I grew up seeing his name on the local war memorial, as did my father who was also named William Kemp. My dad was keen on family history, he could tell me all the living relatives and knew their exact relationship to us. He believed that all the Kemps in the Old KilpatrickÂ are were interrelated. So I’ve always seen L/Cpl William Kemp as part of my family, even though I cannot directly connect him from further research.
William was almost certainly a regular soldier before WW1, either that or a recalled reservist. The Scottish Rifles were a regular battalion and started the war in Malta. However they were recalled and sent to FranceÂ arriving in November 1914. William’s Medal Index Card shows that he arrived in France on 5th November 1914. It also records that he was killed in action.
I’ve tried to find the war diary for 2SR but it isn’t available online and I’ve not been able to go to either the PRO in Kew or the Regimental Museum in Lanarkshire. So I don’t know what was going on in early January 1915. Mostly likely it was routine in defence.
The newspaper clipping comes from the Lennox Herald which my mother found in the archives in Dumbarton Library.
I backed the Kickstarter campaign and got both the ebook and the paperback version of this as well as some pre-cut counters for playing the scenarios.
The book is a fascinating tour of the what if as well as the real history. It takes us through the technical and political backgrounds of both sides, the vessels and the commanders. Owen explains why the situation was what it was, why the protagonist navies had chosen their strategy and how they had got their ships on station when the first world war started.
Each of the battles is presented as a playable scenario, with basic rules in the annex and some counters (I got the pre-cut set as part of the Kickstarter, but the book has a copyable annex). In addition to the house rules in the book there are also suggestions for how to play the game with a couple of other popular sets of naval wargame rules.
Doing this allows readersÂ to understand how much leeway the real result had, what was inevitable, what was plausible and what was bad luck or poor judgement. The factors affecting this are also explained in the text. For example British gunnery was poor, most of the sailors were reservists recalled at the outbreak of war, so they were out of practice and many unfamiliar with the kit installed on the ships. They were also scratch crews and hadn’t had much time to practice together.
This is so much more than a history, it offers an insight into how and why the events in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean turned out the way they did.
The Belgians on our left were attacked and driven out of their trench line, and retreated towards Calais. The BEF left flank is, although entrenched, hanging in the air again. BEF reserve troops are at St. Omer. A request to the navy is made to bombard Dunkirk. A combined counter-attack will be made by the BEF’s left flank and the cavalry (reserve), supported by heavy artillery and naval bombardement.
Team Control Gloss
The BEF were using the fact that the enemy in front of them appeared to have gone static to rotate and rest their Corps. They also absorbed nine of the 12 available TF Battalions to bring all the Corps back up to full strength after the casualties from their previous counter-attacks and in the retreat afterwards.
Although the Belgian force was liaising closely with the BEF and drawing supplies from a secondary sea head established at Calais the BEF had not realised just how weak it was. It had a battered Belgian Division and a French reserve division in it, making it a very weak Corps (about 60% of the effectiveness of the BEF Corps). The Germans seemed to sense that this was the weak point, or perhaps just chose it because it was the seaborne flank. Either way they hit it with three fresh Corps supported by two heavy artillery units. The odds were stacked against the Belgians and their force simply disintegrated under the weight of the attack.
BEF’s part of the front aint as big as we thought it would be, we cover it to Bapaume.
Team Control Gloss
Well this was where I stopped following the team very closely and handed over to Paul, one of the map umpires, for about 45 minutes. The reason for this was that I was a combined Team Control and High Command Control, and there was a set of private peace talks sponsored by the USPresident Wilson in the US Embassy in Switzerland.
Present for the UK was the Foreign Minister, with a remit to ensure that Belgium was reinstated as per the status quo ante bellum. The other delegates were the German CINC, the Austrian Foreign Minister, a representative of the Czar, the Belgian Foreign Minister, the French Foreign Minister, and the US Secretary of State. (other minor powers were probably represented there also by the game designer, but those mentioned were all player roles).
