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In 2000, the Trail Armoury (Trail, British Columbia) was renamed in honour of Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Henry Grant Kemball. Who was this man? And why was the local armoury named in his honour?
Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Henry Grant Kemball was born January 4th, 1861 in Belgium, India to a distinguished military family; his father (General John Shaw Kemball) and brother were both Major Generals. He graduated from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and served 32 years in the British and Indian forces. After his retirement in 1910, he immigrated with his wife, Alvilda, and daughters, Dorothy and Greda, to Canada and took up fruit ranching in the Kootenays at Shutty Beach, north of Kaslo. In 1912, he was mdae a Companion of the Bath (CB) for his service in India.
When war was declared, Lieutenant Colonel Kemball volunteered, this time for the Canadian Army, and was immediately appointed Major and Deputy Commanding Officer of the newly formed 54th Kootenay Battalion, Canadian Expeitionary Force, based in Vernon, British Columia. In 1915, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given command of the 54th. He led the Battalion through training in both Canada and England. When they were sent to France in August 1916, the Battalion joined the 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 4th Canadian Division.
In November, 1916, after familiarization training in the Ypres Salient, Lieutenant Colonel Kemball led his men in a successful attack on Desire Trench at the Somme. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his auction there. The 54th then marched north to the Vimy Front to join the rest of the Canadian Corps. In late February of 1917, the 54th, alongside other Battalions of the 4th Division, were ordered to carry out a large trench raid on March 1, 1917 - this time with gas instead of the customary artillery barrage. Lieutenant Colonel Kemball attempted to have the raid delayed, anticipating significant casualties. When this failed, he defied orders and personally led two companies instead of staying in the rear. The raid was disasterous as the companies lost diection in the poor visibility. While trying to find a gap in the wire and re-orient the left-hand company, he was killed by German fire.
Of the 405 soldiers participating in the raid, over 200 were killed. A temporary truce was arranged on March 3rd in order to recover the fallen. Recognizing Kemball's devotion to duty, the Germans returned his body with great respect. He is buried at Villers Station Cemetery, in sight of the Vimy Memorial. Lieutenant Colonel Kemball is memorialized on a plaque commissioned by his men in Kaslo. As well, Mount Kemball (Kokanee Glacier Park), Kball Memorial Center (Kaslo), Kemball Creek(near Shutty Beach) and Lieutenant Colonel Arnold Henry Grant Kemball CB DSO Armoury (Trail), are all named in his honour.
As part of the From Vimy to Juno exhibit at Rossland, British Columbia, the Rossland Museum and Discovery Centre is pleased to highlight this "local" hero in our comunity. The Kemball Armoury is home to the 44th Engineer Squadron of the 39th Combat Engineering Regiment. The regiment is part of 39 Canadian Brigade, Canada's Army in British Columbia, and its duties include generating reserve engineer soldiers to support overseas missions, as well as ensuring domestic security. It is located in Trail because of its proximity to the American Border. While the Armoury is active in the community, the story behind its namesake is not well-known. The Kemball Armoury loaned the Rossland Museum photos of Kemball, as well as a Kemball family military sword inscribed with the family moto, nullus nisi ardua virtus - "no excellence without diversity." Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History loaned Rossland Lieuntenant Colonel Kemball's journal from 1916 while overseas with the 54th Battalion. These objects have never been on public display so this was an exciting opportunity for our community to see them.
Lieutenant Colonel Kemball exemplifies the Canadian spirit in the early 1900s. As a Brit living in Canada, he knew his responsibility and duty to serve. Serving the British Empire in India and Canada, he demonstrated honour and integrity and a willingness to go above and beyond. He is a local hero and it is fitting that the Trail Armoury carries his name, and that people and places in this region carry his story.