Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1943, Major André Gilbert Kempster, 8th Battalion, the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, Royal Armoured Corps, died when he sacrificed his life to save others while serving near Phillipeville in Algeria.
Born Andre Gilberto Coccioletti in Westminster, he was educated at Cheltenham College, and had been working as a hotel manager at the Stafford Hotel in St. James, London. He enlisted with the Green Howards in May of 1939, at which time he changed his name by deed poll, preferring for it to not be Italian.
On the day of his death he had been instructing soldiers on how to throw hand grenades – he was with two others in a practice pit. One of the grenades rolled back into the pit after being thrown, and Major Kempster attempted to scoop it up to throw it back out, but was unable to do so. He then did not hesitate to throw himself on the grenade just before it exploded. He received fatal injuries but saved the lives of the two soldiers in the pit with him.
For this brave action he was awarded the George Cross, the citation for which reads: “The King has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the George Cross, in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to: — Captain (temporary Major) Andre Gilbert Kempster (138804), Royal Armoured Corps.” He is buried in the Bone War Cemetery, Annaba, Algeria.
Andre, from Pulborough in Sussex, was 26 years old