Major Peter Kemp, SOE: The man just liked fighting — a true war lover

Discussion in 'SOE & OSS' started by davidbfpo, Apr 10, 2021.

  1. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    I had never heard of Peter Kemp until finding references to him on the island of Bali after the Japanese surrender (subject of another thread: ).

    His full name was Peter Mant McIntyre Kemp:
    The first quote is from his obituary in the Independent; the second quote is from his obituary from The Times in a long article on him by a diarist who discovered his story:

    The IWM has a photo (not online) and has a summary for WW2:

    I have checked this website for any references; Operation Realtor: no threads / posts; for Stepmother Mission: one thread which mentions the subject was Kemp’s radio operator: 5443791 Sidney George ROBERTS, MM, DLI & SOE: Operation Stepmother? ; for Freston Mission there are two threads, with no mention of Kemp: Millitary geneology/SOE and Briton missing behind the Iron Curtain? and for Candle Mission: no threads / posts.

    Just post a thread where Kemp appears in a 2016 Anglo-Polish conference report:

    Kemp does appear, briefly in two threads on his training time: Post 1 in MI (R) Missions and Post 1 in: STC Lochailort - Cradle of Special Forces
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2021
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  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    There is a Wiki:

    Not about Kemp, rather his training in Scotland: BBC - WW2 People's War - Personal Memories

    A 2011 thesis on the training camps in the Scottish Highlands: https://bootcampmilitaryfitnessinst...the-scottish-highlands-1940-45-allen-2011.pdf and slightly different by the same author:

    A nice quote:
    From: Peter Kemp: ‘Set Europe Ablaze’

    I did locate a reviews for one of his books, which concerns Bali ‘Alms for Oblivion’, pub. 1961. The book is reviewed, with no mention of Bali on: REVIEW: Alms for Oblivion – Peter Kemp (1961; Mystery Grove, 2020) - The Pillarist

    There is a 1990 book about Kemp, the review barely mentions Bali: Wherever the cold war was hottest . . . » 27 Oct 1990 » The Spectator Archive

    Finally back to Bali:
    From: KEMP, Peter Mant MacIntyre | ͏ by Harry Fecitt (who sometimes visits here).
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  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Peter Mant McIntyre Kemp

    Father: Norman Wright Kemp
    Mother: Olivia Maria Martin
    Birth: 19 Aug 1915 Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
    Death: 30 Oct 1993 London, London, England
    Residence: 1939 London, London, England


    Peter Mant MacIntyre Kemp, soldier and writer: born Bombay 19 August 1915; MC 1941; DSO 1945; twice married (marriages dissolved); died London 30 October 1993.
    PETER KEMP was a distinguished irregular soldier during the Second World War, and long retained his nose for trouble spots thereafter.
    His father was a judge in Bombay, where he was born. After conventional education at Wellington and Trinity, Cambridge, he started to read for the Bar, but was called away by the outbreak of civil war in Spain. Already alarmed at the menace of Communism, he joined a Carlist unit in General Franco's forces in November 1936 and later transferred to the Spanish Foreign Legion in which - rare distinction for a non-Spaniard - he commanded a platoon. He was several times wounded, but stayed at duty till a mortar bomb broke his jaw in the summer of 1938.
    He had barely recovered from this wound when a chance meeting with (Sir) Douglas Dodds-Parker brought him into MIR, a small research department of the War Office which was one of the starting components of the wartime Special Operations Executive. MIR sent him on an abortive expedition to Norway by submarine. He was one of the earliest pupils at the Combined Operations Training School at Lochailort on the shores of the Western Highlands; sailed in intense discomfort to Gibraltar in the hold of that dubious craft HMS Fidelity; and went on another abortive submarine voyage in pursuit of a German U-boat. This aborted because a British destroyer attacked the submarine carrying Kemp by mistake. The operation SOE had planned for him in Spain was cancelled. He returned to the United Kingdom for further training in parachuting sabotage and undercover tactics.
    With a small-scale raiding force he took part in a few cross-channel commando raids, including a successful one which captured all seven of the crew of the Casquets lighthouse (one of them still wearing a hair-net). When the force closed down after its leader's death in action he went out to Cairo, and was absorbed into SOE's Albanian section. He spent 10 months clandestinely in Albania, many of them in disagreeable proximity to Enver Hoxha, the Communist leader. He had several close brushes with death, and found the complexities of Balkan politics intensely confusing in a many-sided war. Eventually he walked out into Montenegro, across the border with Yugoslavia, and was safely brought back to Cairo.
    He did one more mission for SOE in Europe, into southern Poland at the end of 1944, in a party commanded by Colonel DT Hudson, who had been a leading SOE agent in Yugoslavia. Their Polish friends protected them from capture by the Germans. They were then overrun by the Red Army, and imprisoned in odious conditions for three weeks by the NKVD. Two months hanging about in Moscow waiting for an exit visa followed.
    He had still not had enough fighting. He parachuted once more, in the summer of 1945, into Siam and ran arms to the French across the border with Laos - again fighting a polygonal war, for both the Japanese and the Viet Min tried to stop him.
    Tuberculosis forced his retirement from the Army, and his health thereafter was always precarious. His energies remained enormous. He sold life insurance policies for a living, and wrote some excellent books. One, Mine Were of Trouble (1957) described his part in the war in Spain, and No Colours or Crest (1958), his life with MIR and SOE. These were strong, spare narratives, in beautifully clear English, extremely readable then and since. He acknowledged many of his own mistakes and never said a word of his calm, gentle, unfailing courage.
    He went to Hungary during the rising in 1956, nominally as the Tablet's correspondent, and helped some students escape to Austria. He was present during the troubles in the Congo that led to its independence as Zaire; he fought intermittently in Vietnam; he visited and reported on revolutions in Central and in South America; he could even bear to revisit Albania, where he predicted further racial clashes between Albanians and Serbs. He was always ready to advise a friend; and in The Forms of Memory (1990) produced a notable autobiography. He bore his last illness with his usual fortitude.

