A tribute by General Sir Brian Kenny GCB, CBE

Staff Sgt Joe Kelly was a very loyal Irish Hussar who gave tremendous support to me and my family in Germany for 16 years from 1974-1990 and I am delighted to be able to pay tribute to him.

SSgt J Kelly, BEM
SSgt J Kelly BEM

In 1974, I was posted to Paderborn as Commanding Officer of the Queen`s Royal Irish Hussars. On the day I arrived, I heard a knock on the front door and there stood a very smart slightly ginger-haired L/Cpl who gave me a salute and then asked if he could be my house orderly. How could I have refused?!

Our first VIP guest in Paderborn was HRH Prince Philip, Colonel in Chief of the Regiment, who spent one night with us while visiting the Regiment. On his arrival, I remember a rather nervous house corporal making a very low bow to HRH – to the manor born!!

We lived in some splendid German houses in Herford, Osnabruck, Verden, Bielefeld, and Rheindahlen and as I went up the promotion ladder, so did Joe Kelly!

He later became our House Staff Sergeant and was very proud of his team which included Sgt King (driver), Cpl Hill, Cpl Jamut and two other members. I had a feeling that he sometimes thought my ADC was under him too!!

He got very quickly into his stride and, as the years went by, he gained a very high reputation for looking after our many official guests, among whom were: ladies in waiting, members of Parliament and the House of Lords, defence ministers and wives, ambassadors, Field Marshals and foreign generals.

He always looked after me during the many exercises in BAOR. They were always rather frenetic and I was normally short of sleep. Without fail, Cpl Kelly, as he was then, would bring me a cup of tea with news of how the battle was progressing.

I particularly remember a visit to my Div HQ by General Bagnall who disapproved of any form of comfort in the field. However, Cpl Kelly felt strongly that every visitor to the HQ should be looked after, and he set up a small tent and table at the back of my landrover on which he laid plates, knives and forks etc.

As General Bagnall had a German general with him, he thought that napkins would be a good idea, so he found a roll of loo paper and neatly put one sheet of loo paper in each glass. Much to my amazement General Bagnall was very impressed and it was something that he always remembered – so did the German general, although I do not think that he knew what the paper was for!!! Shortly afterwards, Cpl Kelly was promoted to Sgt.

We moved into Spearhead House in Bielefeld in 1985. Just a few weeks after our arrival, we were very honoured to have Her Majesty the Queen as our guest for one night before the Royal Tank Regiment`s Centenary Parade at Sennelager the following day. As always, Sgt Kelly was totally unflappable and gave Her Majesty an immaculate bow on her arrival.

My last appointment in Germany was as C in C in Rheindahlen where Sgt Kelly had an even busier time, and fully deserved his promotion to Staff Sergeant.

We were particularly pleased to have Cardinal Hume as one of our visitors and Staff Sgt Kelly was so pleased to be able to greet him with: “Welcome your Eminence”!

All good things come to an end and, on his retirement, we were very sorry to say goodbye to Joe Kelly, his wife Sue, and their children Alison, Mandy and Damien, who were a delightful and supportive family.

Before his retirement, Staff Sgt Kelly was awarded the BEM for his very loyal service to the Regiment and particularly for his dedicated service over his last 16 years.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars