As a result of new research findings and contact from a family member, this is an updated version of a post first published in 2017.
In loving memory/of/ Major Frank Murray Campbell/died 8th March 1910
“Come unto me, ye weary, and I will give you rest”
In tender loving memory of /Major Percy St. G. Kelton/who died in Paris 28th of June 1924
Two men, both soldiers, who died fourteen years apart, in two different countries with seemingly nothing to connect them, not even a name. And, as it turns out, neither man started life with the name on the gravestone and as for the military ranks – well, read on..
Frank Murray Campbell claimed on census returns to have been born in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire in about 1859, but there is no record anywhere in Hertfordshire or indeed anywhere in England of a birth registration or baptism in this name. In fact, there are no records at all of him until he married Julia Gertrude Kortoske Curtis, born in Canada, in London in 1880. This is because he was at birth called Frank Calisher, the second son of Henry Calisher, a diamond merchant and his wife Marion. He was though, born in Cheshunt.
Frank had an older brother and two younger sisters and was educated at a private school in Northfleet. At about the time he left school, he started to use the name ‘Murray Campbell’ as his father already did for business purposes.
His new wife Julia was probably the daughter of either Benjamin or Raphael Kortoske who traded in hats and caps in Montreal and London. The family changed their name to Curtis after a disastrous bankruptcy and fraud case was proved against them.
Frank and Julia went to South Africa, where their first daughter, Marion May, was born. On their return to London, they lived in Hampstead and Frank worked as a stockbroker. Two more children, Sybille and Edmund were born.
Frank in uniform (Photo Mrs Avril Williams)
Frank joined the 4th Volunteer Battalion the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment in 1891 and attained the rank of major. The battalion saw service during the Boer War, but there is no evidence that Frank was with them and he did not use his military rank in private life.
Then in 1906, Julia sued for divorce. At that time, a woman could not obtain a divorce for adultery alone. There had to be an additional cause, such as cruelty. By then Frank was living at 8 Beaconsfield Terrace, Hythe, the home of Rina Kelton.
Beaconsfield Terrace, Hythe, in the early years of the 20th century
Rina Henriette Kelton nee St Goar was the very rich widow of a stockbroker, originally called Carl Kahn. She had been born in Germany on 25 October 1858 to a wealthy Jewish family. She and her husband moved to London. Carl – now Charles – died in 1905 and left a considerable sum of money to Rina and their two sons, Gerald and Percy, but stipulated that they must change their name to Kelton
Rina lived mostly in Park Lane in London but had a holiday home at Beaconsfield Terrace in Hythe, which she rented from Lady Evelyn Cooper-Key, the widow of an admiral. She was known in the seaside town for her largesse. There was not a church nor a charitable institution which did not benefit from her generosity and ’Madame Rina Kelton’, as she insisted on being called, was often asked to open garden parties and sales of work. She endowed the School of Musketry with the Kelton Cup, to be competed for at football. How she managed to mix in respectable society while living with a divorced man is a mystery. It may be that she passed him off as her spouse. One oral history interviewee, speaking in the 1980s, remembers that she had a ‘husband’.(1)
Frank died at Rina’s home, of a massive facial abscess due to a failed dental implant. One or more gaps in his dentition had been replaced by the teeth of a dead person. In the days before antibiotics, this was a risky procedure and in his case it failed catastrophically. Death must have been ultimately from organ failure due to sepsis and he would have been in agony in his final days.(2)
Attempts at dental implants were not new and had been made with some success by the Etruscans, using oxen teeth and in first millennium South American using stone or Spondylus shells – and sometimes this was successful. From about 1600 attempts were made to use human teeth, but the results were usually at least unpleasant and at worst fatal.
Frank was attended during his last illness by his sister, Violet Rachel Curtis. She had married Louis Curtis (born Louis Kortoske and probably Julia’s brother or cousin) in 1875 and they too, had gone to South Africa, to Kimberley, after their marriage. Their daughter, another Marion was born there before they, too, returned to the UK.
Frank’s cremated remains were interred in St Leonard’s churchyard on 29 January 1914, four years after his death. He left in his will £360 and named as his executor his widow, Rina Kelton, though there is no record of a marriage. It is to be hoped that some of this was returned to Julia and his children, whom he had left destitute.
The other man commemorated on the gravestone, Percy St Goar Kelton was born Percy St Goar Kahn on 28 December 1886, the elder son of Charles and Rina Kahn. he was educated at Harrow School, Queen’s College Cambridge and the University of Hanover. He served in the territorial division of the East Kent Regiment, ‘The Buffs’ from August 1909 to 1913, when he resigned. He was a man of independent means, with no need to work, and devoted himself to gambling at cards and horse racing. He lived with his mother whose residences were now at Hanover Square and ‘Castlemead’, Hythe.
In September 1914 he took his motor car to Paris and worked as a civilian driver attached to the British Army Headquarters in Paris. He also did some interpreting in interviews of German prisoners as he was bilingual. Apart from that, his Commanding Officer said that he made a nuisance of himself, as he thought that being an unpaid chauffeur was beneath him. He was, according to the same man, ‘bumptious, swaggering and loud’ and he ‘lied quite a lot’. (2)
According to Percy’s own account, he was involved in fighting near Compiegne. He killed two German soldiers and took one prisoner. He took the bullet-riddled helmet of one of his victims and had it sent, via a French woman who was escaping, to his mother. This sounds very much like one of Percy’s inventions, since as a civilian he was not involved in military action.
His behaviour was so erratic, that for a time he was suspected of being a spy and investigated in February 1915, but no evidence was found to support the allegation.
In 1915, he was commissioned as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps for temporary service. However, a subsequent medical examination found that he was unfit for service either at home or abroad as he had undergone surgery for a hernia which left him unable to walk far or carry heavy weights. Instead, he was sent to Shoreham in Sussex to work for the General Army Staff. (3)
He did, however, manage to join the West Africa Frontier Force, but in January 1917 contracted malaria. Six months later he was invalided home and was admitted to the London General Hospital. It must have been in this period that he met Elizabeth MacBride, the daughter of Mr and Mrs William MacBride of New York, whom he married at St James’s Church, Spanish Place, London on 12 December 1917. American and British officers formed a guard of honour for the couple.
He then went back to Africa; whether Elizabeth went too is unknown. His medal card seems to show that although he had attained the rank of Captain, he worked after the war, until at least 1921, as a civilian owner-driver for the force in the Gold Coast Regiment. He was mentioned in dispatches in early 1919, and in 1920 awarded the Military Order of Aviz by the King of Portugal – part of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) was a Portuguese colony.
Nothing further is known of him, except that at the time of his death his permanent residence was the Hotel Brioni on Brioni, an island off the coast of Istria. He died of peritonitis in Paris. Probate was granted to his brother Gerald, though he left only £253 19s 7d, in Kelton family terms, a pittance. His mother placed a death notice in the local press which stated that he was awarded the Military Cross, but there is no supporting evidence for this, nor is there any indication that he became a major, as Rina claimed on his gravestone.
His mother had moved to Folkestone by 1939, but died in 1944 in Wokingham, aged eighty-five.
- Hythe Civic Society Archives
- Details of Frank’s death and dental implants : Dr B.J.Williams MA, MRCS
- WO 339/16864 National Archive