George Kenneth Bidie was born in Lahore, India to parents who were stationed there. When he grew up in the middle of the Second World War, he naturally followed his father into the Indian Army, serving both in Probyn’s Horse and in Hodson’s Horse.
But, with the war over and India obtaining independence, he, in common with many other Indian Army officers, transferred to the British Army, joining the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in Colchester in 1947.
This Regiment, its name changed from time to time by amalgamation, was to be his home and his profession for the next 25 years. Kenneth always set himself clear objectives and during this period of his life, his lode star, towards which he devoted all his energies, was the ultimate command of his Regiment.
His journey took him to many parts of the world, not least to Malaya during that emergency, but also to Aden and to Germany.
Most of his military career was spent with the Regiment, save for two special postings elsewhere. The first, as a young captain, was as an instructor at Mons Officer Cadet School, where National Service Officers were being trained in Aldershot.
Ken’s other important departure from Regimental life gave him command of the Royal Armoured Corps Special Reconnaissance Squadron which changed its role and later became the Royal Armoured Corps Parachute Squadron. Selection for this elite squadron required standards not far short of those for the SAS and demanded a standard of toughness and resilience of the highest order.
Needless to say, Ken lived up to these exacting standards to the full, never sparing himself in the training of this special squadron. For his work with the squadron, he was awarded a highly deserved MBE.
For Kenneth, the summation of his military career came in 1967 when he was appointed to command the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars, as his Regiment had now become, in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, Soon after his tour of command, Kenneth retired from the Army, having served for exactly 30 years.
He and his wife, Joan bought their lovely house at Withypool and Ken turned his talents to farming. Once again he set himself a target, this time to breed Red Devon cattle and to win a first prize at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh – an incredibly high expectation for somebody just starting out in a totally new occupation.
The early years of Ken’s farming project were extremely hard. Running sheep on his very steep hill farm had him out in all weathers, while in the winter his cattle had to be kept in, mucked out and fed. Kenneth did all this virtually without help and yet still found time to hunt regularly with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, naturally always with his own horse which, like himself, was always perfectly turned out.
Painstakingly he built up his herd, showing first at the local shows in Somerset, then moving up to the Bath and West, where he introduced his prize bull to HM The Queen Mother. Finally, in 1981, he achieved his target of a first at the Royal Show for his fine Red Devon bull. Once again, Ken had achieved his own remarkable standard of excellence.
Soon after this, he realised that a slightly less physically demanding way of life was needed and, selling off his livestock, Ken found a new talent in his quiver – the ability to capture pictures of his beloved Exmoor in pastels.
His early work comprised fairly simple landscapes but as he worked at his newfound gift, he experimented with stronger colours and more demanding perspectives.
Soon he and Joan travelled, bringing back ideas for new pictures from France, Africa and India. He was in immediate demand from his friends and executed many commissions of favourite scenes and landscapes. Once again he achieved his own target of exhibitions in London where he was honoured by a visit from the Colonel-in-Chief of his Regiment, HRH Prince Philip.
Throughout all this time, Kenneth never lost touch with his old friends. A constant supporter of his Regiment, he took on the often arduous post of Chairman of the Regimental Association. No major Regimental event ever took place without Ken being present. Kenneth Bidie was a Regimental soldier par excellence, whose commitment to his Regiment lasted all his life.
The great gathering at his funeral in Dulverton on Exmoor bore witness to the love and respect in which he was held by so many old friends. We send our deepest sympathy to Joan and his family.