November 7, 2016

Kent, Rodney Derrick

Service number: 6287135 | Rank: Private | Regiment: 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment

Died, July 24, 1942.
Buried PIETA MILITARY CEMETERY, Malta.  Coll. grave H. 21.

Aged 23.  Son of William and Lilias Hilda Kent, of Brandon, Suffolk.

WHAT I KNOW ABOUT RODNEY …

Rodney Derrick Kent was born in 1919.  His parents were William, a furrier, and Lilias Hilda (nee Bell).  The family lived at 135 Thetford Road, Brandon.

One of the most horrific moments of Rodney’s life took place in October 1936.  It was at about 8.30pm and Rodney, then aged 17 and working as an assistant butcher, was walking along the Mildenhall to Brandon road with his mother and grandmother.  The trio had just visited Rodney’s sister who lived at North Court.  It was dark and they were coming into Brandon.  Rodney was walking on the left hand side of the road, pushing a bicycle lit up by a front lamp, while his grandmother walked on the verge and his mother was walking in the road.  Rodney, aware a car was coming up behind them, told his mother to make her way to the verge and get off the road.  The car was just 20 yards away.  Rodney’s mother was wearing black and wearing a hat.  The driver of the car was dazzled by the lights from oncoming traffic and never saw Rodney and his family until the last second.  The driver braked very hard, types screeched for 21 feet along the road, but the vehicle slammed into the pedestrians.  Rodney’s cycle went flying and the lad somersaulted into the air and his grandmother was knocked into a gutter.  They were lucky and survived.  His mother fared less well and suffered head injuries, dying a few hours later at the West Suffolk hospital in Bury St. Edmunds.  A later inquest questioned why the family had not walked on the other side of the road, where Rodney’s cycle lamp would have face toward the traffic.  Why had they not been walking on the verge.  Just 300 yards more and they would have reached a pavement entering into Brandon.

When war was declared Rodney was serving in the 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, which were stationed on the small Mediterranean island of Malta.  Malta suffered heavily at the hands of the German Luftwaffe, but the island was later awarded the George Cross for its bravery.  Probably the most vicious period of the onslaught against Malta came between January – July 1942.  On 24th July Rodney found himself in the thick of it.  Air raids were a daily event, sometimes there were six warnings a day for long stretches, such was the intensity of the German attack.  At about 6pm five Luftwaffe JU88s bombers, with fighter escort, made it through the Malta defenses and bombed Ta Kandia.  One of the bombs landed a direct hit on the HQ building of Rodney’s unit, killing him and wounding two officers.