Donald Kendall

6th Airbourne Division

Donald Kendall playing the piano at Streatham Lacarno Ballroom

Donald Kendall was the younger son of Herbert and Alice Kendall who ran the village shop.  He attended the village school and was a very talented musician. 

The following comes from Bunny his wife on their life together: 'Donald left Birdbrook at the age of 17 and took his first job as a pianist at the Odeon Ballroom, Canterbury.  My mum took in lodgers and he had been given our address.  I opened the door to him and thought how handsome he was - he was very tall, had lovely thick wavy hair (essential at the time for musicians!) and he had his piano accordian at his side.  To say I fell in love at first sight would not be far wrong!

He stayed at this job until he was called up in he army when he was eighteen and a half.  By this time I had moved back to London, where I come from, to my Mum's house.  Don was in the 6th Airborne division and we would see each other whenever possible.  On th 9th June 1944 we were married, and later Don went to Palestine with his Divsion.  There he had his own Piano Playtime and record requests on the Palestine Forces radio programme.  Officially he was the Record Librarian which he thorough enjoyed.  He also played with a large local dance band with an Arab leader.

Meanwhile, our first baby, June, was born and when she was 6 weeks old, we went to Birdbrook to live with Mr and Mrs Kendall, my lovely in-laws (they were dubbed Mama and Grank when June was beginning to talk and those names remain today within the family).  I took over the Post Office side of their shop while I was pregnant with John, and when we all left they did it themselves.  Don was demobbed in 1947 and came to Birdbrook just 2 days before our son John was born.  Six weeks later we returned to our flat in Peckham.

Every Monday Don then visited Archer Street in London to look for work in the music business.  He was soon in a large band and loving it.  They played mainly Mecca Halls in London, but also in Luton and other places.  We had three more children and were still living in the same flat when the band he was playing in moved to Scotland. He decided we couldn't afford for him to pay living expenses there and send money for me to keep the children and pay the rent, so we decided that now was the time to leave the music business.  The pay was not as good as it is nowadays, no paid holidays and no sick pay, if Don was ever sick I had to phone around to get another pianist to take his place and they charged the earth knowing the band could not manage without a pianist.  At one time he joined a cruiser, then joined British Telecom as an Overseas Telegraphist but his heart was never in this job even though he stuck it for 27years until he retired at 57.  During his time at BT, when his duties allowed, he would often play in bands and a charity band.

Don loved his piano and music and would play at home for hours, he had a wonderful style of his own and I have several CD's taken from tapes which he had made just sitting on his own playing.  Sadly our lovely daughter Linda died of cancer in 2000 and Don never got over her loss.  He died in 2004 at the age of 80, we had celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary a few months before.'

  Eric George Kendall

Sergeant 1380281

158 Squadron, Royal Air Force Volunteers Reserve

Eric Kendall was born to parents Herbert and Alice on 5th November, 1920 in Steeple Bumpstead.  His parents ran the shop in Birdbrook and he attended the village school. He joined 158 Squadron as a pilot and was based at RAF Driffield, East Riding of Yorkshire.  158 Squadron flew Wellington bombers mainly on night raids over Germany.  Sadly, Eric, was killed on Tuesday, 14th July 1942 on a bombing mission over Germany.  He was a single man of just 22 years of age, his mother Alice never came to terms with his death.  He is burried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, Germany. 

Eric with other crew members.  Pictures and information from his nephew John Kendall.

Above the Lisset Memorial to 158 Squadron, Driffield, East Yorkshire 

Picture by kind permission of  Simon view his Flickr site

In World War II, of the 125,000 airmen who joined Bomber Command, 55,573 were killed, 8,403 were wounded, and 9,838 taken prisoner.  44% of those who flew, died, if you discount those in training at the end of the war, the true figure is nearly 65%.  The life expectancy of bomber aircrews was shorter than junior officers on the Western Front in 1916.  The average age was 22, and all were volunteers.  158 Squadron lost the eerily coincidental number of 851 personal.  The memorial, at Lisset, lists all 851 names.