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The Bolton Museum recently displayed a set of four WWI medals donated to the museum in 1984 by the surviving family of Sjt Arthur Kemp. The fourth medal of the group was the Russian Medal of St George (4th class) an award of four classes, First class being the highest. A medal prolific on an army basis to British soldiers if one consults the London Gazette for the WWI period, but can only be described as scarce or even rare to individual battalions of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

The medals to Serjeant Arthur Kemp

The silver medal depicts the bust of Czar Nicholas II on the obverse and on the reverse in Cyrillic script carries the wording ‘For Gallantry’ and the particular class of the medal and contains the individual impressed issue number for the award. This was issued at a time when the Russians were a powerful ally to the allied cause.

Arthur Kemp was baptized as a baby at St Mathews Parish Church, Bolton on 25th November 1896, entry No: 867 of the register.

His parents were George Alfred Kemp a brush maker and wife Susannah both aged 28 years who were living at 2 Norfolk Street, by 1901 the family had moved home to 18 Elmwood Grove.

In 1911 the family had again removed home to 40 Huxley Street, Halliwell, the children now consisted of Minnie 16yrs, Arthur 14, Alice 11, Emily 9 and Albert 6 years. Arthur was a typical youngster for the time growing up in Halliwell, a part of the town abundant in cotton mills. He was a regular at church, a Sunday school attendee and schoolboy of Wolfenden Street Council School, until he attained working age, when he became a machinist employed in the foundry of Dobson & Barlow’s Ltd.  He was also a clever footballer and captained the Gem Utd side when they won the medals for the 1914-1915 football season.

With the onset of the war Arthur enlisted in October 1914 into the 5th battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and after his basic training was sent to France on 27th June 1915.

He was to win his Russian medal at the battle for Guillemont on 9th August 1916.  Guillemont was a village in the German front line and the attack went in at 05.25hrs the Battalion War Diary contains six full pages of an account of the action, signed by O.I.C. Lt Col Hesketh.

As a result of the attack the casualties suffered by the 5th L.N.L were as follows: 4 officers 29 other ranks killed, 2 officers 83 other ranks wounded 20 other ranks missing.

The London Gazette of 15th February 1917 showed Kemp as a recipient of the medal and gives unrestricted wear for the award.

The Bolton Journal & Guardian of Friday 5th October 1917 contained the full story with an accompanying photo of Kemp and the presentation of his medal on Saturday 29th September entitled:

‘Local Soldier Wins Russian Medal.’ 

‘An interesting presentation took place on Saturday at the Town Hall when L/Cpl Arthur Kemp of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was the recipient at the hands of the Mayor, Alderman Knowles Edge J.P. of the Russian Medal of St. George fourth class, which bears the inscription ‘For Valour’. L/Cpl Kemp whose parents reside at 47 Cloister Street, Halliwell enlisted when 18 years of age in October 1914, and has seen over 2 years’ service at the front. The soldier went over the top with comrades to relieve other men who were surrounded at Guillemont Farm August 9th 1916 and it was for carrying messages during this action he was awarded the medal. Since then he has seen much fighting and was slightly wounded on July 31st but stayed with the battalion. He was in recent fighting and came out of the trenches last Saturday for 10 days leave.’

There was a large attendance at the ceremony with local dignitaries and family and friends of the soldier. Also present were Major Lindsay, Capt. T. Entwistle MC and Lieut Wardle.

After the mayoral speech the Mayor pinned the medal on L/Cpl Kemps breast in front of the gathering.

Capt. Entwistle MC was invited to say a few words, on the occasion, he had been wounded at the Guillemont action of August 9th and also slightly a few days previously on August 6th.

Capt. Entwistle said, ‘he was present when Kemp won the decoration. He was ordered with part of the battalion to go up, and that he asked for volunteer runners. Kemp stepped out and although the Germans were shelling heavily, the young soldier got through. They found out all they wanted, and on being sent up again at night, he took Kemp with him again as runner. The Germans put up a very heavy barrage which Kemp went through with information to the higher command. Both these deeds were worthy of a higher honour than the Russian medal’

Kemp was heartily congratulated and there was much applause for him and also for Captain Entwistle, at the call of the Mayor.

After his leave Kemp returned to France where he continued to serve, the following indicates his actions just a matter of weeks later in November of 1917.

Held in the Liverpool City Archive collection is a collection of papers of the late General Sir Hugh Jeudwine, in this collection is a series of Army Forms W3121 which were used for medal recommendations. (Ref: 356-FIF-6-6-26)

Included in the collection is a form W3121 relating to L/Cpl –A/Cpl Arthur Kemp 1/5th Loyal North Lancs Regiment, dated 5th December 1917.

The recommendation for the Military Medal was made by Captain Sparkes. Officer Commanding L.N.L. Regt, 166th Bde of 55th Division, it states:

 ‘During enemy attack on Gloster Road N.E. of Epehy on 30th November 1917 was in command of a section of Battalion runners on left flank. His coolness and courage gave his men confidence, thus enabling them to render valuable assistance. He held onto his position until all his men were casualties. His bravery and utter disregard for personal safety was a splendid example to all. ( For Immediate Reward). Previously awarded Russian Medal of St George IV class, 16th September 1916.’

As can be seen the date of the Russian medal is at odds with the above Newspaper report of 5th October 1917, the recommendation for the Military Medal was not progressed and no additional award was made.

Kemp would eventually survive the war, he returned home and is found in the electoral rolls for 1920 living with his parents at their home at 47 Cloister Street, Halliwell.

Garry Farmer
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