Hugh Kinred

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The Amazing Life of the Revd Hugh Cowell Kinred

The Revd Hugh Cowell Kinred was a former curate at Frenchay Church, and in early March 2015 a reporter from the Daily Mirror contacted us at Frenchay Village Museum, to see what we knew about him as he became a war hero. They were planning to run a story about him, as artefacts relating to his activities in World War One were coming up for auction in London.

We said we’d do a little digging, and this is what we found.

Newspapers around the world reported the amazing action during the battle of Neuve Chapelle, of Frenchay’s curate, Revd Hugh Cowell Kinred, who had signed on as a soldier in the Gloucestershire Regiment. The Daily Mirror of August 22nd 1916 gives the following account of his exploit, together with photographs of both him and the remnants of his tunic.


The marvellous escape from death of Capt. H.C. Kinred will probably rank as one of the most remarkable stories of the war. While walking along a trench he saw a bomb come over and drop near seven soldiers who were fast asleep. In a moment I saw the danger they were in and that no time could be lost in picking it up: so I decided to smother it by lying on it. ‘No sooner had I lain on it than it exploded blowing me from the corner of the trench at an angle of about 30 degrees on to its top and I should doubtless have been killed but for the lucky chance that I was wearing a Whitfield steel waistcoat’. The Captain, who was promoted in the field, has been awarded the Military Cross for this act of selfsacrifice in which he sustained serious wounds.

We assumed that finding out what happened to a clergyman would be quite straightforward, but we were wrong. Behind the obvious courage he exhibited, there lay a strange story, for he led a very unconventional life.

The obvious place to look at the career of an Anglican clergyman is Crockford’s Clerical Directory, and Bristol Central Library was able to supply the 1947 edition, which has the following entry for him,

Kinred, Hugh Cowell, Bishop Wilson’s College IoM 1904; D 1905 P 1906 S&M C of Malew 1905-9; C St Mary Ealing 1909-10; Ass. Chap. Dolny, Manchuria 1910-11; C St Andrew Walpole 1912; C Frenchay 1915; Served in Glos. Regiment 1915-18; V Misson 1919-21; Sec NSPCC 1921-23; V Crowfield 1923-29 and again 1929-36. Address Ballakillingam, Lezayre IoM.

This simple entry has some gaps that we have endeavoured to fill in, and what emerges is a picture of a very colourful man.

Although his family was from the Isle of Man, Hugh Cowell Kinred was born in Barrow in Furness in August 1881, and he was baptised in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Barrow on 8th November 1881.

However, he was then raised on the Isle of Man, and went to school there.

As Crockford’s says, he was trained for the priesthood at Bishop Wilson’s College on the Isle of Man, leaving in 1904. This college opened in 1889 and closed in 1943. However, when he arrives in Frenchay he states in the Parish Magazine of November 1914 that he went to Durham University – but they have no record of him...

There is no reason to doubt that, as Crockford’s said, he was made a deacon in 1905, then a priest in 1906, serving in the Diocese of Sodor and Man as a curate in Malew between 1905-09. In 1909 he became a curate of St Mary’s, Ealing, London, but left after a year to become an assistant chaplain at Dolny, Manchuria. Dolny, near Port Arthur, had been the scene of a major battle between the Russians and Japanese in their war of 1904-5, and is now in modern day China. He came back to the UK after a year, and was appointed curate of St Andrew’s Walpole, Norfolk, from 1912-13.

His next appointment is as curate of Frenchay in 1915, but what happened in the time between Walpole in 1913 and Frenchay in 1915?

The November 1914 Frenchay Parish Magazine seems to cover the point, ... (he) worked earnestly and successfully in Manchuria and Korea till invalided home through malaria. For eighteen months he has been travelling in Siberia for his health, which, we are glad to say, he now finds completely restored.

But other sources give a very different story. Following his heroic act in 1916, many papers around the world carried reports of his action, including the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, which on 27th September 1916 carried the following story...

Federation of Malay States MAN’S MILITARY CROSS

Particulars have reached the Malay Mail of a very gallant act by Mr H. C Kinred, formerly acting manager of Sua Manggis Estate, Port Dickson, and also at one time of Selangor, by which he has won ... the Military Cross.

The report goes on to give the same details of his action in saving his companions.

Details from passenger lists of arrivals in the UK support this version of what he was doing between 1912 and 1914. He is listed as a passenger on the S.S. Kagu Mara. He joined the ship at Penang, on the Malay Peninsula, arriving in London on 2nd July 1914, one of only two third class passengers. He gave his name as “Mr HC Kinred” occupation “planter”. He further states that his present residence is Penang, but that he intends to settle in England.

