The name Kemp is supposedly derived from the Old English word cempa, meaning warrior. Our particular branch of the family comes from the area around Maldon, Essex – site of the Battle of Maldon, fought between the English and the Vikings in 991. The English lost. All the same, it would be nice to think that somewhere back in the distant past one of our ancestors fought alongside Byrhtnoth, the stern ealdorman (nobleman) whose ofermod (overweening pride – he allowed the Vikings to cross a narrow bridge over the river before the battle, throwing away a significant strategic advantage) was either the cause of his men’s disastrous defeat or the glorious embodiment of the Anglo-Saxon heroic tradition, depending on who you ask.

Whether we’re descended from someone who fought the Vikings or not, there have certainly been some pretty combative Kemps in recent generations. A few of them will get a mention here.

Lucy Kemp (1885-1969) was an enigmatic but impressive woman whose life story almost certainly has more twists and obscurities than anyone could hope to represent accurately in words. All the same, I’ll have a go.

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