September 9, 1942
Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons Official Report.
I also propose to move a second Motion:
"That this House do condole with Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent on the great loss which Her Royal Highness has sustained by the death on active service of Air Commodore His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent."
The loss of this gallant and handsome Prince, in the prime of his life, has been a shock and a sorrow to the people of the British Empire, standing out lamentably even in these hard days of war. To His Majesty the King it is the loss of a dearly-loved brother, and it has affected him most poignantly. I knew the late Duke of Kent from his childhood, and had many opportunities of meeting him during the war, both at the Admiralty and thereafter. His overpowering desire was to render useful service to his King and country in this period when we are all of us on trial.
There are difficulties which attend a King's brother and of-which those who are not of an exalted station can hardly be aware. But the Duke of Kent was ready to waive his rank, to put aside all ceremony, and to undergo any amount of discomfort and danger or what is harder still, of monotonous routine conscientiously performed, in order to feel quite sure that he was making a real contribution to our national struggle for life and honour. The field he made his own was that of the welfare and comfort of the Royal Air Force, which entailed an immense amount of work and traveling and yet yielded a continuous and useful result to which the personal qualities of the Duke contributed markedly. It was while performing these duties as an Air Commodore, he having given up his previous rank of Air Marshal, that the hazards of the air claimed their forfeit. He and all his companions save one were dashed instantaneously to death.
There is something about death on active service which makes it different from common or ordinary death in the normal course of nature. It is accepted without question by the fighting men. Those they leave behind them are also conscious of a light of sacrifice and honour which plays around the grave or the tomb of the warrior. They are, for the time being, uplifted. This adds to their fortitude, but it does not in any way lessen their pain. Nothing can fill the awful gap, nothing can assuage or comfort the loneliness and deprivation which fall upon the wife and children when the prop and centre of their home is suddenly snatched away. Only faith in a life after death in a brighter world where dear ones will meet again-only that and the measured tramp of time can give consolation.
The Duke of Kent had a joyous union and a happy family. The British people are devoted believers in their ancient Monarchy, regarding it as one of the bulwarks of their liberties and one of the essential elements in their constitutional processes. They, therefore, always follow with solicitude the joys and sorrows of the Royal Family, and they rejoiced in the spectacle of this happy home. I speak here in this famous Assembly, the champion and the successful practicer of democratic government, in this Assembly elected on universal suffrage, and I say without hesitation that all our thoughts go out in sympathy to Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent, the beautiful and stricken Princess who, in her turn, tastes the bitter tribulation which war brings to so many. That she may make a home for herself and her children here in the hearts of the British nation is the fervent wish of the House of Commons and of all those for whom the House of Commons has the right to speak.