The military situation at this point was that the Germans were losing in the East, having used most of their military effort in the West. East Prussia had been captured by the Russians. Despite this the Germans were very bullish about their progress and believed that they could hold what they’d taken in the West while re-capturing East Prussia if the war was to continue. Reason wasn’t a key feature of these talks, and in the end Russia and France decided not to pursue them further and walked out. This was after a number of reasonable compromises had been tabled by the British, the Americans and the Belgians. The Austrians were also keen on an immediate armistice and said so at the time.
The conclusion was that the war continued, and the Italians declared war on the allied side when the news of the behaviour of the Germans was made public by the press.
While the talks were going on the BEF used the opportunity of a stablised line to absorb a dozen replacement Territorial Force battalions and managed to rotate its Corps out of the ine to rest them too. Â In addition the Belgians negotiated a deal to re-equip their shattered forces on the French Channel coast with British equipment so that they could share lines of supply with the BEF. The Royal Navy also arranged to deliver these supplied and maintain contact with the Belgians in Ostend and Zeebrugge.
Orders are to entrench from south of marshed terrain In Dixmuiden towards Arras. Right flank tries to attempt a limited attack from Arras and surroundings directioned to the east to conform to the German line. It seems that a solid trench line is being built from Nieuwpoort (Swamped) Dixmuiden, Arras (in German Hands, a salient), BEF will try to widen her covered Area from east from Ypres (still in German hands), towards Arras (still in german hands, but a saillant) to Cambrai, to free up some French troops to attack elsewere. The Belgians are moving to cover our left flank to the coast.
Team Control Gloss
The orders happened mostly as written, but with a small amount of confusion. The Belgians had specified where their left and right flanks would be as places rather than indicating conforming to the British, so there was a slight gap. Fortunately the British had order their cavalry screen to remain in place until the Belgians were there.
Some more confusion, Germans frontline is from the Marsh area (Dixmuiden) to the South, direction Arras (which the Germans appear to have abandoned?) which means that the British advanced somehow without orders to do so. It seems that a change in warfare is taking place, the first trench lines are appearing.
Team Control Gloss
The Germans went firm and started to entrench in front of the British, with more active operations in South East Belgium where the French made a counter-attack and cut off the Western Belgium-France area from railway communications with Germany. This meant that the Germans were unable to advance this turn.
In tandem the British set their cavalry to screen the flank, and being cavalry they found the German front lines and conformed to them. The rest of the BEF remained in their defensive positions (as ordered). ARRAS was still held by the Germans, but the RFC suffered from bad weather and could see the depth entrenchments behind ARRAS so made an erroneous report that it had been abandoned. Had the Germans been able to attack the cavalry screen wouldn’t have slowed them down much at all.
While taking the new positions, the BEF was attacked by the Germans, Arras was lost but the German casualties were high.
British right flank doesn’t have contact with the French. On the political point, the Belgiums requested to the Royal navy to move their toops by sea to Ostend. However, this would bring the BEF in a difficult position again, due to the fact that this would create a gap between BEF’s left flank and the sea.
We have a gap between Doullens and the North Sea due to the Belgians reluctancy to fill this gap. We request the British Goverment to put some political pressure on the Belgians.
Confusion all around, BEF’s left flank isn’t at Hesdin, but at St. Omer Â Indian cav. reconnaissance is making probes towards Dunkirk. Situation is very confusing because BEF command still thought that the BEF was situated from Hesdin to Arras but actually it was from St. Omer to Arras. (With now a Cav. unit probe at Dunkirk. The Belgians (still there!) are helping the Cav. between Calais and St. Omer. Belgiums will probably request supply from the Britsh. French 6th has contact with the BEF’s right flank.
Team Control Gloss
The Indians arrived at ABBEVILLE (having landed a week earlier at MARSEILLES and then moving by rail all the way across France). Despite efforts to rectify the situation the BEF still have two hanging flanks. On the plus side they have a very good logistics supply and munitions are arriving faster than they are using them. Also the first Territorial Force battalions have started to arrive which is allowing them to replace the losses in the regular Corps from the attack on the Scheldt.
