Lieut.?ro;”Col. George Arnold Ford Kennard, aka "Loopy"

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:52

    After offering admirable resistance, the 4th Hussars, overwhelmed by superior air power and ground forces, retreated far south to the Peloponnese, where, just outside Kalamata, Kennard and several of his regimental mates were captured by a group of Germans, led?in one of many small-world-department episodes that characterized Loopy's 20-year-plus military career?by Oberleutenant Otto Hertzog, whose acquaintance Kennard had made in the mid-1930s while studying German in the Fatherland. "Good God, Otto," a somewhat astonished Loopy uttered. "What on earth are you doing here?" Hertzog assured Loopy that he and his comrades would be treated well, and that when the opportunity arose, he would take Loopy to dinner. "We were put into an open truck and driven off singing 'Roll Out the Barrel' at the tops of our voices," Kennard recounts in his engaging, anecdote-spiked 1990 autobiography Loopy. "This seemed to annoy the German escort considerably. We redoubled our vocal efforts."

    In Kalamata a topsy-turvy skein of events unraveled. Deposited in a cellar, Loopy immediately escaped, whereupon he bumped into a group of captured Germans, including Otto, whom Loopy promised to take to dinner when time permitted. Assuming responsibility for this crew, Kennard paraded the prisoners to the nearby Mediterranean beach and handed them over to some New Zealanders. But the Commonwealth forces' Brigade Commander, convinced that Germans would soon overrun his sitting-duck troops?and especially fearing bombers the next morning?decided to surrender the 10,000 men who could not be evacuated in time by the British Navy; he chose the German-speaking Loopy, accompanied by Otto, to convey this message to enemy hq in town. This they accomplished, and the next day the Germans accepted 10,000 prisoners. Otto, Kennard writes, was awarded a medal for "frightening the British High Command into surrendering." Meanwhile, after internment in Greece, Loopy and others were loaded into cattle cars and shipped to Oflag VIB POW camp in Warburg, north-central Germany.

    Tall and slender, with thick, wavy blond hair and dashing good-looks, Loopy Kennard weighed 170 pounds when seized in 1941. Three years later, when Hertzog?now one-armed after a stint at the Russian front?made good on his pledge, taking his old friend to lunch, not dinner, Kennard weighed 130, having been wracked by dysentery during much of the intervening period. Earlier, while being treated for the disease at a hospital outside Oflag VIB's gates, Kennard escaped, wending his way west to Holland before being apprehended six weeks later and returned to the camp.

    Toward the end of the war, he escaped again, along with another Brit, while being marched to a different camp; they commandeered an abandoned German staff car and, aided by gas-dispensing Americans, drove all the way to Paris, where they hopped a plane home to England.

    Loopy was born April 27, 1915, the younger son of Sir Coleridge Kennard, a baronet and foreign service officer who, early on, turned elegant rogue, leaving his wife and two sons, George and Lawrence, to gamble, drug (hashish and opium) and romance away his sizable inheritance, including a white-columned estate on the French Riviera. Coleridge, Loopy avers, "could, if he had so wished, charm the very Venus, but chose to live his life devoted to drugs and the more fashionable casinos." In his father's absence, Loopy was raised "in an ever-changing series of cottages or hotels, both at home [London] and abroad" by his stern mother, Dorry, who, in addition to her fascination with numerology and passion for purchasing pricey first editions, "eked out her final 15 frantic years in an expensive and soulless private home believing, happily at the end, that she was a dog."

    Educated briefly at Eton, where he found mischief and was tossed out, Loopy studied French and German on the Continent, then worked, not wholly successfully, as a part-time reporter before joining the army in 1936. He was commissioned into the 4th Hussars and posted to Cairo as assistant to the commanding officer for the Middle East. With the outbreak of WWII, Kennard rejoined his regiment in England, where, while awaiting assignment, he married for the first time. He wound up back in North Africa, seeing limited action against a surrendering horde of Italians, then shipped out for that ill-starred Greek campaign.

    After convalescing in England during the European war's final days, Loopy was called back to the 4th Hussars in Trieste, escorting, upon request, a pack of baying foxhounds. When not separating glowering Italians and Yugoslavs, the occupying regiment, well-schooled in horsemanship, hunted foxes and participated in show jumping, with Loopy and his horse Rosso competing throughout Europe as part of the British Army team. The Hussars, hounds and horses relocated to the German city of Lubeck in spring 1947, then back to England and, in August 1948, minus the animals, off to Malaya, under British rule, to tangle with communist insurgents.

    Lieut.-Col. Kennard concluded his military career as commander of the 4th Hussars, whom he dearly loved, from 1955 to 1958, during which time his wife and one of his subordinates fell in love. After the army, he thrice remarried, owned and operated a multi-van roving barbecue chicken business and for a decade served as a traveling sales rep for a cement concern, from which he retired in 1980 to settle as a gentleman farmer in Devon, all the while firing off zingy letters to the Times of London. When his horseplayer brother died in 1967, Loopy assumed the baronetcy, becoming Sir George, and he died as such on Dec. 13 at age 84.

    Writing of the regimental system and its officers in the foreword to Loopy, Gen. Sir John Hackett notes, "Perhaps we should catch up a few while there are still some in the wild, and preserve them. Then there will always be Loopies, if only very rarely another specimen so splendid."

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