Just got back from two week business trip to Australia and before heading home I had an email from Jeremy Bird via George H. Graham whose site contains information on my great uncle Capt Rodderick George Maitland-Kirby aka Roddy Jeremy mentioned that his late grandfather served in 1941 with Roddy at Whaddon Hall in Buckinghamshire. He wondered whether any remaining Kirby family members might know anything about the circumstances of Roddy’s death because his grandfather said that some events that happened at Whaddon were far from straightforward.
In short, Jeremy thinks that Roddy was murdered, or at least assumes it was Roddy because the date of his death fits in with timetable of events as does his rank. He couldn’t find any records on the internet of any other military personnel buried at Whaddon who died in1940 or 1941. The person murdered could, of course, be buried elsewhere but Jeremy thinks if the death was Whaddon-related that is probably a bit unlikely.
The story as he remembers it is that someone responsible for security at Whaddon Hall ‘bragged’ that it was so good that no one would ever be able to break in without being caught. Anyway, the head of security set a Capt the task of attempting a break in with his men, supremely confident that he would not succeed. However, the Capt somehow got in through a small window in the servant’s quarters.
Apparently, the ‘task setter’ then met the Capt on the stairs and he was so enraged that he had succeeded that he took out his revolver and shot him. Another version from Jeremy’s mother, is that ‘task setter’ waited a little while after the security breach and arranged an ‘accident’ in which the Capt died. This version would seem to fit with our family’s understanding that he died in car crash.
Some time a little later the ‘task setter, asked Jeremy’s grandfather to attempt the same exercise with his men (apparently the task setter was a Capt. TMO, whatever that might be). Much to the ‘task setter’s fury, his grandfather also managed to break in and although he survived getting into the house he put in for a transfer (eventually ending up in Scotland) because he was worried about the same fate befalling him as Roddy if he stayed around any longer at Whaddon.
He said regardless of the details of the story, something dramatic must have happened to make his grandfather fear for his life if he stayed at Whaddon. He had already been in the army for over 20 years and so would have known the potential risks of asking for a transfer – especially from Whaddon. Apparently, he was one of the last ones to leave the beach at Dunkirk, having stayed to find as many of his men as he could, so he was hardly one to go for the easy option.
According to the Wikipedia, during World War II Whaddon Hall served as headquarters of Section VII of MI6, under the command of Brigadier Gamber Perry. In February 1940, the “Station X” wireless interception function was transferred here from Bletchley Park.
The Roll of Honour site has Roddy’s death as 22nd June 1941. I’ve no idea of what happened at Whaddon around that time. I guess I could ask try and ask for a request about his service records and death under the freedom of information Act to the Ministry of Defence – the files (if there was anything dodgy about it) should be open by now. Certainly, there’s no family stories about what happened to Roddy and I’m not sure we even have a photo. There was a certain amount of sibling rivalry between Roddy and my grandfather Claude, which by all accounts was in part was down to parental favouritism and also competing affections between the two brothers for the affections of my grandmother Rosemary … and this didn’t seem to stop after marriage. So another day and another family mystery.