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  4. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

    Peter Kemp was a fascinating fellow. He'd be the first on to tell you that yes, he fought for the Carlists

    I recall a few years ago trying to find his 2nd book "No Colours or Crests" in the double digits. The cheapest I saw it for was $400.00.

    A few weeks ago, the book gods shone down on me. Always been curious how Kemp got along with those SOE personnel who had held different political views when both factions were in Spain.


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  5. AlanDavid

    AlanDavid Junior Member

    I just bought a modern reprint of No Colours or Crest, on ABE Books. for around $20.00


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  6. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Listened yesterday to a 1983 two-part, forty-eight minutes BBC taped interview with him, held by the IWM. Not sure what happened to the interview, which appears to have been part of a 1984 series on SOE and its impact. There are curious breaks in it and only covers a small part of WW2:
    Link: Set Europe Ablaze

    Needless to say his comment on his time in Bali was my focus and he said (not an exact quote): "At the beginning of 1946, the SOE Mission in Siam (where his role was to help the flight of French refugees from Laos) was closed down. I then got the best job given by the Army - to liberate Bali".

    He then added that SOE missions in Indonesia more died than lived due to betrayal by the locals.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2021
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  7. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    For "davidbfpo", with apologies for tardy response (digging out books from boxes seems so much harder nowadays - due to failing memory no doubt!)

    Those "Set Europe Ablaze" interview reels have an inbuilt poignancy. The female voice posing the questions/prompting Peter Kemp is that of Henrietta March-Phillipps, daughter of one of Peter Kemp's colleagues, Gus March-Phillipps (killed on Active service with the Small Scale raiding Force in September 1942).

    Sadly Henrietta March-Phillipps, like so many children born during the war, never knew her father as she was born after his death, and herself succumbed to cancer, aged 48, in 1991.

    Apologies for digressing, extracts below pertaining to the late Peter Kemp from Gus March-Phillipps' official report of Operation Dryad (quoted in entirety within "THE WAR IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS, THEN AND NOW' by Winston G. Ramsey (an epic informative work published in 1981, and perhaps the first time I saw Peter Kemp's name in print, maybe), and Peter Kemp's own recollections of his accidental wounding during Dryad from "No Colours or Crest", plus a photograph courtesy of IWM (Catalogue number HU 65147) from his later SOE work in Albania, captioned;

    "Xhelal Staravecke shaking hands with Major Billy McLean at Shtylla, August 1943 during the first SOE mission to Albania. Behind them are Stilian and Stephan and, on the right, Major Peter Kemp" (circled).

    Kind regards, always remember, never forget,


    Searching for Peter Kemp books.jpg

    Casquets 1.jpg

    Casquets 2.jpg

    Albania Peter Kemp.jpg
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  8. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    Thanks, no apologies required. All content is welcome and I will update his Wiki entry soon.
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  9. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    Though I could never share the personal political leanings of the late Peter Kemp my admiration of the chap and the work he carried out is undiminished.

    The meter of the gentleman, for me, is best defined by the letter below (courtesy of the IWM), penned to Marjorie, the wife (and by this time widow) of Gus March-Phillipps, in the near immediate aftermath of his loss.

    Always remember, never forget,


    PK to Marjorie M-P 30th September 1942 A.jpg

    PK to Marjorie M-P 30th September 1942 B.jpg
  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Agreed Jim, nicely put and what a P.S.
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  11. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    From "British Companions of the DSO Awards".