So was he travelling in Siberia for his health, or trying his hand as a planter in present day Malaysia? His army record may help to decide the issue, as it shows that before he joined the Glos’ters in 1915, he had served previously in the British Malay States Rifles (Volunteer) s a corporal.

He first appears in the Frenchay parish Magazine in October 1914, where it states he’s lodging in Hambrook House. As curate he becomes Treasurer of the Frenchay Scouts in 1915, but he doesn’t make too much of an impression in the registers, being involved in just one baptism, and he’s recorded as having taken one class in the school on the Old Testament.

The Western Daily Press of 4th May 1915 reports on May Day celebrations at Stoke Park Colony where,

Yesterday a very pretty spectacle was witnessed at Stoke Colony (the old Duchess House), Stapleton, where on the beautiful level sward adjoining the house the children in dainty costumes danced round the Maypole. ... There are about 800 children in the Home ... also present some of the members of the organising committee including the Revs CT Burgess and HC Kinred, of Frenchay.

In October 1915 the Frenchay Parish Magazine reports that Kinred has enlisted in the 14th Battalion the Gloucester Regiment. They were known as “The Bantams”, as the battalion had been created for men who were below the 5ft 3inch high requirement for the regular battalion. His army records show he joined as a regular soldier, not a chaplain. In the February 1916 Parish Magazine he’s reported to be lieutenant, and the following month he’s “gone to the front”.

In July 1916 he was involved in an incident on the front line, where he saved the lives of seven of his comrades. In September the Frenchay Parish Magazine ran the story, Next must be reported the gladdest ... event which have befallen Frenchay war history of late. First, Captain Hugh Kinred, of the 14th Glo'sters ("Bristol Bantams"), who enlisted when curate of this parish, has won the Military Cross. The Daily Mirror of August 22nd gives the following account of his exploit, together with capital photographs of himself and the few poor remnants of his tunic both donned and doffed...

The Parish Magazine then goes on the reprint the Daily Mirror article quoted earlier.

The London Gazette reported the award of the Military Cross for his selfless action, Temp Lt Hugh Cowell Kinred 14th Bn Glouc R. For conspicuous gallantry. When a bomb thrown by the enemy fell at his feet in the trench he at once threw himself on it and was blown into the air and much bruised and cut by the explosion, his life being saved by his steel waistcoat. His plucky action saved many casualties.

He transferred to the RAF in 1918, and served in the Aeronautical Commission of Control, Germany, until his formal discharge in February 1920.

But he appears to have actually returned to civilian life earlier, as Crockford’s show that he is the vicar of Misson, South Yorkshire, between 1919-21.

There then follows an unusual occupation, as in 1921 he is appointed to the full-time post of secretary of the NSPCC.

In 1923 he becomes vicar of Crowfield, a small village in Suffolk with a chocolate box pretty church. A quiet life in the country you might think, but he again hit the headlines in 1926 when his wife divorced him.

In September 1917 he had married an English actress, Lillian Elsie Ogden, in Norwich, although the wedding took place in a Registry Office, which seems odd for a clergyman. They had a daughter, Joy, towards the end of 1918, but in 1917 when he was back in France he apparently started an affair with a French girl, and after the war brought her to England to act as nanny for the baby.

The Edinburgh Evening Telegraph of 8th May 1926 reported developments,


Wife’s Discovery of Letters

Mrs Lillian Elsie Kinred, an actress, was granted a decree nisi in the London Divorce Court, for the dissolution of her marriage with her husband Hugh Cowell Kinred, a Clerk in Holy Orders, on the grounds of his adultery.

Council said respondent was not in a fit physical condition to go into the witness box and would take no further part in the proceedings.”

There follows a retelling of his heroic action in 1916, and of his marriage to Lillian Ogden, and the birth of their daughter Joy. It continues,

“Later he engaged a Frenchay girl named Louise Tessier for the child. There was a good deal of trouble over it. In August 1924 petitioner discovered two affectionate letters from a women. He said he was only keeping them for another man. Finally she left him.

Afterwards the girl wrote confessing having first met Kinred in 1917 in Paris. He told her he could never marry owing to his wound and they passed as an engaged couple. At first their relations were quite innocent and she refused all offers of marriage. She came intending to be ‘only a friend’. This she found impossible. The letter ended ‘I am going away. Forgive your husband and I am glad I have told you all, although this part of my life is not very clean.’

