Richard Kemp

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Richard Kemp
Afghan 082.jpg
Richard Kemp
Born (1959-04-14) 14 April 1959 (age 59)
Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1977–2006
UnitRoyal Anglian Regiment
Battles/warsOperation Banner
Gulf War
Bosnian War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
AwardsCommander 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 Operation Fingal in Afghanistan from July to November 2003,[1] was 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. It was listed as a bestseller in The Sunday Times,[2] two weeks after initial publication. He has also contributed articles to The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Breitbart News.[3][self-published source?]

Early life and military career[edit]

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.[4] He was posted back to the Royal Anglian Regiment on 3 March 1979,[5] 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 deployments on Operation Banner in Northern Ireland, including West Belfast, South Armagh, Derry City and County Londonderry; and a Spearhead deployment to Armagh. He was promoted lieutenant on 5 August 1980,[6] and captain on 5 August 1985.[7] He later became an instructor at Bassingbourn before a posting to the 2nd Battalion as the second in command (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 mechanised 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.[citation needed]

Crossmaglen Security Forces Base, South Armagh, Northern Ireland

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.[8] He was promoted major on 30 September 1991.[9] 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,[10] 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.

Cabinet Office[edit]

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,[11] and retired from the army on 30 March 2006.[12]


Royal Anglian machine-gunners, Helmand, 2007

Kemp was briefly Commander of Operation Fingal in Afghanistan between July and November 2003, with approximately 300 soldiers under his command.[1][13] This included 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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)[14] and the British Army, which achieved a number of successes against Al Qaeda-associated extremists in Kabul.[citation needed] While Commander in Afghanistan, he devised a doctrine for combating suicide attack, which did not previously exist in the British forces.[citation needed] That doctrine was subsequently taken into general use in the armed forces, promulgated by the Permanent Joint Headquarters.[citation needed]

Political campaigns[edit]

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.[15] The campaign gained the support of the majority of Members of Parliament, through an Early Day Motion in the 2008–2009 parliamentary session;[16] 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 [17] and the House of Lords,[18] and led to the MOD announcement in 2008[19] of a new award to be made to the next of kin of British soldiers killed in action, which was launched in July 2009.[20] 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.[21]

The Gaza Conflict[edit]

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.[22] In June 2009, Kemp spoke on "International Law and Military Operations in Practice" at a conference at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.[23] In the report of the conference, 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."[24]

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.[25] 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."[25][26]

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."[22]

Operation Pillar of Defense[edit]

On 18 November 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 also 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."[27]

Death threat[edit]

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 murder 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.[28]


2015 University of Sydney lecture[edit]

On 11 March 2015, Kemp visited the University of Sydney in Sydney, New South Wales to deliver a lecture on "Ethical Dilemmas of Military Tactics" and the complexities in dealing with violent non-state actors like ISIL. This lecture was interrupted by a group of pro-Palestinian demonstrators led by Associate-Professor Jake Lynch, the Director of the University's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. Following a heated exchange between the protesters and audience members, the pro-Palestinian protesters were evicted by security guards. In response to the incident, Kemp wrote a letter to the University of Sydney criticising Lynch's behavior and accusing the latter of antisemitism. The University of Sydney has since commenced an investigation into the incident.[29][30]

Accusations of Baroness Warsi relating to the Islamic State group[edit]

In April 2017, a column written by Kemp and published in Jewish News suggested that Baroness Warsi had sought to excuse the conduct of the Islamic State group. The column also suggested that she had objected to action being taken against British Muslims who murder and rape for that organisation. Jewish News subsequently acknowledged that these allegations were wholly untrue and agreed to pay substantial damages, which it reported Warsi would be giving to charity.[31]

Call for deportation or internment of suspected terrorists[edit]

In the wake of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, Kemp called for all foreign nationals on the British government's terrorism watch list to be deported from the UK or interned and that "those people who are fighting with Islamic State, who have gone out from this country to fight with Islamic State, to murder, torture, and rape, we don’t let them come back. They don't come back into this country."[32]

Accusations of Jeremy Corbyn supporting terrorism[edit]

During the general election campaign in May 2017, Kemp accused Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of supporting terrorism: "We must face the fact that Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister would simply aid our enemies. He would rather support the likes of Hamas – every bit as fundamentalist as Islamic State – than oppose these extremists."[33]

Views of serving women in the military[edit]

Kemp is against women serving in the army's Infantry arm, stating that they lack "ferocity, aggression and killer instinct".[34][35]

Use of the term "taig"[edit]

In July 2017 he received criticism for his usage of the term "taig", a slur for Catholics (particularly those of Irish descent), during an exchange on Twitter, including from former Labour MP and British Army officer Eric Joyce who questioned if he knew it was a "racist term of abuse". In his defence Kemp mentioned that as a practising Catholic, one of the few in his former unit, and was often been subject to the term as a result did not consider it a term of abuse.[36]

Writing career[edit]

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.[37] 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.

