A Wartime Escape: Another Arnold Kemp

This is an excerpt from Arnold Kemp's family memoir: "The Sentimental Tourist". It is his account of the wartime escape of another Arnold Kemp, his uncle, and the younger son of the minister in Birse who is also mentioned here, Rev Arnold Low Kemp

Uncle Arnold’s escape

A REMARKABLE TALE of the war comes to us from my Uncle Arnold (Addie).   Uncle Addie was also able, if less literary than his older brother (my father Robert Kemp), and an active and adventurous boy.   His informal education was to prove of at least as much value as his studies in the classroom.   Indeed, his childhood ploys on the Dee probably helped to save his life later.  He was dux of Aboyne intermediate school and then followed my father to Robert Gordon’s.  He took a diploma in tropical agriculture at Marischal College (the other wing of the university) and was appointed an assistant manager of a rubber estate in the state of Kedah, North Malaya.   He left in 1937 on the PO steamship Corfu and immediately joined the local volunteer force.   In 1940 he moved to Perak, transferred to the Federated Malay States Volunteer Forces and began extended wartime training.

In December 1941, while he was on long leave in Sydney, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and northern Malaya.   He joined the Australian Imperial Forces but on his urgent recall to Malaya by the volunteer forces was granted an immediate discharge to enable him to return.   He arrived in Singapore in January 1942 in the midst of a severe air raid.   He was sent by train to Kuala Lumpur but it was overrun by the Japanese and he had to withdraw by stages to Singapore.

The Japanese assault forces penetrated the Singapore’s island defences about the 6th or 7th of February.   Their gunfire turned night into day.   Addie was in charge of a section of about 10 men with two machine guns, deployed in pill boxes on the tiny island of Berhala Repin, straight across from Admiralty Steps on the Singapore sea front.   Fires raged throughout the city and the harbour area.  Some members of the company were killed as the Japanese strafed and bombed at will:  they had total control of air space.

On Friday, February 13, two days before the fall, a party of Allied soldiers was spotted on a pier half a mile from Addie’s pill box.   Their company commander, Eric ‘Whisky’ Bruce, ordered him to take a couple of men and guide the party back to company headquarters.   It was a hairy journey as Japanese planes searched for victims.    Addie and his men ducked and dived, cowering in the craters with which the road was pitted.   But when they reached the pier they found that the party had been cut to pieces.   Bodies were spread about everywhere.  They found no survivors but as they were about to leave noticed a man, half buried, who still seemed to be alive.   When they pulled him free, they found that his body had been severed;  ‘he came away with no lower part attached’.   Convulsed with nausea, they covered him as best they could and left.   Later that night their nerves were again shaken when a Japanese bomb fell on a rock near Addie’s pill box.   A jagged boulder crashed through its concrete roof and came to rest on the lid of a full box of hand grenades.

During this week many ships were sunk in the harbour roads.  Early one morning Addie saw an empty lifeboat gliding towards the pill box.   He swam out to it and, grabbing its trailing painter, beached it, and secured it to an overhanging tree.

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"Were we just wrong Jim?" - Sillars and devolution

From Arnold Kemp's book, a personal history of post-war Scotland "The Hollow Drum".

...Jim Sillars told me a story about himself which, he said, explained his character. When he was 15 he was apprenticed to a plasterer and was one of a team working on a job. Although he was the junior apprentice he found he was expected to do the labouring. On further inquiry he discovered from the boss that the job had been priced to allow for three labourers, a junior apprentice, a senior apprentice and a journeyman. The boss had not employed any labourers; he was skimming more profit by making the junior apprentice do the donkey-work.

Sillars walked off the job. There was an enormous row. His father was called to a meeting. But it was to no avail and that day the plastering trade lost a recruit. 

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Crossoword tribute Herald

I APPRECIATED the tribute to the late Arnold Kemp by John McKie (alias Myops) incorporated into the Wee Stinker crossword on September 23. It was, as usual, very clever yet touching. William F Morton, 31 Banchory Road, Wishaw. 26/9/02

Lavrenti Beria and The Collapse of the Soviet Union

A column from The Herald 1992 on an article by Donald Rayfield in the Scottish Slavonic Review.


That Lavrenti Beria was a monster is well enough known, though the full extent of his activities is still dimly understood. Apart from developing state terror as an instrument of policy, he killed and tortured personally, for the pleasure of it. He became Stalin’s secret police chief. When the Soviet Union finally acknowledged its responsibility for the Katyn Massacre of 1943 – when more or less the entire Polish officer squad was wiped out by the Soviet secret police – it named Beria as the guilty man, though his recommendation was countersigned by Stalin and others.

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Richard Nixon

IT is one of the odd characteristics of our political life that the little things may be more dangerous than the large.  Chancellor Norman Lamont may with impunity squander billions on the fruitless defence of sterling. This matters little in the public mind beside his inability to keep his Access bill inside its credit limit.

Perhaps there is some validity in this way of assessing the real person. A character in a Jane Austen novel -- one of her succession of charming men who turn out to be scoundrels -- was found to be of light and careless disposition because he went to London to get his haircut.

And in London this week another victim of the treacherous turns of political life was making a triumphant return. They used to call him Tricky Dick but, thin as a cheroot, he received a standing ovation from a highly discriminating audience after a speech to a private dinner. Delivered with passion and fluency, without notes of any kind, it could only be described as a tour de force.

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