Peter Kemp (writer)

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Peter Mant MacIntyre Kemp (Bombay, 19 August 1913 – London, 30 October 1993), known as Peter Kemp, was an English soldier and writer. The son of a judge in British India, Kemp was educated at Wellington College and proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied classics and law. He became notable for his participation in the Spanish Civil War and during World War II as a member of the Special Operations Executive.[1]

Spanish Civil War[edit]

As a staunch Conservative and Monarchist, he was alarmed by the rise of Communism and in November 1936, shortly after the end of the Siege of Alcazar, broke off from reading for the bar and travelled to Spain where he joined a Carlist unit under the Nationalists. He was given journalistic cover for entry into Spain by Collin Brooks, then editor of the Sunday Dispatch, "to collect news and transmit articles for the Sunday Dispatch from the Spanish Fronts of War."[2] He later transferred to the Spanish Legion where, in a rare distinction for a non-Spaniard, he commanded a platoon. Kemp was often badgered by his Spanish comrades about whether he was a freemason due to his protestant background.[3] On one occasion his unit captured a Belfast man who had deserted from the Republican side. Despite Kemp's attempts to intervene on the man's behalf, he was ordered to supervise his execution.[4]

Wounded several times, he continued fighting until he suffered a shattered jaw and badly damaged hands in the summer of 1938 - the result of a mortar bomb, and was repatriated to England.[1] Just before he left Spain, he had the unusual distinction of an informal private meeting with Francisco Franco.[5]

World War II[edit]

Having barely recovered from his jaw injury Kemp had a chance meeting with Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker, the head of MIR- which was a small department of the War Office and a precursor to the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Becoming one of the earliest pupils at the Combined Operations Training School, he sailed in the hold of HMS Fidelity to Gibraltar and took part in a mission to pursue a German U-boat. A British Destroyer fired at the submarine carrying Kemp by mistake and the mission was abandoned. With further parachute and commando training he went on several cross-channel raids into Occupied France and was then posted to Albania, where he spent 10 months in clandestine operations. A mission in Poland resulted in capture by the Red Army. Released after three weeks in prison, he spent two further months in Moscow awaiting an exit visa before being posted to Siam in the summer of 1945, where he ran guns to the French across the border in Laos. Tuberculosis forced his retirement from the Army once the war had ended.

Later life[edit]

Post-war Kemp sold insurance policies and turned to writing. As a correspondent for The Tablet he travelled to Hungary to report on the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and helped some students escape to Austria. He was present in the Belgian Congo during the troubles that led to independence as Zaire, and also covered revolutions in Central and South America as the foreign correspondent for The Spectator. His first book Mine Were of Trouble described his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, No Colours or Crest his wartime experiences in Albania and Poland as a Special Operations Executive agent, and Alms for Oblivion his post-war experiences in Bali and Lombok. Before his death he produced an autobiography in 1990 called The Thorns of Memory.


  • Mine Were of Trouble (1957)
  • No Colours or Crest (1958)
  • Alms for Oblivion (1962)
  • The Thorns of Memory (1990)


  1. ^ a b Foot, M. R. D. (4 November 1993). "Obituary: Peter Kemp". The Independent. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Kemp, Peter (1957). Mine Were of Trouble. Cassell & Company. p. 5. 
  3. ^ Keene, Judith (Fighting for Franco) (27 September 2006). "The other volunteers". BBC News UK Magazine. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  4. ^ R. A. Stradling (1999). The Irish and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39: Crusades in Conflict. Manchester University Press. p. 190. ISBN 978-1-901341-13-3. 
  5. ^ Judith Keene (10 April 2007). Fighting For Franco: International Volunteers in Nationalist Spain During the Spanish Civil War. A&C Black. pp. 132–. ISBN 978-1-85285-593-2. 

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