Kempthorne, Thomas Russell, 297, Police Constable.

Paul Watts

Thomas Russell Kempthorne Re-joining The Police
Herts Police Historical Society

Early Life.

Thomas Russell Kempthorne was born on the 18th February 1893 at Trelights St. Endellion, Cornwall.

His father, William Kempthorne a farm labourer, married his mother Julia Ann Smith (who was known as Ann) on the 18th October 1884  at St. Endellion. They had four children all born at Trelights:

  1. William Arthur born in 1885, enlisted in 1915 as Driver 211440 Royal Field Artillery.
  2. John Martyn born in 1887.
  3. Olive Annie born in 1890.
  4. Thomas Russell.

During the 1891 census the family were living at Lower Trefrcock, Trewint, Endellion, Bodmin, Cornwall. By the time of the 1901 Census they had moved and were living at Friars Cottages, High Wych, Bishop Stortford. The family appear to have a tradition, certainly with the boys, of using their middle names.  In the 1911 Census they are probably living at the same address although it has been recorded as Friar’s Lane, High Wych, Sawbridgeworth. The boys are still shown by their middle names and Thomas is employed as a farm labourer.

Little is known about the following two years until Thomas applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.

Police Service.

Thomas’ Police Service Record has not survived but it is believed that he was Appointed as Constable 297 on the 5th August 1913. This is based on the anniversary date of his pay increases and the rate of pay he received in 1915.

He would have undertaken his Probationer training at R Division at Headquarters at Hatfield earning £1/4/6 per week. At the conclusion of his training he would have been Attested and then taken onto the Roster and posted to a Division. It is believed that he was sent to A Division at Ware.

On the 17th February 1914 as he reached his 21st birthday his Pensionable Service would have started.

General Order 133 of the 18th August 1915 informed Thomas that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/5/8 to £1/6/10 per week from the 5th August 1915.

General Order 124 of 18th November 1916 was a list of 16 Constables, including Thomas, who had signified their desire to sit the examination for promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. The necessary examination papers were prepared and forwarded to the Superintendents concerned. The examination was held in accordance with the rules laid down in Order 192/1915.

General Order 137 of 21st December 1916 announced the result of the Examination for Promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. Thomas was one of those that qualified having taken the exam on the 6th December 1916 in the office of his Superintendent.

General Order 5 of the 22nd January 1917 was entitled Police Constables (Naval and Military Service) Act 1914 Police (Emergency Provisions) Act 1915 Enlistment in H.M. Forces: Consequent upon the demand for men of military age for service in H.M. Army the Standing Joint Committee have reconsidered the strength at which it is necessary to maintain the force and have authorised that a further 20 members shall be released for Army Service. Five of these have been accepted provisionally by the Army Council for service in the Military Mounted Police. Further instructions with regard to these men will be issued as soon as received.

In accordance with the resolution of the Standing Committee dated 5th January 1917 the Deputy Chief Constable hereby gives the necessary consent as required by the above Acts to a further fifteen Constables for the purpose of enlisting in H.M. Army. Thomas was included in this group. The Constables enumerated will be released from the Police Service as from Thursday 1st February 1917 inclusive and will be paid up to and including the 31st January 1917.

General Order 8 of the 25th January 1917 referred to Order 5/1917 and announced that the same fifteen Constables who were being released for military service were being granted leave of absence on 30th and 31st January 1917.

General Order 10 of the 26th January 1917 informed Thomas that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/6/10 to £1/7/5 per week from the 5th August 1916.

Army Service During The War.

Thomas’ Army Service Record has survived and from this and his Medal Roll Index Card and Medal Roll we know the following:

Thomas enlisted on the 10th December 1915 at Ware and on the 11th December 1915, he was transferred to Section B Army Reserve and returned to his Police duties. This was part of what was known as the Derby Scheme. Thousands of men around the country including dozens of Hertfordshire Police Officers enlisted under the scheme. The Hertfordshire Officers mainly enlisted between the 9th and the 11th December 1915. Every Section B Reservist was issued with an individually numbered Khaki Armlet with a red Crown displayed on it which was to be worn on the upper left arm to demonstrate they were a Reservist and were waiting to be mobilised.

The following was recorded: He gave his address as 18, Gladstone Road, Ware, his age as 22 years 10 months and his trade as Police Constable. He said he was not married and had never served in the Military before.

His description on enlistment was recorded: Apparent age: 22 years 10 months. Height: 5 feet 9 inches. Chest: 37 ½ inches 2 ½ inch expansion. Marks: 4 vaccination marks left arm. He gave his next of kin as his father, William Kempthorne, Carters Cottage, Sawbridgeworth, Herts.

His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at Ware on the 10th December 1915 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition that he said he was born at Bodmin, Cornwall, his weight was 162 lbs. and his physical development was very good. It noted that he required dental treatment.

Thomas was mobilised on the 1st February 1917 and on the 3rd February, he was posted as Gunner 205982 to the Royal Horse Artillery Depot at Woolwich. Of the fifteen men who were mobilised at the same time as Thomas one joined the Grenadier Guards and two others joined the Military Foot Police. The remaining twelve became artillery men. They were 205951 Harry Wallman, 205952 William Hussey, 205953 Joseph Wallen, 205954 Arthur Mansfield, 205956 Wilfred Darton, 205981 Stephen Burch, 205983 William Cripps, 205985 Alban Freeman, 205986 Herbert Trussell, 205987 Albert Emery and 205988 Henry Camp. Other than during their initial training there is nothing to say that they went on to serve together.

On the 16th February 1917 he was posted to R Battery, Royal Horse Artillery.

In March 1917 during their training there was an outbreak of Rubella at the Woolwich Depot. On the 13th March Thomas was admitted to the Auxiliary Hospital, Woolwich where he remained for twelve days being treated for Rubella. Of the twelve men who were mobilised the Army Service Records of ten of them have survived. As well as Thomas’ record one other record, which belongs to Wilfred Darton, shows that he was hospitalised for two weeks with the disease. Additionally, Alban Freeman died of fever on the 7th March which was almost certainly due to the same cause.


Thomas married Fanny Pratt on the 20th May 1917 at All Saints Church, Hertford. They had two children:

  1. Russell Thomas born in 1918 at Bishops Stortford.
  2. Joan Mary born in 1921 at St. Albans.

General Order 54 of the 23rd June 1917 was entitled The Police Reservists (allowances) Act 1914. Reference order no/. 183 1915. At a meeting of the Standing Joint Committee held at Hatfield on 15th June 1917 six allowances were granted to the dependents of unmarried Constables who have enlisted in H.M. Army for the period of the war. Thomas’ mother, Ann Kempthorne, was granted a weekly allowance of 8 shillings from the 1st February 1917 until the 25th May 1917.

On the 26th November 1917 Thomas was posted as part of the British Expeditionary Force to France. On the 4th December 1917 Thomas’ wife notified a change of address to 45, West Road Farm, Sawbridgeworth, Herts. On the 10th December 1917 he joined the Armoured Column 3rd Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery. On the 13th December 1917 he joined H Battery, Royal Horse Artillery.

On the 12th January 1918 he was admitted to No. 3 Stationary Hospital at Rouen suffering from Impetigo. On the 1st June 1918 he joined the Royal Horse Artillery Base Depot at Le Havre. On the 23rd October 1918 he joined H and K Battery Fourth Army. Then on the 18th December 1918 he was granted 14 days leave to the UK.

On the 19th February 1919 he was transferred to Class Z Army Reserve at Woolwich. Then apparently on the 19th June 1919 the Chief Constable of Herts requested a character reference. The Army appears to have lost track of Thomas as on the 11th July 1919 there is an entry stating: Not returned from leave and struck off strength. Presume demobilised. Finally, on the 31st March 1920 he was Discharged.

His Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity Army Form Z11 records: Name: Thomas Russell Kempthorne. Regt. No.: 905982. Rank: Gunner. Record Office: Woolwich. Unit: Unreadable. Regt.: Royal Horse Artillery. Pay office: Woolwich. Address for pay: 45, West Road, Sawbridgeworth. Theatre of war: France. Year born: 1892. Medical category: A1. Place for re-joining in emergency: Woolwich. Granted 28 day furlough. Date issued 22nd January 1919 at unreadable.

On the 28th March 1921 Thomas sent a letter: From Thomas R Kempthorne Red Cottage, Lower Luton Road, Wheathampstead, Herts

Sir, having read a notice in the paper respecting unclaimed medals of all ex-Service men and stating to apply to our Record Office I am sending my address (Re above). I served in H and K Batteries Royal Horse Artillery. during the war, Regimental No. 205982, Rank Gunner. Yours truly Thomas R. Kempthorne.

On the 13th December 1921 he sent another letter: From Thomas R Kempthorne Police Constable,

Sir, re change of address my present address is as follows Police Cottage, High Street, Wheathampstead.

He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Like every other soldier Thomas was granted 28 days leave on demobilisation. He would have used this time to arrange his re-joining of the Police. As part of that process he would have had to undergo a medical examination with the Force Surgeon at Police Headquarters at Hatfield. The end of his leave period would have coincided with the date of when he re-joined the Police.

Re-joining The Police.

General Order 39 of the 12th February 1919 announced the re-appointments to the Force of eight Police Soldiers who had been released from H.M. Army. Thomas was shown as PC 297 Kempthorne T. posted to A Division at Ware from the 20th February 1919 at £2/8/0 per week. Each officer had to be formally re-attested. The Superintendents concerned had to report when this had been done showing the date and place of attestation and before whom taken.


General Order 161 of the 16th July 1919 instructed Thomas that he was being transferred from A Division at Ware to G Division at Wheathampstead on the 25th July 1919. From his letter above we know he was living at Red Cottage, Lower Luton Road, Wheathampstead.

General Order 180 of the 11th August 1919 and General Order 138 of the 12th August 1921 informed Thomas that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 per week from the 5th August 1919 and from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week from the 5th August 1921, respectively.

The Electoral Rolls of 1920 – 1924 list Thomas Kempthorne as living at either near (railway) station or High Street, Wheathampstead.

General Order 109 of the 18th August 1922 and General Order 148 of the 16th August 1923 informed Thomas that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week from the 5th August 1922 and from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week from the 5th August 1923, respectively.


General Order 75 of the 25th April 1924 instructed Thomas that from the 7th May 1924 he was being transferred from D Division at Wheathampstead to C Division at Watford, to occupy the house being vacated by Constable Wallduck. The 1925 to 1930 Electoral Rolls record Thomas Russell and Fanny Kempthorne as living at 68, Neal Street, Watford.

Commendation – The Portman Jewell Case.

Courtesy of 150 Years Policing in Watford District and Hertfordshire County.

At the Hertfordshire Assizes on Thursday 23rd June 1932, 4 men were convicted with being concerned with stealing and conspiring to receive jewels to the value of £9338, the property of the Dowager Viscountess Portman, at Kings Langley, on the 29th April 1932. At the conclusion of the case, the Judge, The Honourable Sir Raynor Goddard commended Constables 297 Kempthorne and 339 Oliver, “C” Division, for their vigilance, and Inspector Camp “R” Division, and Constable 326 Bishop, “D” Division, for their skill in investigating the case. The detection of the offenders in this case, was primarily due to the acumen and observation of Constables 297 Kempthorne and 339 Oliver, who noted the number and description of a motor car used by the prisoners before any report was made to the Police.

