LIEUTENANT ARTHUR ROWLAND SKEMP
1ST NOVEMBER 1918 AGE 36
BURIED: HIGHLAND CEMETERY, LE CATEAU, FRANCE
Yesterday's soldier, Ernest Cartright, enlisted on 23 August 1914 and entered a theatre of war on 15 July 1915. He was killed on 1 November 1918. Arthur Skemp too joined up on the outbreak of war, and he too was killed on 1 November but in Skemp's case he had been at the front for just eight days, since 23 October.
Skemp was not unwilling to go to the front but his employers were unwilling to let him go. He was the extremely popular and able Winterstoke Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Bristol of whom a friend wrote:
"His remarkable powers as a lecturer on his subject were well known, and he was idolised by staff and students alike for his intellectual gifts, strong and virile character, his energy and enthusiasm, and his geniality and unfailing kindness of heart endeared him to all."
Skemp served as a member of the Bristol Contingent of the Officer Training Corps until he got transferred to the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment and was posted to France. He arrived just as the battalion came out of the line for six days general cleaning up and training. On the 30th they took over the line NE of Mazinghein, holding posts overlooking the Canal de la Sambre. On the 31st the battalion repulsed an enemy attack, the next day the enemy attacked again:
"A Coy posts attacked by enemy. Enemy repulsed with casualties. Our casualties: Lieut A.R. Skemp and 6 O.R. killed 1 O.R. wounded. 4 O.R. wounded later."
Mrs Jessie Skemp chose her husband's inscription. It comes from Robert Browning's Prospice. The choice of author cannot have been difficult since Professor Skemp, the author of a study of his poetry, was a Browning expert. Nor can the choice of poem have been difficult either since in Prospice Browning expresses a bold determination not to hide from death but to meet it head on:
I was ever a fighter, so - one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forebore,
And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers,
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.