Tom was born and lived in Normanton on Trent, near Newark working as a horse dealer. He joined the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry when he was 17 years old. A brilliant horseman and could ride anything equine being prominent in regimental sports. He was well known and highly respected by those within the regiment. At the outbreak of the First World War he held the rank of Sergeant in “A” squadron, saw active service from 1914 to 1918 in Palestine, Egypt, Salonika and the Dardanelles. He was awarded the D.C.M. and Medaille Militaire by the French. He finished his service as Squadron Sergeant Major.
SSM Tom East DCM
In later life, at the SRY memorial at Groesbeek
Semken was demobilised in 1946 and went up to Pembroke College, Oxford, where he read Jurisprudence. He was one of a group of undergraduates who subscribed for and commissioned a Junior Common Room war memorial, a fine sculpture, which stands by the door of the chapel.
he joined the Legal Adviser’s branch of the Home Office. He became head of that department in 1977, and a member of the Criminal Law Revision Committee in 1980, retiring in 1983. He endeared himself to the junior lawyers at the Home Office by visiting them in their own rooms to discuss their work and would pepper his advice with aphorisms like “that cock won’t fight” or “that’s a horse of an entirely different colour”.
He retired to Aldeburgh. He was appointed CB in 1980 and was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 2015. He was a strong supporter of the Association, particularly the Southern Branch. For many years he led our battlefield tours and those that took part will always remember his erudite narratives of the troubled history of Flanders as we drove across “the cockpit of Europe”.
John Semken married, in 1952, Margaret Poole. She predeceased him and he is survived by their three sons.
Citation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal
275200 Sqdn.S.M. T. EAST, Notts. Yeo (Newark)
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
He rendered able assistance to his squadron leader,
and set a splendid example to his men.