L F R Kenyon

L F R Kenyon. Combermere 1917
Courtesy of wellington College Archive

Brigadier Lionel Frederick RobertFreddy’ Kenyon DSO was initiated into the Lodge in 1922 and remained with us for 58 years, but never took the chair.

At Wellington he was a dormitory prefect in the Combermere, and in the same class with fellow Lodge member Harold Newman, who recalls in his online memoirs life under Jock Cave, a somewhat Victorian-era usher in charge of the Middle IInd,1 and the two of them would go to Woolwich in the same class as well, along with 17 other fellow OWs in the June intake alone. Five more had preceded them in March, and a further twenty-seven would go to Sandhurst.2 He was commission in the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1919.

Having missed the Great War he saw service in Waziristan in 1922-1923 and again on the Khajuri Plain in 1930-1931, and was Mentioned for both campaigns. With the outbreak of World War Two he served in several staff positions before finding himself in 1943 at the sharp end of soldiering once more in a little-known misadventure in the Dodecanese known as Operation Accolade.

With the surrender of the Italians, the areas previously under their control suddenly found themselves in play as potential stepping stones in the invasion of Europe. The Germans and the Allies squared up in a series of scrambled operations to seize control of the more strategic island and outposts, especially those that could service aircraft. The conflicting views of Churchill and Eisenhower did little to help, and even Allanbrooke, then CIGS, was opposed the Chuchill’s “Rhodes Madness”.3 A book called Churchill’s Folly provides a good overview for those with more than a passing interest in the details.

Kenyon’s first task was an attempt to persuade the newly Allied Italian forces on Rhodes and their Italian commander to resist the Germans. This was unsuccessful, and with the loss of Rhodes back to the Axis, there was a a rushed attempt to take control of Kos and Leros, with their strategic naval and aerial importance.

Kenyon found himself in command of a mixed combined ops force whose principle infantry formation was 1 Dorset Light Infantry, and a significant number of LRDG and SBS, but very little air cover.

Unfortunately the Italians were in a poor state, in terms of moral and materiele, and following the capitulation of their 35-40,000 strong force to less than 7000 Germans, Kenyon and his small force were captured in the swift German retaking of the Island.

What followed ranks as its own distinct chapter of the crimes committed by the Germans, with mass shooting of some 4000 Italian PoWs. Kenyon and the British forces was spared this fate, and remained in captivity until liberation.The combined atrocities, poor result and Churchillian tactical over-reach go some way to explain why this small episode of the war is little spoken about, although there is increasing Italian scholarly and amateur research and discussion, focussing unsurprisingly on the atrocities committed and largely covered up afterwards.

Kenyon retired not long after the War to Constable Country around Dedham, and wrote several pieces, including his account of the Kos (Mis-)Adventure and a book on Dedham Vale for the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, now the CPRE.

  1. http://www.newman-family-tree.net 
  2. Reading Observer (https://www.berkshirestories.org.uk/archive/reading-observer-1914-1920/reading-observer-1919/reading-observer-06-1919/121417-reading-observer-28-06-1919-00004jpg#prettyPhoto/0/)
  3. Allanbrooke, 2001