Ludovic Kennedy, subsequently to become a well known broadcaster, was then a junior officer in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. His father, Edward Coverly Kennedy had been a Captain in the Royal Navy in the First World War, and had been bitterly disappointed to be retired at the end of that war. Recalled at the age of 60 to command the armed merchant marine HMS Rawalpindi, Captain Kennedy had been overseeing its conversion to a military role when he was last seen by Ludovic. “I have never seen him so happy; he was like a child with a new toy … His enthusiasm was unbounded, his pride immense.”
Captain Kennedy had written to a friend ” They have given me some guns, good guns, and I am going to use them”.
‘. . . The Secretary of the Admiralty,’ came the impassive voice of the announcer, ‘regrets to announce the loss of the armed merchant cruiser Rawalpindi. HMS Rawalpindi was an ex-P and 0 liner of seventeen thousand tons. . . .’.
The voice drifted on, but I did not listen. For I knew then that my father was dead. . . .
My father came of the old and noble breed of naval officers who hold honour dearer than life. To them, the achievements of a ship are due to the resource of her captain. If a captain should hazard his ship, whether the blame is attributable to him or not, it is his duty to go down with her.
Today a younger school decries this theory. It recognises that the captain should be the last to leave his ship, but insists that while there is an opportunity for him to get away he should take it, and thus be of further service to his country. That is a reasonable view, of course, but one cannot well criticise such men as Captain Makeig-Jones, of the Courageous, who remained alone on the bridge of his ship saluting the flag as she went down..
I went over to the telephone, and eventually was put through to the Admiralty. A long pause, then a voice said: ‘The captain? No, I’m afraid he’s gone. . . .’
See: November 23rd 1939
See Ludovic Kennedy: Sub-Lieutenant, A Personal Record Of The War At Sea also available from amazon.com and amazon.ca.