b. 26/10/1916 London. d. 21/08/1943 Philippeville, Algeria.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 21/08/1943 Phillippeville, Algeria.
Andre Gilbert Kempster (1916-1943), was born Andre Gilberto Coccioletti on 26th October 1916 in Westminster, London. He was the only son of Ettore Filippo and Aimee Kathleen Coccioletti (nee Kempster). His mother was originally from Dulwich, London. Andre attended Cheltenham College from 1925-1933, and on leaving school, he went into the hotel business, and by the outbreak of World War II, he was Hotel Manager of the Stafford Hotel, St James, London.
On the 10th May 1939, Andre changed his name by deed poll from Coccioletti to Kempster, because of his Italian sounded name with war pending. On the outbreak of war, he enlisted with the Green Howards Regiment, and joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, in a Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel F R Armitage OBE in July 1940. He joined as a 2nd Lieutenant but within a few weeks had been made company commander and promoted to Captain. In 1941, he became Adjutant to Armitage, and he was quickly promoted again to Major. He was described by his commanding officer as “one of keenest young officers he had ever met.”
In May 1942, he transferred from the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment to the Royal Armoured Corps. He then served in North Africa, and a few months prior to his death, he married Josephine Mary Jacob.
On 21st August 1943, at Philippeville, Algeria, Temporary Major Kempster was serving with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, attached to the Royal Armoured Corps. He was in a pit at Philippeville on the Algerian coast demonstrating grenade throwing to two of his men. One of the grenades he threw hit the top of the parapet and rolled back into the pit. Kempster frantically tried to scoop it up but failed. Kempster then made the split second decision to throw himself onto the grenade, just before it exploded. Kempster was killed instantly, but saved the lives of his two men.
Kempster was recommended for, and awarded a posthumous George Cross on 9th November 1943. He had been laid to rest at the Bone War Cemetery, Annaba, Algeria. Kempster’s medals including his GC were sold by Spink’s, London on 28th March 1995 and were purchased by a private buyer. In 2018, they were purchased by Lord Ashcroft to be displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: BONE WAR CEMETERY, ANNABA, ALGERIA.
PLOT 2, ROW D GRAVE 1.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Ashcroft Collection Website – Image of the Kempster Medal Group