Kemp is also an after-dinner speaker.[38]

Honours and awards[edit]

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,[39] and was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery for service as a commander in the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia in 1994.[40] He was promoted Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), Military Division, in the New Year Honours 2006.[41] In addition, he is a member of the International Advisory Board of NGO Monitor[42] and of the Board of Advancing Human Rights (NGO).[43] He received an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University in 2015.[44]


  1. ^ a b "Col Richard Kemp's command(s) in Afghanistan - a Freedom of Information request to Ministry of Defence". WhatDoTheyKnow. 13 December 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Sunday Times Bestseller List". The Sunday Times. 19 September 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  3. ^ "Articles". Colonel Richard Kemp.
  4. ^ "No. 47655". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 October 1978. pp. 11765–11766.
  5. ^ "No. 47830". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 April 1979. p. 5681.
  6. ^ "No. 48294". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 September 1980. p. 12372.
  7. ^ "No. 50032". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 February 1985. p. 2001.
  8. ^ Cordingley, Patrick (1996). In the Eye of the Storm. Hodder & Stoughton.
  9. ^ "No. 52691". The London Gazette (Supplement). 21 October 1991. pp. 16034–16035.
  10. ^ "No. 54827". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 July 1997. pp. 7831–7832.
  11. ^ "No. 57351". The London Gazette (Supplement). 13 July 2004. p. 8719.
  12. ^ "No. 57945". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 April 2006. p. 4707.
  13. ^ Harding, Thomas (28 August 2007). "Call for Second Iraq Medal clasp". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  14. ^ 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) Anti-Terrorism (AT)" (PDF)[dead link]. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  15. ^ "Posthumous Award for Troops Killed on Operations". Daily Telegraph. 10 June 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  16. ^ "Early Day Motion 95, Honour the Brave Campaign". Hansard, House of Commons. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  17. ^ "Column 181WH, Medals (Armed Forces Personnel)". Hansard, House of Commons. 26 February 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  18. ^ "Column GC152, Armed Forces: Wounded Personnel". Hansard, House of Lords. 17 July 2008. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  19. ^ "Posthumous award for troops killed on operations". Daily Telegraph. 10 June 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  20. ^ "Elizabeth Cross". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  21. ^ Kemp, Richard (17 July 2009). "Letters to the Editor: British Purple Heart". The Times. Retrieved 23 August 2009.
  22. ^ a b "First line of defense". 16 September 2010.
  23. ^ "Conference: Hamas the Gaza War and Accountability under International Law". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  24. ^ Kemp, Richard (7 July 2009). "International Law and Military Operations in Practice". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. p. 53. Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  25. ^ a b UK Commander Challenges Goldstone Report, UN Watch, 16 October 2009
  26. ^ unwatch (16 October 2009). ""Hamas is Expert at Driving Media Agenda," British Commander Tells U.N. Debate" – via YouTube.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Hughes, Chris (22 October 2013). "Former army commander defiant after warning he may be on al-Shabaab death list".
  29. ^ Falkenstein, Glen (17 March 2015). "Antisemitism on Campus: Has Sydney University's Jake Lynch Finally Gone Too Far?". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  30. ^ Kemp, Richard. "Letter to Sydney Uni from Colonel Richard Kemp". On Line Opinion. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  31. ^ "Baroness Sayeeda Warsi – an apology". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  32. ^ "Aussie diary". The Spectator. 17 March 2018.
  33. ^ Exclusive, Marco Giannangeli - (28 May 2017). "Army veterans furious over Jeremy Corbyn's 'despicable' foreign policy comments".
  34. ^ "Women lack killer instinct: colonel".
  35. ^ Barnett, Emma (24 November 2014). "We can train women to kill, but men won't like it" – via
  36. ^ Monaghan, John (29 July 2017). "Former British army commander does not consider 'taig' as a 'term of abuse'". The Irish News. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  37. ^ Kemp, Richard; Hughes, Chris (2009). Attack State Red. London: Michael Joseph. ISBN 978-0-141-92436-6. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  38. ^ "Colonel Richard Kemp CBE - Military Speakers".
  39. ^ "No. 53653". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 April 1994. p. 6165.
  40. ^ "No. 54028". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 May 1995. p. 6612.
  41. ^ "No. 57855". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2005. p. 5.
  42. ^ "Boards".
  43. ^ "The Princetonian".
  44. ^ Michael Rabi. "Bar-Ilan University bestows an honorary doctorate on Colonel (ret.) Richard Kemp". British friends of Bar-Ilan University. Retrieved 15 December 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to Richard Kemp at Wikimedia Commons