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Kendall, George, OBE
1881-1961; e.m. 1906

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Primitive Methodist minister, born at Hoyland, Yorkshire on 10 October 1881 and brought up by grandparents following his father’s death during a colliery riot in 1884. Leaving school at 14, he worked in a Sheffield steel factory before being accepted for the ministry and sent for training at Hartley College. His circuit ministry included sixteen years (1926-1934 and 1948-1956) at Caledonian Road, London and he maintained an active interest in the mission during his retirement. During his early ministry at Windsor, his open-air preaching from Queen Victoria's statue led to a 40-year friendship with Queen Mary, with whom he shared many interests, including in antiques. He was appointed Garrison Chaplain and made the acquaintance of such public figures as General Haig, Herbert Asquith and Lloyd George. He was widely respected for his discretion and sensible advice. He also met Archduke Ferdinand of Austria during a state visit shortly before his assassination at Sarajevo.

During and after World War I he served as an army chaplain, often close to the field of action (e.g. on the battlefields at Loos, the Somme and Ypres) and after the armistice was with the occupying troops in Cologne. He served for many years on the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force Board and was awarded an OBE in 1919. As one of the army’s Senior Chaplains, in 1920 he returned to France and Belgium to oversee the exhumations of the war dead and the provision of cemeteries. It was in this capacity that he was involved in the selection of the ‘Unknown Warrior’ for reinterment in Westminster Abbey. He was awarded an OBE in 1919 and was mentioned in Earl Haig's final despatch for 'gallantry in the field'.

He was one of the earliest advocates of Christian union, developing close ties with clergy, including leading figures from all denominations. In 1936 he organised and chaired the first open-air ecumenical gathering in Hyde Park. During his London years he spoke frequently at Hyde Park, even during the blitz and V2 bombings, and for thirty years was chairman of the Public Morality Council’s Hyde Park Committee. He died on 22 July 1961.

Quotations

'Early in November 1920, we received orders from headquarters, for the exhumation of a certain number of bodies of unknown men. No one - and this is very important - was to know from which district a body had been taken. The graves which were opened in all the theatres of war were marked only by a cross which stated that an unknown warrior lay there. If the regiment or division in which the man had served were specified - and there were cases where a man may not have been identified, but his regiment or batallion was known - the grave was untouched. In all some six bodies were finally taken to the headquarters at St Pol, near Arras. Those who awaited the bodies in St Pol did not even know from where they had come. The six coffins were placed in a hut, and each covered with a Union Jack. All night they rested on trestles, with nothing to distinguish one from the other. The door of the hut was locked and sentries posted outside.

'In the morning a general entered the hut. He placed his hand on one of the flag-shrouded coffins, and the body then became "The Unknown Warrior". The five other bodies were taken from the hut and reverently reburied. The one selected to receive the tribute of the Empire was conveyed to Boulogne and embarked there on the British destroyer HMS Verdun to be brought to England. On the lid of the coffin, as it was taken aboard, was placed a rare and valuable sword taken from the private collection of King George V.'

Quoted from Kendall's autobiography, Daring All Things, in Paul Atterbury, Antiques Roadshow: World War One in 100 Family Treasure (2014) p.384

Sources

  • Paul Atterbury, Antiques Roadshow: World War One in 100 Family Treasures (2014) pp.382-5
  • His autobiography, Daring All Things was published.in 2016.

Entry written by: BEB
Category: Person

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