Commodore William Alexander Kemp

William Alexander Kemp was born in the tiny village of Woomelang in Victoria’s Mallee Region on 29 February 1928. He joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Cadet Midshipman (Supply), at HMAS Cerberus, on 30 January 1946. After initial training he went to sea as a Midshipman (Supply) in the sloop HMAS Warrego (1946) and the heavy cruisers HMA Ships Shropshire (1946-47) and Australia (1947-48). William Kemp was then posted to HMAS Lonsdale and promoted Sub Lieutenant in May 1948.

In late 1948 Sub Lieutenant Kemp was sent to England for training courses with the Royal Navy and on his return in 1949 he joined the cruiser Australia as a junior Supply Officer. He was promoted Lieutenant in April 1950 and shortly after joined the destroyer HMAS Bataan as the Supply Officer.

In late June Bataan was en route to Japan for service in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force when the Korean War broke out. The destroyer was quickly diverted to Korea and saw service there from July 1950 until late May 1951. She carried out a variety of duties such as patrolling and blockading the North Korean coastline, providing naval gunfire support for land forces and escorting aircraft carriers. For his service in Korean waters, Lieutenant Kemp was awarded a mention in dispatches.

Lieutenant Kemp was posted to HMAS Kuttabul during 1951-52 where he worked as a Staff Officer to the Flag Officer commanding the NSW area, before he became the Secretary to the Senior Officer in Command of the 1st First Frigate Squadron. During his tenure he served in the frigates HMAS Shoalhaven (1952-53) and Quadrant (1953-54). In 1954 he served in the destroyer HMAS Tobruk as the Destroyer Squadron Supply Officer before being posted to Navy Office (then in Melbourne) as a Staff Officer in the Directorate of Supply and Secretariat.

In mid-1957 Lieutenant Kemp was posted to the United Kingdom to work on the staff of the RAN Liaison Officer, at the Australian High Commission, and was promoted Lieutenant Commander in April 1958. He returned to Australia in 1960 where he served at the Supply School (HMAS Cerberus), before becoming the Squadron Supply Officer of the 1st Destroyer Squadron (embarked in HMAS Vendetta) in February 1961. During his time in Vendetta the ship operated in Australian waters and was also part of the Far East Strategic Reserve based in Singapore.

Kemp then served briefly at the RAN Apprentice Training Establishment HMAS Nirimba, from May-December 1962, before being promoted Acting Commander and posted to HMAS Leeuwin where he served as the Executive Officer during the period January 1963-July 1964. He was confirmed in the rank of Commander in December 1963.

Commander Kemp then joined the staff of Fleet Command serving as the Secretary for three successive Fleet Commanders (Rear Admiral HO Becher, Rear Admiral TK Morrison and Rear Admiral VAT Smith). During that time his service alternated between ashore at HMAS Kuttabul and at sea in various ships when the Fleet Commander was embarked. In February 1967 he was posted to Navy Office Canberra as the Deputy Director Fleet Supply Duties and Administrative Planning.

In late 1968 he took up his final sea posting when he joined the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne as the Supply Officer. During his time in Melbourne the ship operated in Australian and South East Asian waters. On the night of 3 June 1969, when the carrier was operating in the South China Sea, it collided with the United States Navy destroyer USS Frank E Evans which was cut in two. Her bow section sank and 74 US personnel lost their lives. Melbourne returned to Australia for repairs to her bow during July-October 1969.

In April 1970, Commander Kemp returned to Navy Office resuming the role as Deputy Director Fleet Supply Duties until promoted Captain in December 1971 after which he became the Director of Fleet Supply Duties. In February 1974 he was appointed as the Director of the Administrative Plans Branch. That branch was later renamed the Directorate of Naval Logistics Plans and Coordination.

In January 1976, Captain Kemp was appointed in command of the RAN’s premier training establishment, HMAS Cerberus. He relinquished command of Cerberus in early 1978 and returned to Navy Office as the Director General Logistics Branch - Navy and was promoted Commodore on 26 August 1978 (with seniority backdated to 26 April 1978).

Commodore Kemp’s final posting in the RAN, in March 1981, was as the Chief of Staff in Naval Support Command. He retired from the RAN in early 1983 after 37 years of service. Following his retirement he resided in Canberra. Commodore William ‘Bill’ Kemp passed away in Canberra on 26 December 2014, aged 86.