Editorial – The Duke of Kent

29 August 1942

South Yorkshire Times – Saturday 29 August 1942

The Duke of Kent

Even to a world hardened by three years of war, with its inevitable daily record of violence and slaughter the news of the death of the Duke of Kent came as a great shock. In the pursuance of his duties as Air Commodore of the Royal Air Force the Duke was on his way to Iceland when the Sunderland flying boat in which he was travelling crashed in the North of Scotland, and he, with all but one of the crew, was killed.

Though the combative element of war did not enter into the disaster, the Duke nevertheless met his death on active service, giving his life in the service of the cause of the United Nations in just the same way as many a fine man of common stock who has paid the last forfeit in the grim game. And so our Royal Family, never higher in the Empire’s affection and esteem despite the marching progress of democracy, has lost by one fell mischance a brother, son, husband and father. The deep and respectful sympathy of all goes out to them, and particularly to the bereaved Duchess with her young sons and daughter. Every family in the land shares their distress and, already, alas, too many families have experienced this same saddest of losses. These are times when dread and danger are ever present, and in this total warfare none is immune from its pains and its penalties. It would be as unseemly to weave an artificial legend of heroism about the circumstances of the Duke’s death it would be to question the value of the service in which he was engaged.

Like many another man in His Majesty’s Forces he was doing his job. That the job entailed risks he was well aware; he preferred to take them in actively serving the Allied cause rather than accept any more sheltered office which could well have been his. . Regret at the cutting off in its prime of a life which already meant much and would undoubtedly have meant more to the nation and the Empire, is mingled with pride in service which held nothing back in exemplifying the principle of British democracy. We ponder afresh in the light of this tragedy the worth of the Prime Minister’s recent journey, and it takes on a new stature and significance. It is brought unanswerably home to us that this is not a war in which our leaders keep carefully aloof from the rough and tumble, not to mention the dangers, of the struggle. Those in high places are by no means merely content to issue orders which mean that men must die to implement them. They accept unhesitatingly the special risks attaching to their personal responsibilities. They go where their duty lies, in the face of consequences as lethal in their way as any bullet-swept beach, or mine-strewn desert.

The Duke of Kent is gone. But the spirit he typified remains and flourishes. It is the spirit of quiet but unswerving service, of painful patience in upholding the discipline of routine; and all to the end that victory shall come to those who have so long and so stubbornly outfaced defeat.