|Birth name||Richard Justin Kemp|
14 April 1959 |
|Years of service||1977–2006|
|Unit||Royal Anglian Regiment|
War in Afghanistan
|Awards||Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Queen's Commendation for Bravery
Colonel Richard Justin Kemp CBE (born 14 April 1959) is a retired British Army officer who served from 1977 to 2006. He was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, an infantry battalion Commanding Officer, worked for the Joint Intelligence Committee and COBR and completed 14 operational tours of duty around the globe.
After retiring from the army, Kemp turned to writing. His first book, Attack State Red is an account of the 2007 campaign undertaken by the Royal Anglian Regiment, documenting their initial deployment and trials in Afghanistan. Attack State Red was listed as a bestseller in The Sunday Times, two weeks after initial publication.
Early life and military career
Richard Kemp was educated at Colchester Royal Grammar School. He then served as a soldier and officer in the Royal Anglian Regiment from 1977 to 2006. He started his training as an infantry soldier in 1977 at Bassingbourn Barracks, Cambridgeshire. The following year he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned as second lieutenant on the General List on 5 August 1978. He was posted back to the Royal Anglian Regiment on 3 March 1979, his first regimental appointment was as a platoon commander with the 3rd Battalion, based in Palace Barracks, Belfast. After leaving Belfast he subsequently saw service around the world, including Germany, Kenya and Cyprus. Throughout his military career Kemp completed seven tours on Operation Banner in Northern Ireland, including West Belfast, South Armagh, Derry City and County Londonderry; and a Spearhead tour to Armagh. He was promoted lieutenant on 5 August 1980, and captain on 5 August 1985. He later became an instructor at Bassingbourn before a posting to the 2nd Battalion as the second in charge (2IC) of a Company, Milan Platoon Commander, and then Battle Group Operations Officer, serving across the world including a tour as part of UNFICYP in Cyprus.
Kemp spent much of his early career working in mechanized and armoured infantry, including command of a Warrior company and command of the Armoured Infantry Training and Advisory Team covering British military units in Germany and the UK. He wrote the military operations manual, 'Armoured Infantry Company Group Tactics', which remains in use today forming a part of British Military doctrine.
As a captain in the Royal Anglian Regiment he took part in the first Gulf War, in 1990–91, commanding Brigadier Patrick Cordingley's 7th Armoured Brigade Tactical Headquarters. He was promoted major on 30 September 1991. In the late 1990s, he devised a new system for training Warrior AFV crews in gunnery combined with tactical movement, utilising standard armour ranges. The system was a development of US armoured infantry training techniques, and was subsequently adopted by elements of the Royal Armoured Corps.
Following tours with the headquarters of the 7th Armoured Brigade, at Camberley Staff College and in Headquarters Northern Ireland, he returned to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment as Point Company Commander, leading the company in Bosnia, Germany and Canada. In Bosnia, he served on operations with the United Nations (UNPROFOR). He then took over the Armoured Infantry Training and Advisory Team based at Hohne and Sennelager, and held a staff appointment in the Ministry of Defence. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 30 June 1997, and commanded the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment in Oakington and Londonderry from 1998 to 2000. After this command, he was appointed Commander of the Operational Training and Advisory Group and then spent six months as Counter Terrorism and Security Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.
Kemp was attached to the Cabinet Office from 2001–2006, with a six month posting to Afghanistan in 2003. At the Cabinet Office he worked for the Joint Intelligence Committee and the national crisis management group, COBR, during the period of the 2005 London bombings and a series of high profile kidnappings of British nationals in Iraq and Afghanistan. While working at the Cabinet Office his responsibilities included Iraq, and he made several visits to Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul. He was involved in devising and developing government strategies and policies on counter terrorism. He was promoted colonel on 30 June 2004, and retired from the army on 30 March 2006.
Kemp was Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan in 2003. He was responsible for all British forces deployed in Afghanistan, including a patrols unit operating under ISAF in Kabul, a training group working within the US-led Afghan National Army training mission, and a Provincial Reconstruction Team based at Mazar e-Sharif. During his tenure he also acted as Military Attache, working closely with the British Ambassador to Afghanistan and with the US Task Force Commander at Bagram and the UN Secretary General's Special Representative.
Kemp set up and led an ad hoc joint counter-terrorist operations group comprising forces from the US Marine Corps 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Antiterrorism) and the British Army, which achieved a number of successes against Al Qaeda-associated extremists in Kabul. While Commander in Afghanistan, he devised a doctrine for combating suicide attack, which did not previously exist in the British forces. That doctrine was subsequently taken into general use in the armed forces, promulgated by the Permanent Joint Headquarters.