At this stage it looked very much like the German Second Army was going to punch through the hole and push towards PARIS while the German 1st Army screened the BEF from intervening. There seemed a realistic prospect that the British would get back on their ship and leave France. The War Cabinet refused the request to move the logistics base from ROUEN to BOLOUGNE on the ground that it was in danger of being over-run. Similarly the BEF moved both its HQ and railhead to be off the route between the Germans and PARIS.
Due to the fact that both the Belgians collapsed to the left of us and to the right of us the French 6th Army were thrown back as well, the BEF was in a difficult position. With bravery and in coordination with the battered Belgium forces a new line of defence had to be formed. After some consideration this line was formed from Montreuil (Belgium Army) and the BEF positioned at the line Hesdin – Arras.
During the last few days lots of german prisoners were made, but we must not forget the casualties on our side. Railhead at Amiens, HQ is moved to Grandvillers.
Team Control Gloss
The BEF made a spectacular fighting withdrawal from the position in the map above. They managed to break contact with the enemy (inflicting casualties on the Germans without taking any themselves). They fell back towards the newly arrived IV Corps which had concentrated at ARRAS. The German 2nd Army (shown above at CAMBRAI) attacked towards ARRAS and captured it (because the British had given the same fighting withdrawal orders to all their forces). Because the Germans didn’t immediately follow up the forward elements of the BEF they formed a line from ARRAS through BETHUNE to ST OMER rather than retiring the entire distance ordered (this was so that they weren’t too far out of contact with the French).
We have attacked the German First Army on our Right flank. They were numerically superior (Five Corps to our three) but we managed to stop their advance and drive them back. In doing this we took significant casualties, almost 21,000 men.
The plan is to keep the riverline Ghent – (towards) Douai, French 6th army will secure our right flank. Belgiums are gasping behind us but still cover the left part (South of Ghent – Antwerp)
Germans advanced (circled our left flank in Ypres, defeating the Belgiums east of our left flank) and at Cambrai (Germans defeating the French?). Threat of encirclement is very sincere. BEF is urgently retreating towards line Hesdin – Arras.
Team Control Gloss
The previous report had been a little worrisome in Horseguards, but the gist was that the counter-attack on the German First Army was going to rejoin the BEF to the French 6th Army. Unfortunately what happened was a major offensive by the Germans. This was stopped dead (and knocked back slightly over the Scheldt) by the BEF, albeit at a high cost in casualties. The French 6th Army didn’t manage to make progress in closing the gap. The Belgians also got pushed back on the left flank of the BEF, and lost contact leaving the BEF with two hanging flanks.
The news of the casualties caused horror in Horseguards and Kitchener, the Minister of War, came out to the BEF GHQ to find out what Field Marshal French thought he was doing. Typically Kitchener didn’t give instructions, although French was left in no doubt that he’d screwed up and needed to make sure that the BEF remained in being (“We’ve only got one army, look after it”).
We have moved up into a line between the coastal marshes at DIXMUDE to LILLE. Two corps of the German First Army are on our Right flank and we intend to attack them in the flank. We believe that they have extended lines of supply.
There is a gap between our right flank and the French left. This presents a risk to our troops.
A planned attack towards Tournai / Valenciennes is in progress with a deep recon by the Cav (to disorganize German Supply). Talks with the Belgiums have revealed that they are attacking out of Antwerp as well.
The BEF counters are finally on the map at the beginning of September as they are almost in contact with the enemy, in a secondary defensive line. The Belgians were having a rough time of it and the Germans have battered the Belgian Army almost out of existence.
Although noted in the report to the War Office by the players the fact that there was a gap between them and the French 6th Army they were more concerned about dealing the German 1st Army‘s Left Wing (shown in the middle bottom of the map photo) a decisive blow from the flank.