    My underlining (the post war "SIS" connection possibly accounts for those somewhat peculiar stops/pauses/edits in the recorded interviews that he gave) plus one correction (to his last book title).

    Kind regards, always,


    British Companions of the DSO Awards PETER KEMP a.jpg

    British Companions of the DSO Awards PETER KEMP b.jpg
  12. ChineseCheckers

    ChineseCheckers New Member

    Good afternoon everyone,

    Thank you for doing so much research on Kemp, it's been a really great read. I wanted to share some high-quality archival photos of Kemp that were recently posted online. At this point they're so old that they're likely in public domain.

    The first is Kemp in his Requetes uniform during the Spanish Civil War. There was a smaller version of this photo previously available. The full-sized photo would make a good addition to his Wikipedia page.

    The second is a cartoon drawn of Kemp in the 1980s, when he was working as a "journalist" (likely spy) in Central America.

    The third is a picture of Kemp in his home at the age of 75, near the end of his life.

    Attached Files:

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  13. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron


    Welcome aboard and your post acted as a reminder to review this thread. 'Alien Eyes' in Post No.4 has a link to a US publisher in late 2020 producing Kemp's book trilogy 'Ten Years At War' in one volume, so just looked and it is available via Amazon in the UK and possibly other outlets:
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  14. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Kemp's book trilogy 'Ten Years At War' arrived today, so one day I will report back what it adds, notably his time in Bali in 1946. Not that his experiences elsewhere are of not interest.
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  15. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

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  16. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Kemp's three books are worth reading and are well-written. I have not read much on the Spanish Civil War, so his first book was quite a revelation - as a first-hand observer and participant on the Nationalist side.

    The second book on his Balkan tour with SOE in Albania and briefly in Kosovo, ending in Poland - are more about dealing with political factions who fought each other, rather than the Germans. Apparently the SOE mission in Poland was the first such mission; that I found odd and know very little about the post-Warsaw Rising period - as the Red Army advanced, anxious to locate the non-communist resistance.

    At times Kemp clearly thought there was a "hidden hand" active in SOE, if not the British government, that in effect assisted the communist partisans in Albania and Yugoslavia. He names two British officers who were Communist Party members. I think that this episode has been documented fully elsewhere.

    Another time I will add pointers to some of the unknown names and events. One of whom, William Nangle, I have encountered before in my work on the ILRS.
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  17. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    The Obituary in Post 3 has been identified as from The Independent, thanks to a new post linking it to: Obituary: Peter Kemp MC DSO and checking the text here it matched.
  18. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    One of the suspected Communist agents in SOE has been identified, a Temporary Captain Ormond Leyton Uren, b. 11/7/1919 in Australia, died 2015;who had particular language skills: French, Spanish and Hungarian - he had traveled to Hungary pre-war. He worked at SOE HQ, on the Balkan and Central European Desk. He was arrested in September 1943, just before leaving for a visit to Cairo where the SOE forward HQ for the Balkans was located. He was interviewed by MI5 and made a full confession. He appeared at the Duke of York HQ, Chelsea on 21/10/1943 for a General Court Martial, where he pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 1(1)c, Official Secrets Act 1911 (passing information to an unauthorised person). He was sentenced to seven years jail, so held in civil prison till release in 1948. The case was all held 'In Camera' and the relevant files were released in March 2019, with some exceptions and a number of redactions (which appear to use yellow post-its and when very short Tippex).

    The disclosure was made to a known member of the Communist party Great Britain, Douglas Frank Spring, who was seperately convicted of a similar offence on 28/7/1943:
    The National Archives file refers to:
    Link: Douglas Frank SPRINGHALL, aliases 'Springy', 'Peter', 'Zenoff/Zanoff', usually known as... | The National Archives

    Whilst the Uren National Archives files do refer to Springhall's part there is nothing on how Uren was identified and arrested. The assumption was that Springhall would have passed any information to the Soviet Communist party.

    Oddly IMHO Uren is shown on: Ormond Uren

    Nigel West's 2019 book 'MI5: British Security Service Operations, 1909–1945' refers briefly to the Springhall, and Uren cases; visible via Google Books.
  19. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    I overlooked till a few months ago that Kemp after Bali went onto the nearby island of Lombok, another part of the Dutch East Indies occupied the Japanese after the Dutch were defeated in early 1942. Chapter X1, pgs. 133-140 refers to his time on Lombok.

    Of note he wrote:
    His small party seventeen in number landed on 19/3/1946, at the principal port, Ampenan. Dutch troops made a beach landing on 27/3/1946 at Lembar and found the local population welcomed them enthusiastically. Kemp returned to Bali, for a week’s leave, on 3/4/1946; most of the party left for Surabaja (now Jakarta).

    The main thread on Lombok is: The Japanese surrender on Lombok to the Australians: a puzzle

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