Richard Kemp led a campaign in 2007 and 2008 to recognise the sacrifice of British troops killed and wounded in action by the award of a medal similar to the US Purple Heart. The campaign gained the support of the majority of Members of Parliament, through an Early Day Motion in the 2008–2009 parliamentary session; as well as widespread support among serving and retired military ranging from Private Harry Patch, last survivor of the Battle of Passchendaele to Field Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall, former Chief of Defence Staff.
The campaign also prompted specific debates in the House of Commons  and the House of Lords, and led to the MOD announcement in 2008 of a new award to be made to the next of kin of British soldiers killed in action, which was launched in July 2009. The award, called the Elizabeth Cross, is the first decoration to be named after a reigning monarch since the institution of the George Cross in 1941. The award was back-dated to the end of the Second World War. The Government has so far rejected calls for a new medal.
United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict
Kemp testified before the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, denying allegations that Israel engaged in war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Gaza War in December 2008 to January 2009. Kemp based his assessment on publicly available information from both sides, press reports and his 30-year experience of counter-terrorism operations and planning. In June 2009, Kemp wrote "HAMAS, THE GAZA WAR AND ACCOUNTABILITY UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW" for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. In this paper, Kemp accused Hamas of deploying women and children as suicide attackers, and wrote that "women and children are trained and equipped to fight, collect intelligence and ferry arms and ammunition between battles".
In October 2009, Kemp made a presentation to the United Nations Human Rights Council in response to the introduction of the Goldstone report in which Israel and Hamas were accused of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the Gaza War. Kemp spoke to the UN HRC on behalf of UN Watch. Kemp said: "Of course innocent civilians were killed. War is chaos and full of mistakes. There have been mistakes by the British, American and other forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq, many of which can be put down to human error. But mistakes are not war crimes...Based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in the combat zones than any other army in the history of warfare".
Kemp also claimed to have relied on Israeli expertise in Afghanistan. He said he received help from an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) anti-suicide bombing expert and the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, following the 2005 London bombings. Kemp was highly critical of the "automatic assumption that everything the IDF does is illegal." He said "there is harsh criticism against the US and British armies as well, but they are given the benefit of the doubt. Israel is always automatically condemned, no matter what. It's a joke. Even the conspiracy theory that the one responsible for the 11 September attacks is not al-Qaeda but Israel refuses to die out, it's unbelievable".
Operation Pillar of Defense
On November 18, 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defense, Colonel Kemp told IDF military reporter Yair Barzilai: "In this current operation, Hamas is repeating old tactics of placing civilians in the line of fire and is responsible for their lives. At the same time, it deliberately fires missiles at the Israeli civilian population, without provocation and with no just cause." He added that "the ordinary people of Gaza are not at liberty to say what they really think if they are questioned by the media or if they are questioned by investigators. They are under so much pressure to say what Hamas requires them to say."
Asked about his pro-IDF point of view, Kemp responded: "I consider myself as having an objective view of what's happening over here. The IDF does not need me to defend them; they have proven it over the years," he said. "It's the dispassionate military perspective that I bring." Regarding media bias, he said: "It was clear to me that there was a great deal of propaganda that was being generated against Israel, and then being exploited by people who didn't understand military matters and didn't want to question it, it suited their agenda to vilify Israel."
In October 2013 British media reported that Kemp may be on an Al-Qaeda death list. Kemp featured alongside others who have spoken out against Islamist terrorism on a video released by the Al Qaeda group al-Shabaab, which was responsible for an attack on a Nairobi shopping mall in 2013. The video included a clip from the BBC TV programme HARDtalk of Kemp condemning the killing of Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. It urged UK Islamists to copy the street murder of Drummer Rigby. The Daily Mirror reported that anti-terrorist police had discussed with Kemp this death threat and concerns over his security.
Kemp co-wrote a book called Attack State Red about the deployment of the Royal Anglian Regiment in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2007 as a part of Operation Herrick. The title of the book comes from the British military standing operating procedures (SOPs) for the alert state of a base referring to the likelihood of attack. Kemp wrote the book with Chris Hughes, a journalist with the Daily Mirror. The book seeks to place the civilian reader into the boots of the fighting soldier. It has been written with the intention of providing an insight into what it is like to confront an enemy in harsh battle conditions. The book was published in September 2009 by Penguin Books.
Colonel Kemp is a popular After Dinner speaker and is represented by an agency called Military Speakers.
Honours and awards
Kemp was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), Military Division, on 25 April 1994 in recognition of his intelligence work in Northern Ireland in 1993, and was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery for service as a commander in the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia in 1994. He was promoted Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), Military Division, in the New Year Honours 2006. In addition, he is a member of the International Advisory Board of NGO Monitor and of the Board of Advancing Human Rights (NGO).
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