Private Robert Philip Finch Kensett

Regiment: 4th Battalion Royal Sussex
Service No: TF/200502 (formerly 4/2214)
Date and place of birth: 22 June 1893 in Midhurst, Sussex
Date and place of death: 9 November 1917 in Palestine

Family background

Robert Philip Finch Kensett was baptised on 28 July 1893 at Midhurst with his twin sister Lilla Dorothy Finch Kensett. They were the children of Robert and Lilla Anne Kensett, who had married at Farnham, Surrey in 1889. In 1881, Robert Kensett (16) a son of a coal merchant was working as a solicitor’s general clerk and living at Horsham, Sussex. Lilla Anne Finch (15) a daughter of an undertaker, was at school and living at Aldershot, Hampshire. A second son, Walter E F, was born to Robert and Lilla Anne in 1897 and died in March 1898 aged 6 months.

In 1901 Robert Kensett was 35 and a draper-shopkeeper living in Knockhundred Row, Midhurst with his wife Lilla Anne, son Robert P F and Lilla D F who had both been born in Midhurst and were now aged 7. Also living at the same address were six servants or assistants, all single and aged between 17 and 26. Amongst them was Lilian E Bennett (aged 25) who was born at Worthing and was employed as a mother’s help (domestic).

Midhurst Grammar School Pupil admissions 1903 – 1916 records Robert Kensett being admitted on 18 September 1902. Prior to this he had attended Miss Challen’s private school. He left the grammar school on 22 December 1908 to become a drapery apprentice.

Kensett’s shop was situated at the junction of Knockhundred Row, Church Hill and Sheep Lane (premises occupied in 2014 by Lloyd’s Bank as 4 Church Hill). At one time they also had shops in Liss and Petworth.

Lilla Anne Kensett died on 26 November 1909, aged 43. At the 1911 census Robert Kensett, aged 45, Draper, was living at La Collette, Midhurst, with son Robert,  drapery apprentice, and daughter Lilla, draper’s assistant, together with Lilian Edith Bennett, aged 35, housekeeper.

Military service

Robert Philip Kensett enlisted at Horsham and first served in the Balkans from 8 August 1915.

By December 1915, his Regiment was evacuated to Egypt because there had been huge numbers of casualties from injuries, disease and a dreadful blizzard in the November. The Division had been reduced to 162 officers and 2,428 men, which was about 15% of their full complement. From there, and once back to full fighting capabilities, the Division under General Sir Edmund Allenby, took part in the Palestinian Campaign: the Battle of Romani (4 to 5 August 1916), the 2nd Battle of Gaza (7 to 9 April 1917), the 3rd Battle of Gaza (27 October to 7 November 1917), the Capture of Beersheba (31 October 1917) and the Battle of Kinweife  (3 to 7 November 1917).

These battles saw the British lose 18,000 men (killed, wounded or missing), and the Turks 25,000.

Robert Kensett was awarded Victory, British and 1915 Star medals.

Death & commemoration

He died from wounds on 9 November 1917. He is buried in the Beersheba War Cemetery, grave H.74. and commemorated on Midhurst War Memorial, Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church, on the Board in Midhurst Rother College and on a stone at the family grave in Midhurst cemetery.

Memorial headstone in Midhurst Cemetery

Subsequent family history

Lilla Dorothy Kensett is also listed on the panels in the church, but no records of her service have been traced.  In 1918 she married William Ivon Gosden (aged 20) in Midhurst.  She died in 1975 in the Hailsham district and William Gosden in 1977 in the Eastbourne district. They had two daughters: Diana P Gosden, born in Christchurch, Dorset in 1920 and Joyce K Gosden born in Weymouth, Dorset in 1925.

Robert Kensett, the father, married Lilian E Bennett in 1918 in the East Preston district.  His death on 12 July 1929, aged 64, was registered in the Thanet district.  Lilian E Kensett died in 1956, aged 80, in the Worthing district.



Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project