|Born||14 April 1959|
Maldon, Essex, United Kingdom
|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 commanded Operation Fingal in Afghanistan from July to November 2003, 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 Kemp co-wrote Attack State Red with Chris Hughes. The book is an account of the 2007 Afghanistan campaign undertaken by the Royal Anglian Regiment, documenting their initial deployment and trials, and was listed as a bestseller in The Sunday Times.
Kemp is outspoken on a range of social and political issues, including defence, the Middle East, and the European Union. He is a regular contributor to publications including The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Bruges Group, ConservativeHome, and Breitbart News.[self-published source?] Kemp strongly supports Britain's exit from the European Union.
Kemp was educated at Colchester Royal Grammar School before serving as a soldier and officer in the Royal Anglian Regiment from 1977 to 2006. Having trained as an infantry soldier in 1977 at Bassingbourn Barracks, Cambridgeshire, he attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant on the General List on 5 August 1978. Posted back to the Royal Anglian Regiment in 1979, Kemp was appointed as a platoon commander with the 3rd Battalion, based in Palace Barracks, 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. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1980 and Captain in 1985. He later became a training instructor at Bassingbourn before a posting to the 2nd Battalion as the second in command of a Company, Milan Platoon Commander, and then Battle Group Operations Officer, serving in several locations across the world including a tour as part of UNFICYP in Cyprus.
As a captain in the Royal Anglian Regiment, Kemp took part in the first Gulf War in 1990-91, commanding the Tactical Headquarters of 7th Armoured Brigade, and was promoted to the rank of Major in 1991.
Following tours with the 7th Armoured Brigade 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.
Kemp was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1997 and commanded the 1st Battalion of the 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 to 2006, during which time he was briefly Commander of Operation Fingal in Afghanistan (between July and November 2003) with approximately 300 soldiers under his command. 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 kidnappings of British nationals in Iraq and Afghanistan. His responsibilities included Iraq, and he made several visits to Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel on 30 June 2004 and retired from the army on 30 March 2006.
After leaving the army, Kemp co-wrote a book called Attack State Red together with Chris Hughes, a journalist with the Daily Mirror. It describes 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. The book was published in September 2009 by Penguin Books.
Kemp has repeatedly spoken out against the 'malicious, disruptive' investigation and prosecution of British soldiers for suspected criminal acts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the opening of new investigations relating to the actions of British soldiers in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, including those relating to Bloody Sunday. Kemp has argued that the prosecution of British armed forces personnel for alleged criminal acts 'are part of a concerted campaign of political warfare intended to undermine western democracies and their ability to defend themselves.'
Kemp told the Belfast News Letter that he was concerned about the investigations into historic crimes because, 'It is obvious some soldiers do some wrong things of course but there is a very clear difference between them and terrorists. Soldiers set out to uphold the law whereas terrorists set out to maim and murder. They should be treated differently.' Kemp told a Law of War Conference at the Israel Law Centre in 2015 that 'it has always been difficult to get soldiers to adhere strictly to the laws of war because the battlefield is an inherently dangerous and frightening place, and soldiers are only human beings who sometimes succumb to the strain and stress of conflict, sometimes make mistakes, and who sometimes get overtaken by anger at seeing their mates blown apart next to them.'
Kemp was himself questioned by police in 2000 concerning his suspected role in the murder of a prominent Republican figure during the 1980s, but formal charges were not brought against him.
In 2015 Kemp spoke out in support of granting asylum in the UK to Afghan interpreters who had worked with British armed forces, accusing the government of 'an act of betrayal' in failing to offer protection. Writing in the Daily Mail, he stated 'There is no doubt in my mind that those who now face a real threat to their lives, or the lives of their family, should be allowed refuge in Britain. That doesn't mean every interpreter but those genuinely in danger.'
Kemp is an outspoken critic of the international community's stance on Israel, and regularly writes and comments on this issue. He is involved with several pro-Israel organisations including as a Board member at the Friends of Israel Initiative and the International Advisory Board of the pro-Israel organisation NGO Monitor  and a frequent speaker at the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of UN Watch.
Kemp has suggested that the UK government's condemnation of actions by the Israeli government and military in Palestine are the result of anti-Semitism within British government institutions and the mainstream media, as well as a desire by the same 'to appease militant Islam'. Interviewed in the Jewish Post in May 2015, Kemp stated that 'I'm not suggesting all Muslims are extremists, or support violence and terrorism. But, what I would say is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims is opposed to Israel and is anti-Semitic. As they gain dominance in different Western countries and threaten us with violence that they sometimes carry out - we've seen it in Paris, in Denmark, in London, where a British soldier was decapitated by Islamic extremists - there is an inclination among many people, who maybe ought to know better, to appease that violence and appease that dominance, and therefore side with them against Israel.'
Kemp asked to be interviewed by the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (also known as the Goldstone Report), which was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as an independent international fact-finding mission "to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying Power, Israel, against the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, due to the current aggression". His request was rejected "because the report did not deal with the issues he raised regarding the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas".
