General Sir Kenneth DARLING (1909–1998)
Soldier and General
Vicarage Farmhouse, Chesterton
Born in India to George Kenneth Darling of the Indian Civil Service and his wife Mabel Eleanor (née Burgess), he attended Eton and Sandhurst. He joined the Royal Fusiliers and commanded the 11th battalion at the outset of war in 1939 but in 1943 he volunteered to join the airborne forces.
At first appointed to command the 1st battalion of the Parachute regiment, after his rather tactless handling of the veterans who had seen service in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, he contritely reverted to a lower rank. He was then posted to the position of second-in-command of the 12th battalion and took part in the airborne assault on Normandy in June 1944. Now held in high esteem for his leadership skills he took command of the battalion when the commander was killed in action. Darling himself had been wounded. He was able to raise the morale of the men to lead them through fierce combat in the Ardennes and across the Rhine to the Baltic to meet up with the Red Army. He was awarded the DSO for his fighting leadership. After the war he commanded the 5th Parachute brigade in Java and then was instrumental in drawing up the new unified Parachute Regiment with settled base and headquarters, enabling it to take its place in the post war world.
Various commands in the Middle East followed, including during the Suez crisis. A real opportunity to exercise his strategic talents came in 1958 when he was appointed director of operations in Cyprus, under the governor Sir Hugh Foot, to bring about the defeat of EOKA. His outstanding leadership and clear strategy were very effective and within three months the terrorists accepted a truce leading to a political settlement in 1959.
In his final decade of service he was commander of the 1st British corps in Germany, of the southern command (the army strategic reserve) and finally was Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces Northern Europe (1967–9). He was made knight commander of the Bath in 1963 and knight grand cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1969. In retirement he held honorary positions as colonel commandant of the Parachute Regiment (1965–7) and of the Royal Fusiliers (1963–8). Always the strategist, he employed his shrewd judgement in the restructuring process when the future of the four fusilier regiments was under threat, becoming colonel of the amalgamated Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
In 1958 he and his wife Pamela (née Denison-Pender) settled at Vicarage Farmhouse, Chesterton, where they lived for the rest of their lives.
- Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article by Anthony Farrar-Hockley
- Photograph taken at inauguration ceremony:
(1)Tony Lawrence (Darling's batman) and his wife with Professor Sir Hew Strachan, Philip Clarke, and Professor Robert Evans
(2) British Legion standard bearers (Parachute Regiment left, Royal Fusiliers right) flanking Sir Hew Strachan
The plaque was unveiled at Vicarage Farmhouse, Chesterton, on 4 July 2015. The speaker was Professor Sir Hew Strachan, FBA, military historian. Representatives of the Parachute Regiment, the Royal Fusiliers, the Chairman of Oxfordshire County Council and the Chairman of Cherwell District Council were among those attending. There were standard bearers from the Royal British Legion.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
General Sir KENNETH DARLING
GBE KCB DSO
The Parachute Regiment
The Royal Fusiliers
Fine soldier and strategist
Allied Forces Northern Europe
The Parachute Regiment