Elise Kemp

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Godewaersvelde_British_Cemetery. Headstone of Sister E.Kemp

Sister Elise Margaret Kemp (19 June 1881 — 20 October 1917) was a New Zealand born nurse and nursing sister who served in the Territorial Forces Nursing Service. She was the only New Zealand nurse killed in action during World War I.

Early years[edit]

She was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1881 (some sources erroneously cite 1882) to Dr. William George Kemp, a physician and surgeon, alumnus of the University of Durham, originally from England, and his wife, Charlotte. The couple married on 17 February 1870 and would have six children. Two of their sons followed their father's vocation, becoming physicians themselves.

By 1901 the Kemp family relocated to London, living in West Dulwich. Elise Kemp began studying nursing in 1904 at the nearby King's College Hospital. She was graduated on 12 February 1908, and began working as a Ward Sister. In 1914 she became a member of the London-based Territorial Forces Nursing Service (TFNS). Two of her brothers, who had qualified as physicians joined up with the Royal Army Medical Corps and served overseas. In January 1916 she was posted to the Western Front.


On 20 October 1917, she was treating casualties at a clearing station which was bombed by an enemy aircraft. Kemp, three orderlies and three patients were killed. The Matron-in-Chief made the following entry in the unit's war diary: "Went on to Godwaersvelde to 37 C.C.S. where I saw the O.C. and learnt the particulars of the very trying incident of the night before. Fortunately they had just evacuated and they had only 30 patients in hospital, or the casualties would have been very great. There had been no warning at all beforehand and the bombs landed close to a marquee where the sister, 3 orderlies and 3 patients were killed and other were wounded, two of whom lost their arms."[1] Elise Kemp was the only nurse from New Zealand to be killed in action on the Western Front during World War I.


On November 3, 1917 the British Journal of Nursing recorded her death as follows:

OUR ROLL OF HONOUR. "Great sorrow has been caused at King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, by the news of the death of Sister Elise M. Kemp, of the Territorial Force Nursing Service. Sister Kemp, who was trained at King's College Hospital, and afterwards promoted to the position of Sister, was a great favourite with her colleagues, both at home and abroad. At the time of her death she was working at a Casualty Clearing Station in France, where she was killed instantaneously by the explosion of a bomb. We offer our sincere sympathy to her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Kemp, of Hastings, in their bereavement."[2]


Sister Kemp is interred in the CWGC British Cemetery just outside Godewaersvelde.[3]


There is a memorial window in the chapel at Kings College Hospital to Sister Elise Kemp. Her brothers survived the war and returned to New Zealand to practice medicine.


  1. ^ Recount of the death of Sister Kemp
  2. ^ Royal College of Nursing archives
  3. ^ Sister Elise Kemp