridge, and the Wellington Regiment straight ahead to cut the Nablus road and to seize El Makhruk the Headquarters of the 53rd Turkish Division. These operations were carried out to the letter in spite of the darkness. The Auckland Regiment fought its way close up to the bridge and occupied a position astride the road and overlooking the bridge. The Wellingtons, by most skilful leading, at daylight had completely encircled El Makhruk, capturing some 400 Turks, a great mass of war material and the Divisional General and his complete Staff. Soon after daylight the systematic attack on the bridge began. At 7 o’clock an enemy force of about 500 with two mountain guns appeared advancing down the Wadi Farab facing the left of the Wellington line. This was the advanced guard of the broken VII. Army endeavouring to escape to the Hedjaz. The position of the Brigade at this time was precarious. In addition to the 500 Turks advancing against the left an enemy counter-attack of about 1200 men was developing on the right flank at Ed Damieh. On the right rear a body of Turks having crossed the river from the eastern bank had attacked the B.W.I. battalion (left at Talaat Amrah) in an endeavour to cut off the column; and one of the captured Staff Officers of the 53rd Division had divulged the fact that a force of two battalions of infantry was only three to four miles distant on the left rear.
General Meldrum reinforced the Wellingtons with the 10th Squadron of the Canterbury Regiment, and the 500 Turks were soon forced back into the hills, from which they intermittently shelled the Wellington Regiment for the rest of the day. The enemy’s counter-attack from the bridgehead upon the Aucklanders was strongly pressed, and the 1st Squadron Canterbury Regiment and one company B.W.I. were sent to reinforce Colonel McCarroll. A general advance was made at 11 o’clock and by a splendid bayonet charge the enemy position was carried, our machine guns causing great casualties to the fleeing enemy. The bridge was soon taken and the 11th Squadron, crossing mounted, pursued the enemy for some distance and captured many prisoners.
The capture of El Makhruk and Ed Damieh was the result of a daring plan quickly and boldly carried out. Hesitation or delay during the night would have entailed heavy casualties. It was essential to penetrate the enemy’s positions silently under cover of darkness. This was accomplished and when daylight came success was assured. The day’s captures included 786 prisoners, six guns, nine machine guns and 200 tons of ammunition and quantities of stores, and among the guns were two 15 pounders."
Right: The Turkish soldiers school diploma, much folded and yellowing with age.
Grandson Nigel Robson writes from South Korea. ...(also a) Turkish school diploma also souvenired after a battle in Palestine (by Ernest). As the latter is named, I had it translated some years ago by a Turkish professor at Oxford who could read pre-Ataturk Turkish so I know the identify of the Turk (Ali Agzade Huseyin Effendi) and his year and place of birth. It has long been my dream to track down his family and return it. In 1896, they lived in the small village of Havran close to Edremit (where he went to school), which in turn is very close to Gallipoli.
At this time Ernest had gained the rank of Sergeant and continued on with actions at Es Salt and through to Amman. In late October the Turkish Ottoman Empire surrendered and the war in the Middle East was over, and on the 11th November the war in Europe also finished. Finally the Great War was over.
Ernest returned home and continued farming on the isolated hill country of the East Coast at Cape Runaway, and in later life on retirement he and his wife Dory were able to take up residence in the family home of "Kemp House" in Kerikeri situated in the far North of the country.
Kemp house is famous in New Zealand, and has been visited by most of our nations population at sometime in their life. Busloads of tourists arrive daily to view the buildings erected here by the missionaries who set up a supply post that brought Christianity to our South Pacific nation. The old missionary residency of Kemp house is New Zealand's oldest European building and the only surviving structure from the turbulent "Musket Wars" of 1820 and stands next to the "Stone Store" built also by the Anglican Missionary Society.
Afterwards when the Mission moved south to Auckland both buildings were used by subsequent generations of the Kemp family as a trading post - Goods from Europe coming in for the new settlers and Kauri gum stored before export as a crucial ingredient for the world's paint and lacquer industry. The New Zealand Historic Place's Trust HERE
Right: Beaded Snake. These highly colourful beaded souvenirs were made by Turkish prisoners while they passed their time in P.O.W. camps and were much sought after by Allied Soldiers as gifts for home.
Among the photographs sent in by Nigel Robson was this exceptional image of his great uncle, a Quartermaster in the AMR. The photograph (the original sepia photograph below) showed off the uniform so well I decided to see what Leslie Buchanan would have looked like if the photograph had of been taken in a later world of Kodak color. Leslie James Buchanan, Regimental No 13/2512 - Born 6th February,1892. Photographed at Schmidt Studios Auckland in his Quartermaster Sergeant's uniform of the 3rd Auckland Mounted Rifles, July 8th 1915.
Leslie enlisted from the family home in Takapuna and departed New Zealand with the 8th Reinforcements on the 13th November 1915 on the "SS Tofua" the same boat that Ernest was to board two years later.
Leslie Buchanan later transferred to the Field Artillery and lost a leg as a result of serious injuries he sustained on the Western Front.
Nigel makes a final comment that reflects the disaster that faced thousands of young men who returned from the war:
" When I knew him as a boy in the 60s he was a tiny little guy with a crutch, a shadow of the young man in the photo."