Kemp publicly rejected the conclusions of the investigation, denying allegations that Israel engaged in war crimes and crimes against humanity. 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."
In the report of a June 2009 conference at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Kemp also 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."
Kemp criticised the findings of the 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry Report on Gaza, calling it 'flawed and dangerous'. His analysis was strongly critiqued by Richard Falk, former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestine, who accused Kemp of ignoring and misinterpreting international law.
Kemp was involved in the 'Honour the Brave' campaign led by the Daily Mirror in 2007 and 2008 to recognise the sacrifice of British troops killed or wounded in action by the award of a medal similar to the US Purple Heart. The campaign was initiated by Rita Restorick, mother of British soldier Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, who was killed by an IRA sniper on 12 February 1997. An Early Day Motion in the 2008-2009 parliamentary session supporting the initiative gained the support of the majority of Members of Parliament, as well as widespread support among serving and retired military ranging including Field Marshal Sir Edwin Bramall, former Chief of Defence Staff. The campaign eventually 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 and was back-dated to the end of the Second World War.
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.
Kemp has consistently criticised efforts by the British army to increase gender and ethnic diversity. In 2014 he expressed his strong opposition to the proposal to end the policy prohibition on women serving in ground close combat roles, stating that women lack "ferocity, aggression and killer instinct". Writing in The Telegraph in 2016 he alleged that the decision to allow women access to all armed forces roles was driven by 'feminist zealots and ideologues hell-bent on equality of opportunity without exception' and that 'through no fault of their own, women will often become the weak link in an infantry team. The men will have to take up the slack'.
Kemp was critical of the army's 2018 recruitment advertising campaign, 'This is Belonging', stating that "The army, like the rest of government, is being forced down a route of political correctness ... What is most important is that the army is full of soldiers. It is of secondary importance that they reflect the composition of society."
On 1 August 2017, The Times published an article by Kemp claiming that Islamic State forces were attempting to infiltrate the British armed forces, stating that "The understandable drive by the armed forces and police to recruit more Muslims, and a less understandable concern for ticking the politically correct box over operational effectiveness, combine into an unprecedented danger." The article was condemned for stigmatising all young Muslims as 'potential terrorists' and undermining attempts to increase diversity in the British armed forces. On 3 August 2017 The Times published a letter from the Muslim Council of Britain that said "Richard Kemp chooses to cast a dark shadow of suspicion on Muslims serving in our nation's armed forces (Islamists may have already infiltrated our armed forces, 1 August)." Attacking an article that Kemp had written in that newspaper, they said it was "unreasonable and downright unfair to single out Muslims who have taken the patriotic step to enlist."
Kemp has defended the continued enlistment of 16 and 17 year olds by the British armed forces, despite criticism of the policy from child rights organisations, arguing that the recruitment policy 'unquestionably boosts the quality and fighting effectiveness of the armed forces'.
On 11 March 2015, Kemp visited the University of Sydney 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.
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 was subsequently ordered to pay £20,000 in damages plus costs to Warsi. In its public apology, Jewish News stated 'In a column written by Colonel Richard Kemp published in the Jewish News and jewishnews.co.uk on 6 April 2017, it was suggested that Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has sought to excuse the appalling conduct of the barbaric Islamic State terror group. The column also suggested that Baroness Warsi has objected to action being taken against British Muslims who murder and rape for Islamic State. We wish to make absolutely clear that these allegations were wholly untrue and should never have been published.' Warsi donated the damages to a charity for Muslim and Jewish women. Kemp himself did not issue an apology, and was accused by Baronness Warsi of appearing 'to wantonly publish inflammatory and offensive comments without a thought for the consequences (let alone the truth).'
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. He has also called for British nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism to be interned or stripped of their citizenship, stating "those 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." Kemp's calls were rejected by Brigadier Paul Gibson, the former director of counterterrorism for the UK Ministry of Defence, who stated the suggestions were "a very, very blunt instrument that I think would fundamentally undermine the way we in Britain operate as a liberal society where we absolutely put the rule of law at the front of everything we do." In December 2017 Kemp appeared on a Jon Gaunt podcast with far-right activist Tommy Robinson, calling for British citizens fighting for ISIS 'if possible to be killed in Iraq or Syria or wherever they are.'
On 23 July 2018 The Telegraph published an article by Kemp which argued that after its departure from the European Union, Britain should re-instate the death penalty for terrorism suspects.
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." In May 2019, he stated that 'Corbyn supports terrorism and terrorist violence. He is not a pacifist nor a man of peace despite his false claims. He is a racist, a liar, a fraud and a threat to this country and all it's [sic] people.' Kemp has repeatedly accused Corbyn of supporting the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.), condoning the murder of civilians and being 'a Jew hater'.
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.
In October 2018, Kemp wrote on twitter: "What is the difference between the killing of Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi regime & the killing of Dr Farshid Hakki by the Iranian regime a few days later? Western media have gone crazy over Khashoggi but silent on Hakki. Could it be that Saudi is ally of US while Iran is enemy?"
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. He received an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University in 2015.
Media related to Richard Kemp at Wikimedia Commons