'Outstanding' professional held back by lack of ambition

Corporal Daniel Kenyon
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The Independent Online

Corporal Daniel Kenyon was a career soldier who, but for a puzzling lack of ambition, would have reached a higher rank. His place among the four men on trial for abusing Iraqis was a source of genuine shock to his contemporaries.

Corporal Daniel Kenyon was a career soldier who, but for a puzzling lack of ambition, would have reached a higher rank. His place among the four men on trial for abusing Iraqis was a source of genuine shock to his contemporaries.

The military figures who lined up to support him during the court martial were coming to terms yesterday with the fact their colleague faces up to two years detention for his part in the abuse scandal.

Unlike his co-defendants, Kenyon (known to friends as Kenny or Dan) is steeped in military life. His grandfather served in the Royal Fusiliers and Kenyon, born in Stirling, Scotland, had always wanted to follow him. He joined the army cadets at 12, and was 17 when he enlisted in the military in 1989, after leaving King Edward VI School in Morpeth, Northumberland.

He has been stationed in the Gulf, Bosnia and Canada, and is ranked among the top 7 per cent of soldiers in his regiment. On the front line during the first Gulf War, he saw friends killed when their Warrior vehicle was hit by US forces in a "friendly-fire" attack. He also suffered personal tragedy eight years ago when his first wife, Ruth, 21, a groom, died soon after the birth of their child.

Kenyon returned to the home they shared in barracks at Catterick, North Yorkshire, on 29 April 1996, to find her dead, the victim of a blood clot caused by her birth control pill. The couple had been married for 10 months. Their four-month-old child, Mark, was on the floor beside her, dehydrated, having cried for hours.

Kenyon left his regiment to care for his son, and briefly joined the Royal Anglian Regiment to be closer to his late wife's parents. He returned later to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and remarried.In addition to Mark, now nine, he has a second son, Robbie, aged two, from the second marriage. His family now lives in Celle, Germany.

Asked during his trial about his first wife's death, Kenyon said: "I don't think I can find the words for it."

His assignments in Iraq during the second conflict have included joining a group of soldiers sent to relieve US troops who had been unable to capture a bridge leading to Basra. He volunteered to go alone on foot to lead a British Warrior armoured personnel carrier to the bridge - an operation that led to him being recommended for mention in dispatches

He also defused 70 to 80 crates of plastic explosives after he discovered them near a recently captured enemy bridge and feared for the safety of troops who were to travel over it the next morning. His "outstanding" performance was why he was chosen to lead the men sent to capture looters at Camp Bread Basket, said a colleague.

For all this, his Army records hint at a lack of self confidence - a factor that may have led him to resist repeated recommendations for promotion. But Kenyon maintains that he has stayed a corporal for fear of becoming "a lesser soldier than I am".

Such principles now count for little as he faces imprisonment for his role in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.