Private John Kempshall

Private John Kempshall © Imperial War Museum
Private John Kempshall © Imperial War Museum

Thank you to John Callcutt for letting us reproduce the following information, taken from his book: A Village at War. Newdigate in World War One.

The first record of the Kempshall family in Newdigate was in 1605, when Richard Kempshall and his wife Susan moved to the village from Chipstead and had their five children baptised in the church. John Kempshall was born nearly three hundred years later in 1895 and was one of the twelve children of Henry John and Alice Kempshall. Henry was a waggoner on a farm, and John along with some of his brothers became farm labourers. They all lived in cramped conditions in North Barn Cottages, Newdigate, just north of Lyne House.

John Kempshall was posted to the 7th The Queen’s, the same regiment as Stephen Harber, and he was killed at the Battle of the Somme during the engagement at Trones Wood. On the 13th July 1916 the trenches received heavy enemy shelling but nevertheless the battalion assaulted the wood over a 750-yard front. They were met by heavy rifle, machine-gun and shell fire, as the enemy positions had suffered little damage from the earlier bombardment. The men were ordered to withdraw, but John Kempshall was already dead and did not make the comparative safety of Bedford Trench where a roll call revealed that 13 officers and 216 other ranks had become casualties that day. It took nearly a year before Private Kempshall’s death was officially confirmed. Another Newdigate lad from the battalion, Stephen Harber, was killed the following day at the same place. Their bodies were never recovered and both young soldiers are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. John Kempshall also appears on the Rusper war memorial.

Born                            Newdigate, Dorking, Surrey
Lived                           Newdigate, Dorking, Surrey

Son of                         Henry John and Alice Kempshall of North Barn Cottages, Newdigate

Regiment                     7th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment
Number                        G/6925

Date of Death              13th July 1916
Place of Death             Somme, France
Cause of Death            Killed in Action

Age                             21

Memorial                     Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

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