The Chief Constable is very pleased with the action of the two Constables, and with the work of all the other Officers concerned in the case and has much pleasure in endorsing the commendation of H.M. Judge. He directs that an appropriate entry shall be made on the records of Service of each officer concerned.

Inspector Arthur Bishop Remembers – The Portman Jewell Case.

A big case in which I played a part whilst at Hemel Hempstead, became known as “The Portman Jewel Case”. One Friday afternoon Lady Portman was being driven by her chauffeur from London to Oxfordshire, via Kings Langley. She had with her, her jewellery, valued at over £10,000, in a jewel case at her feet on the floor. She was of course sitting in the back seat. After passing through Kings Langley, her car was overtaken by an open Sports Car containing four men. This car pulled across her car, forcing her driver to stop. One of the men then opened the rear door of Lady Portman’s car and snatched the jewel case, meanwhile the bandit’s car had turned round and they made off towards London as fast as they could. Lady Portman reported the matter at Watford Police Station.

It so happened that that afternoon, Police Constables 297 Kempthorne and 339 Oliver who were on duty in Watford High Street, saw the four men travelling towards London and did not like the look of them, so much so, that they took the Registration Number and description of the car. This was before the Theft was actually reported. I was given the Registration number of the car and upon ringing up the Registration Authority I learned that the owner was a man named Isaac Bear of Portsdown Road, Maida Vale. I at once went there and saw the motor car which was thought to have been concerned, standing outside the house. I interviewed Bear, and he denied that the car had been anywhere near Watford or Kings Langley that afternoon. When asked to account for his movements he said he had taken his wife and child to the zoo at Regents Park, leaving his car there, and that his car was there when he came from the zoo. I searched his flat but failed to find anything. I did not believe his story and arrested him for being concerned in the robbery. He was brought before an Occasional Court on the Saturday morning and was remanded until the following Wednesday. We decided to keep him in the cells at Hemel Hempstead instead of remanding him to Prison.

On the Sunday morning, he asked whether he could see his wife, here I had a brain wave, so said “Yes”. I telephoned his wife and when she arrived I saw her first. She wanted to know what it was all about and I explained it to her. I also told her that I was certain that her husband was shielding the gang and that unless he was prepared to talk I was afraid he would have to “Carry the Can” for the others, whereupon she said “You fetch him out here, I’ll make him talk”, I brought him out and she at once said to him “Issy, you tell this Officer the whole truth”, he said “Alright, if you want me to”. I then took from him a statement (yards of it), in which he gave the fullest details of the robbery, and it made very interesting reading indeed. He said he had been approached by the gang who asked him if he would loan them his car “to do a little job”, and they told him what it was. Bear said that Lady Portman’s Chauffeur was involved in the plot, which I suspected, owing to the fact that the man who opened the door of Lady Portman’s car knew just where to look for the jewel case, at Lady Portman’s feet; moreover, although Lady Portman gave a fairly good description of the men, her Chauffeur said he could not, and that he hadn’t managed to get the index number of the bandit’s car. After Bear had made his statement I went to London and arrested Lady Portman’s Chauffeur, a man named Carter. He crumpled up immediately and admitted supplying the information to the gang as to the fact that they were making the journey and that Lady Portman always took her jewellery with her.

We then went on to arrest four other members of the gang and all (except Bear who turned King’s Evidence), were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. We never found any of the stolen jewellery. They just would not tell us what they did

with it, presumably they had a receiver whom they wouldn’t “Shop”.

Retirement And Life After  The Police.

Thomas retired on Pension as a Constable on the 17th February 1939 having completed his 25 years’ service.

The 1939 Register lists Thomas Kempthorne, a retired Police Officer now working as a night watchman, his wife Fanny and children Russell and Joan and his future son-in-law Maurice Byatt as living at 7, Repton Way, Rickmansworth.

Thomas Russell Kempthorne of 46, Durrants Drive, Croxley Green, Rickmansworth died on the 16th December 1977.

This page was added on 25/05/2020.

Add your comment about this page

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!