Obituary: General Sir Kenneth Darling

KENNETH DARLING believed passionately in the British soldier and devoted his life to the service of his country. Smallish in stature but tough and resolute, he would stand no nonsense from anyone, particularly the enemy, who was soon made aware of his presence.

When he took over as Director of Operations in Cyprus in October 1958 it was an island terrorised by Eoka. With 35,000 men under his command and with the full support of the British government, Darling immediately began to terrorise the terrorists and those who had any sympathy for their cause. Curfews were imposed: then Naafi personnel normally recruited from the Cypriot local population were replaced by British residents on the island. He dealt admirably with the flak which followed.

He was less interested in the individual cells that make up terrorists' units, he wanted their leaders. Along with his battalion commanders he devised a scheme of constant surveillance which made it extremely difficult for anything to happen without its being observed. Every move by the terrorists, as their nerves cracked, was noted. At last a house was pinpointed and the Eoka leader Grivas's second-in-command, Matsis, was found hiding beneath the stone floor. He refused to surrender and was killed in a grenade attack. By Christmas, just three months after Darling's arrival, Eoka had called a truce. By the time he left he had justifiably earned the respect of the Cypriot nationalist government.

Darling was born in India, educated at Eton and Sandhurst, and commissioned into the Royal Fusiliers in 1929. During the Second World War he commanded the 11th (TA) Battalion of his regiment before volunteering for airborne forces and, after training, he took command of the 1st Parachute Battalion. His predecessor was the much-loved and highly decorated Alastair Pearson, who had commanded them in North Africa and Sicily. He was a hard act to follow. Darling realised that he was not liked and he was pleased to be moved to the 12th Battalion as their second-in-command.

He dropped with them into Normandy, was wounded and returned to England. He was determined to fly to Arnhem on D Day plus 2 to see how the 1st Airborne were fairing. His place on the plane had to be given over to a senior officer and he travelled on the next flight. The first plane was destroyed by enemy fire. When the CO of the 12th Battalion was killed, Darling took over command and was involved in some of the toughest fighting in the Ardenne en route to the Rhine crossing.

In 1946 he went to Java to take command of the 5th Parachute Brigade in difficult circumstances. Short of men, he had to use disarmed Japanese soldiers to control internal disorders. From 1948 to 1950 he commanded the Airborne Forces depot, where as Regimental Colonel he set about firming up the foundations of the Parachute Regiment as part of the peacetime order of battle.

In 1950 he took command of the 16th Parachute Brigade. Since the war he felt the very essence of the airborne forces was being drained. He set about reorganising parachute training and revitalising tactics, and gave guidance to the Royal Air Force in their training for combined airborne operations.

His robust personality was next felt in Egypt, where vital British interests were at stake. As Chief of Staff, HQ 2nd Corps, when the Suez crisis broke he patiently and skilfully planned the military operation.

After Cyprus he became Director of Infantry, from 1960 to 1962, and then went to Germany as General Officer commanding the 1st British Corps, which at one point was put on full alert during the Cuban missile crisis. He came in contact with closed-circuit television and immediately saw its potential for the battlefield. After BAOR he became GOC-in-C, Southern Command, where he had responsibility for the strategic reserve and for planning its operations in conjunction with the RAF and Royal Navy, particularly during the final rearguard actions of the withdrawal from the campaigns in Borneo and Aden.

From 1967 to his retirement in 1969 he was Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces, Northern Europe.

Ken Darling was Colonel of the Royal Fusiliers from 1963 and after its amalgamation in 1968 Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers until 1974. He was delighted to be Colonel Commandant of the Parachute Regiment from 1963 to 1967. In 1968 he was appointed ADC General to the Queen. The British army - and in particular the Parachute Regiment - owes much to Kenneth Darling.

Kenneth Thomas Darling, soldier: born 17 September 1909; DSO 1945; CBE 1957, GBE 1969; Chief of Staff, 1st (Br) Corps 1955-56, 2nd Corps 1956- 57; Deputy Director, Staff Duties 1957-58; GOC Cyprus District and Director of Operations 1958-60; Director of Infantry 1960-62; GOC 1st (Br) Corps 1962-63; KCB 1963; GOC-in-C, Southern Command 1964-66; Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces, Northern Europe 1967-79; married 1941 Pamela Denison-Pender (died 1990); died Oxford 31 October 1998.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Just folk: The Unthanks

music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project