Albert Kemp (Service Number 6800)

In this audio, the God-Daughter of Ethel Kemp reads from two war-time letters from Ethel’s father Albert Kemp to Ethel; as well as a postcard from Ethel to her father from 1917. The audio also provides a reflection on the impact on Albert’s family as a result of his death in the war. This audio comes from Museums Victoria (2014-2018) Love and Sorrow exhibition.

Introduction by Nadine Williams

“My Dear Ethel
Your mother tells me you are going to school now and getting on well and making quite a lady of you and you are a good girl to your Brother George and Mother.
So I wish you to carry that on the same until your daddy come home again. The place over here is something beautiful: the harvest field looked in splendid order and the weather could not be better and the fruit trees are all getting ripe for the boys to have a good feed of them
Well dear Ethel there is not much news just now so I will bring this letter to a close. Hoping this to find you all in best of health as it leave myself at present. With fondest of love to you of a safe return with the help of God Almighty above us all.
Yours, Daddy
My Dear little Ethel
I received a letter from/your mother and she told me that you told her a lie but I will forgive you this time but you must always tell your mother the truth again as you have got one of the best mothers in this world. You must be kind to her and do as she tells you and you will find she is kind and good.
I suppose your brother George is a little tricks – play with him nicely till your daddy come home again.
How are you getting on at school? I suppose you have learnt a lot by this time now.
I bought a string of Rosary beads for you …Have you got a nice little play mate yet? If so let me know her name.
Hoping/this to find you in best of health as it leave your daddy at present. I shall now bring this letter to a close with fondest of love to you dear Ethel Yours truly, daddy…
Please give a kiss for mother and George for me with a safe return with God Almighty Lord’s help.’
Dear George Ethel and Annie
It is a very solemn postcard to send but it is quite true and I have done some of this work while under heavy fire of our evenings but neverless it touched your heart a bit but we feel quite pleased with ourselves when we can get to our dead comrades & boys to bury the dead and give them a decent grave.
I shall close with fondest of love to all yours. Bert.
Dear Daddy
I am waiting and watching day by day for you. Ethel Kemp.
This is a postcard which my Godmother, Ethel Kemp, sent to her father while he was serving in the First World War.
Unfortunately, he did not return.
My Godmother Ethel was around about five years old when her father Albert, left for the war.
I believe the news of Albert’s death in the war was conveyed to Ethel’s mother, Annie by the local parish priest from St Joseph’s Church, Malvern.
Ethel didn’t really divulge anything to me.
I think she kept a lot of it within herself. Her own, sort of, personal grief.
It was only in later years when she spoke of it. But she’d have been well into her seventies or eighties
speaking of her father.
I’m not sure that Ethel or Annie Kemp ever got over the loss of Albert not returning from the war.
His family are very distressed over the fact that they do not know where his body lays at this moment.
He is out there somewhere and sadly, has not had a proper burial which the family would have loved to have given him.”

Albert Edward Kemp (Service Number 6800) was born in South Yarra in 1884, the fifth child Harry Agnes Kemp. Harry was a bootmaker by trade. Albert grew up in Melbourne and worked as a butcher and was small in stature, being around 163 cm (5 foot 4 inches), and weighing just over 50 kilograms (8 stone). In 1910 Albert married Annie Josephine Crewes, who was a seamstress, and they lived in Caulfield. Albert and Annie had two children, daughter Ethel, born in 1911 and son George in 1916.

Albert Edward Kemp, butcher, Glendearg Grove c1912

At the age of 32, on 4 October 1916, Albert enlisted for World War 1 (joining the 22nd Reinforcements, 6th Battalion, which was part of the 2nd Brigade which was made up entirely of Victorians). Albert left for England on the Ulysses, on 25 October 1916, when his son George was a little over 6 months old. In England Albert spent a number of months in training.

In February 1917 Albert disappeared – but was captured the next afternoon resulting in him being held in custody for four days for being without leave from midnight – and he also lost 18 days’ pay. In a subsequent incident on 13 July 1917, Albert disobeyed a command and was disciplined. After this he was sent to France by ship, on 27 March 1917, and was sent to the front. Less than six months later Albert was killed at Glencorse Wood in ‘The Third Battle of Ypres’ on 21 September 1917, with a witness saying he was killed by a ‘German bomb’. Albert’s body was never found. He is commemorated at 29 The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Belgium.

Back in Melbourne, while Annie qualified to receive a war pension, she struggled financially, unable to pay the rent on her home in Caulfield and was evicted, moving to Malvern. Annie remained single for the rest of her life and Ethel never married and they preserved mementoes of Albert all their lives. Ethel lived her whole life with Annie until Annie passed away in Malvern in 1961. George passed away in 1982 and Ethel in 2003.

The Third Battle of Yypres

The ‘Third Battle of Ypres’ (a Belgian city in West Flanders) was also known as the ‘Battle of Passchendaele’. Passchendaele was vital to the system of supply for the German 4th Army, lying on the last ridge east of Ypres, around 8 km from a railway junction at Roulers. This battle was a campaign on the Western Front fought by the Allies against the German Empire and took place between July and November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the  of Ypres. The campaign formed part of a strategy which the Allies decided upon at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917.

The involvement of Australian troops in the Battle of the Menin road ridge was the first major Australian involvement in the series of attacks known as ‘bite and hold’ attacks which began on 31 July 1917. The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge began on 20 September 1917 and marked the renewal of the Third Battle of Ypres. There had been a period of poor weather prior to this which had caused an interruption in the campaign, but when the weather improved in September, it allowed the British Army to re-launch the attack. After moving through Ypres, the First and Second Australian Divisions manned the front lines opposite Glencorse Wood. The British Army launched an assault on the German positions on the Gheluvelt Plateau (which was vital high ground) across the Ypres-Menin Road. While considered a successful offensive, the allies sustained very heavy casualties as did the German Army.

(SOURCE: This audio was first recorded for the Museums Victoria ‘Love and Sorrow’ Exhibition, Source: Daybreak Films. Copyright Museums Victoria and Bev Lasini)


Private Albert Edward Kemp, 1916-1917
Unknown photographer
Museums Victoria Collections Item MM 91503; Museums Victoria / CC BY (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International)

Albert Edward Kemp, butcher, Glendearg Grove c1912
Stonnington History Centre MP1606; Copyright expired – public domain,1

Armistice Centenary – World War 1 Stories is a partnership between the Alice Springs Peace Action Think Tank and 8CCC Community Radio. This project was made possible through the support of the Alice Springs Town Council Community Assistance Grants, The Australian Government Armistice Centenary Grants Program and Produced with the assistance of the Community Broadcasting Foundation. Find out more at