Major Kemp-Robinson

A donation of photographs, medal and WW1 binoculars was recently given to The Tank Museum Archive and Supporting Collection detailing the long career of Major Kemp-Robinson which took him to Africa, India, the Western Front, Ireland and Palestine. Included in the donation was a threatening letter from the IRA to a Major Harold Kemp-Robinson M.C. whose service covered the 1896 Ashanti War, WW1 and Northern Ireland.

The letter received in April 1921 contained a brazen threat made clear the intent for Major Kemp-Robinson M.C. to resign from the Auxiliary Division R.I.C.  Furthermore, should Major Kemp-Robinson M.C. fail to comply, the first action by the IRA would involve the destruction of the house the Major had in England and potentially any loved ones that were living in the properties. The second action would be a deadly intent to the Major himself.

The letter lacks the details or context as to why Major Kemp-Robinson has incurred the wrath of the formidable IRA Commandant, Michael Brennan. Brennan had been arrested after taking part in the 1916 Easter Uprising, however his arrest did not stop his cause of confronting the legitimacy of the British state.

Letters of this design were often used as a psychological tactic by the IRA to try to intimidate serving members of the Auxiliary Division. There are many newspaper accounts in 1920 and 1921 of letters being received and officers of the RIC being murdered, however it is unlikely that with his military experience, Major Kemp-Robinson would have been daunted and possibly could have seen the letter as a `trophy’.

Initially serving with the West Yorkshire Regiment for 18 years. The Major subsequently served with the 3rd (reserve) Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 1st Garrison Battalion, Hampshire Regiment based in France and the 10th, 3rd and 2nd Battalion.

Whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, the Major was awarded the Ashanti Star for the 1896 expedition launched against King Premeh in the fourth Ashanti War.

Kemp-Robinson’s military travels also saw service in India where he was awarded the India General Service medal and the silver bar for participation in the 1908 North West Frontier battles. During Operation Michael in March 1918, Major Kemp-Morrison with the 10th Battalion, Tank Corps, was ordered to launch a counter attack against the Germans around the territory of Achiet-le- Grand and later Achiet-le-Petit. The Major was awarded the Military Cross after being part of the battle that gave support to the British infantry and established a new defensive line.

The Military Cross citation reads:

‘In the action near Achiet-le-Petit, on March 25, 1918, this officer was in command of a section of tanks. In spite of heavy machine gun and shell fire, her moved about on foot between his tanks, directing them and pointing out targets. His action was most gallant, and the tanks of his section, instrumental in checking the enemy and causing many casualties to be inflicted. He showed a total disregard for his personal safety and set a splendid example to all ranks’.

During his illustrious military career, Major Kemp Robinson also served in the Auxillary Division R.I.C (No. 1265). The unit was formed in July 1920 by Major General Hugh Tudor, then Police Advisor to the Dublin Castle Administration. This unit containing 2,134 formidable, ex-British Army officers of first class record, was formed to ‘stiffen’ the resolve against the Irish Republican Army.

Following his service with the Auxillary Division in Ireland, the Major joined the Palestine Gendarmerie and once the Palestine Gendarmerie was disbanded, Major Kemp-Robinson M.C retired back to the UK and was active with the Royal British Legion in Bridport until his death in Lochaber, Scotland in 1928.

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