In his character and by his deeds ‘Loopy’ Kennard embodied what has become known as the cavalry spirit, a combination of dash, boldness, confidence, style, extreme competence at field sports, sublime indifference to authority and an irrepressible urge to ‘have a go’.
His nickname, although somehow deserved and fitting, for he was up to any mad-brained trick you could devise, does not give us the complete man. That he was a brilliant and fearless horseman was never in doubt, nor that his performance on skis was such that it was as well not to be on the same mountain; to be driven by him in a car would mean that war, hobgoblins or the devil could hold no terror for you; his outrageous disregard for authority, his eccentricity of method and rejection of orthodoxy were celebrated.
Yet behind this outward ‘loopiness’ was a character at once loyal, steadfast, shrewd and generous-hearted. He had that priceless gift of making the young feel capable of ever-growing accomplishments.
To follow him out hunting was to reach fresh heights in riding to hounds; to join him in a day’s shooting or salmon fishing was to enhance an already keen enjoyment of the sport. Above all to be in his company guaranteed a maximum of fun. All of us fortunate enough to have called ourselves his friends were proud to do so.
On 14 February 2000, there took place at the Chapel of the Royal Hospital Chelsea a most memorable and fitting celebration of the life of Loopy. The service was beautifully conceived and conducted. It included the most appropriate hymns, prayers, readings, musical selections and the blowing of Gone Away and Home by a Master of Foxhounds. Gen Sir Brian Kenny gave an exceptionally able and affectionate address which recalled Loopy’s remarkable activities and achievements. The service was attended by a distinguished company of family, friends and Old Comrades.
The Regiment’s Deputy Colonel-in-Chief was himself present. After the service, Loopy’s widow, Gina, and his daughter, Zandra, received company in a marquee outside the chapel to drink tea or champagne, exactly what Loopy would have wanted. This celebration of Loopy’s life was a major Regimental – indeed cavalry – event.
Loopy was born to be a cavalryman and it was a great day for the 4th Hussars when he joined the Regiment. He in turn relished the life and in his autobiography writes of the immeasurable benefits of duty – ‘a duty to hunt troop horses in Leicestershire, to take two months leave to do so, to play polo on troop horses in the summer – this was the cavalry spirit bred and nourished.’
With the approach of war came inevitably mechanisation, but Loopy applied his own technique to driving a Mark VIB tank, and there is in the Regimental scrapbook an agreeable triptych of Loopy trying out the tank’s amphibious capability by driving it flat out through an enormous dip – approaching, submerged and exiting – himself covered in mud and grinning triumphantly.
It is difficult to speculate what might have been if, when it came to leadership in battle, Loopy had not been captured during the Greek campaign in 1941. That he would have conducted himself with dash and courage cannot be doubted. Instead, he had to endure four years as a prisoner of war. He must have been one of the few British officers in captivity whom the Germans would have been glad to see escape, for that he gave his captors a troublesome time was clear enough.
It was when he returned to the Regiment in the autumn of 1945 that his spirit, equestrian skills and sheer enjoyment of all that life have to offer were seen once more and communicated themselves to fellow members of the 4th Hussars. Loopy has presented his case, his life story, in his own book with modesty, wit and elegance.
It requires no reiteration here. What must be recalled is his bringing out a pack of foxhounds to Trieste, running a drag in the stone-wall country of Basovizia, steeplechasing at Aiello, skiing at Cortina d’Ampezzo, shooting near Molfancone. Loopy did not merely take charge of all these activities but inspired all the young entries to take part too and somehow make them feel that they excelled.
It was the same story when the 4th Hussars moved to Schleswig Holstein in the spring of 1947. Indeed the train journey there exemplified Loopy’s grip on Regimental activities, for the number of wagons containing horses, dogs, foxhounds, horse furniture, forage and grooms exceeded that of carriages for soldiers.
In Germany, too horse and hound reigned supreme and none who took part will forget Loopy as Master, hunting roe-deer through the woods and pastures of Schleswig Holstein or performing in the show ring on his incomparable Rosso. Duck shooting was another feature of our lives there, which Loopy enthusiastically promoted.
Not to be forgotten either is the Berlin Tattoo at which the 4th Hussars presented a hunting scene Loopy surrounded by his hounds, whips and the field, a stirrup cup, moving off, Gone Away and a gallop over brush fences. What could have given us and the huge audience more pleasure? But it was Loopy’s show.
The next major event after a short spell in England was our move to Malaya. Loopy was only briefly in command of a squadron there, but long enough to set his officers and men a fine example of initiative and efficiency.
His subsequent service with the Shropshire Yeomanry enabled him fully to indulge his love of field sports, and most important, at the request of his Commanding Officer, to write his own Confidential Report – with a strong recommendation for promotion, which later resulted in his being awarded a longed-for prize, command of the 4th Hussars.
Before this, however, there were to be two or three more years as a Squadron Leader, first at Tidworth, then at Hohne with the British Army of the Rhine. The 4th Hussars were fortunate enough to have fine barracks, a superb Officers’ Mess at Bredebeck, a full complement of excellent officers and men, and of course lots of horses.
In these mid-1950s there was much training and manoeuvring, and memorable indeed was the great exercise Battle Royal when Loopy distinguished himself by being found asleep by the Commanding Officer, Stephen Eve, and when kicked awake by the latter, inviting him to ‘move’ off.
These events apart, it was the horse which dominated. Hunter trials, racing, show jumping, riding school for the young entry, with Loopy always to the fore, winning races at Hanover, making off with first prizes at show jumping, representing the British Army internationally, and always encouraging the young to emulate his own inimitable style.
All this was carried on when he, at last, took over command of the 4th Hussars. This was his finest hour. One of its memorable events was the visit of the Colonel of the Regiment, Sir Winston Churchill, in 1956, during which, paying tribute to that great warrior, Loopy referred to the greatest Hussar of them all’ Winston loved it.
During his three years in command, 1955-58, Loopy showed that he possessed what is sometimes called the four aces of leadership; imagination, the ability to inspire, making use of subordinates’ ideas while acknowledging them to be such, and the absolutely overriding determination to do everything well. These attributes of Loopy’s, together with magnificent support from all ranks, made the 4th Hussars one of the happiest and most renowned regiments of the British Army.
His enthusiasm was infectious, his example was inspiring, his sense of humour all-pervading, and his care for those he commanded unceasingly. Never was this care more manifest than when handling the Regiment’s amalgamation with the 8th Hussars, when his first thoughts were for those who would become redundant and for a smooth, successful transition of command.
After leaving the Regiment and retiring from the Army, Loopy ventured into the commercial world and his autobiography describes his adventures there. What was most endearing about his subsequent life is that he never forgot his old and new Regimental friends, always offering them a day’s hunting or shooting, organising
salmon fishing parties for them, and continuing to make sure that life was fun. His loyalty to the new Regiment was unwavering and he would always attend Old Comrades’ weekends, Regimental dinners and the Cavalry Memorial Parade.
Loopy Kennard was unique. His fame as a horseman, his love of shooting and fishing, and making sure others loved them too, his zest for life, his irrepressible humour, his generosity of spirit, his greatness of heart, his devotion to his Regiment – all these things will be cherished by his contemporaries and passed on to future generations. It was wholly characteristic of Loopy that during his last years and months, he bore the afflictions of his failing health with courage and cheerfulness, his spirit quite undaunted.
Loopy was always to maintain and there was no doubt about his being right-that Winston Churchill was the greatest 4th Hussar of all time. For those of us who now look back on Loopy’s life, activities and achievements, there is no doubt about who was the second greatest 4th Hussar of all time – Loopy himself.