Harold Dale Kember was born on 1st March 1886 in Stoke Newington, London to Harold Kember and Frances Lydia Kember [née Dale], and the fourth of six children. His father was a stationer and printer who died in 1910.


After completing his education; being at Wellington in the early years of the new century, Harold became a solicitors managing clerk and on 1st June 1911 he married Mary Elizabeth Hughes at St Stephen’s Church, Twickenham. A son, Jack Dale Kember, who was to be their only child, was born two years later on 1st June 1913. He died in 1978 in West London.


On 8th September 1914 Harold enlisted at 24 St. James St, London as a private solider in 16th (Service) Battalion (Public Schools), The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment). This was a case of second time lucky as his first attempt, to join the regular army, had been thwarted some years previously by the Army Medical Officer who had rejected him due to bad eye sight.


On 30th October 1915 Harold was declared AWOL [Absent without leave] at Peckham Down between midnight that day and 8.00pm the day after, suffering five days confined to barracks and one days loss of pay for his trouble.


On 17th November 1915 Harold and his Battalion arrived in theatre with their disembarkation at Boulogne, but it was not long before periods of ill-health began to blight his life. On 18th January 1916 he was admitted to No.33 Casualty Clearing Station with diaohrea and two days later was transferred to 99 Field Ambulance1 and from there to Lahore British General Hospital, Calais having been diagnosed with Enteritis and Pyrexia on 28th January.


After discharge from hospital, and not really fit for front line duties Harold was assigned to base duties in Boulogne but by mid-May 1916 was back in hospital in Étaples once again before finally being discharged as fit on 25th May, re-joining his Battalion on 8th June 1916 just as they were making preparations for the ‘Battle of the Somme’.


On Saturday 1st July 1916, 29th Division, of which Harold’s Battalion were part, were scheduled to attack the enemy either side of BEAUMONT-HAMEL towards the northern end of the line; with the 16th Battalion supporting the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.


At zero hour, 07.30am they went into action from their base in the support trenches and by 10.15am when the roll was taken 3 officers had been killed, 10 wounded, 5 reported missing, 6 missing believed killed. Of the ‘other ranks’ 19 had been killed, 306 wounded, 138 missing, and 37 missing believed killed. The survivors, who then took over the front line trenches in the AUCHONVILLERS sector, amounted to 9 out of 22 officers and 79 out of a total of 689 other ranks who were on strength at 7.29am: the Battalion had virtually been wiped out.


At the end of the day Private Harold Dale Kember, 16th (Service) Battalion (Public Schools), The Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) was dead, having been killed in action along with over 19,000 British soldiers, including 2,500 from London. He was 30 years of age and left a widow and young son and today lies buried in Hawthorn Ridge Cemetery No.1, Auchonvillers, Somme, France. He is also remembered on the memorial in St Stephen’s Church, Twickenham where he was married 5 years and 1 month previously.


The Middlesex Regiment was raised in 1787, and following various amalgamations, culminating as 4th Battalion, Queen’s Regiment, it was finally disbanded.


1. A Field Ambulance was a mobile front line medical unit, not a vehicle, manned by soldiers of the Royal Army Medical Corps [RAMC].



See also the Imperial War Museum permanent digital memorial to the ‘Lives of the First World War’ for HD Kember. https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/2223247