Council added that the French girl sent the wife nearly two hundred letters that she had received from Mr Kinred...

His Lordship granted petitioner a decree nisi with costs.

The result was that as a divorced clergyman he had broken church law, and would no longer be allowed to preach. Consequently the Archbishop of Canterbury placed an inhibition on him. The Bury Press of Bury St. Edmunds ran the following report on the 19th March 1927,


There is little hope that the inhibition placed on the Rev HC Kinred, vicar of the little parish of Crowfield, five miles from here, will be lifted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in spite of the petition from Mr Kinred's parishioners. When I saw Mr Kinred (says the 'Daily Express' special correspondent), he was sorrowfully making preparation to move out of the vicarage and try his hand at earning a living in the secular world. A remarkable story lies behind Mr. Kinred's inhibition, which has not only brought tragedy into his life, but has caused discontent and 'worry throughout the little village. As Mr Kinred put it to me today -

'I was caught between the devil and the deep sea. I was helpless.'

The story begins during the war. Behind the prosaic designation of 'reverend’, Mr Kinred has the name of one of the heroes of the 1916 battle of Neuve Chapelle. He was promoted on the field of battle, and decorated with the Military Cross for the courage with which he showed himself willing to sacrifice his life for seven other men. The great sacrifice was not accepted, but Lieutenant Kinred was seriously wounded and rendered a physical wreck. Mr Kinred had enlisted in the Gloucestershire Regiment without attempting to secure a post as chaplain to the troops. At Neuve Chapelle he was sitting in a trench with seven of his comrades when a bomb dropped among them. Without hesitation, Lieutenant Kinred threw himself on the bomb just a second before it exploded.

He was thrown out of the trench by the bursting of the bomb and terribly wounded, but the lives of his comrades were saved. Mr Kinred had married an actress shortly before this incident, the ceremony taking place in a register office. A daughter was born, but there were no other children; ‘I came back to England with six wounds,' he said; 'When I was better I went to the Air Ministry in a technical capacity. The end of the war came I was on the Allied Disarmament Commission as a technical expert, and my wife went back to the stage. I could have defended the divorce proceedings when they were brought against me in May of this year. I intended to, but decided at the last moment that I would not. I knew that this inhibition decree would result - I took it all into consideration. But there you are. I was between the devil and the deep sea; and now, without any money of my own, I have got to walk out of the Church to earn a living and make a new start in life after 15 years service for the Church.'

The grounds of the petition sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury were explained to me by Mr. Gibbons, one of the wardens of the church. 'We want Mr Kinred back,' he said. 'At present the services are being conducted by a nominee of the Bishop of St Edmunsbury, but Mr Kinred himself is still doing the greater part of the social work. He was banned from preaching for 12 months, one of the lightest sentences that could be passed under the Parliamentary law, which makes divorce a crime for a clergyman. 'We have pointed out that Mr Kinred, was married at a registry office, and therefore, it was a civil marriage, with which the church is not concerned.'

Again, there are discrepancies in this account. He did not marry “an actress shortly before this incident” (his wounding at Neuve Chapelle)”. It is implied in the report that marital relations were no longer possible, due to his injuries, but the timing of his marriage in 1917 and his daughter’s birth in 1918 seem to contradict that view.

Incidentally, his divorced wife remarried in Manchester in 1938, her new husband was Alfred Turner - he was not a clergyman.

During his inhibition there is evidence that he lived in London. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1928, and gave an address in London for correspondence. Unfortunately the RSA’s records are incomplete, and although they have evidence of his fellowship, they have no further information on him.

According to Crockford’s Clerical Directory, he was reinstated at Crowfield in 1929, so he had been suspended for two years. He continued as vicar there until 1936, when he appears to have retired to the Isle of Man as no further appointments are listed.

From 1937 he gives Ballakillingan, Lezayre, IoM, as his address, but his “retirement” was far from quiet. In 1940 he married again, this time to a local woman half his age, then more of his matrimonial troubles are again aired in the press. The Gloucester Citizen carried the following report on 16th May 1947,


First of the Isle of Man ‘enticement’ actions entered in the High Courts by two husbands may have to be postponed until after the summer law recess. They claim that their wives have been taken away from them by Miss Lynn Carlyle, a middle-aged hotel proprietress, of Lezayre, near Ramsey.

It was expected earlier that the hearing in the Ramsey High Court of the suit brought by the Rev Hugh Cowell Kinred, of Ballakillingan, near Ramsey, alleging the enticement of his wife, Mrs Marjorie May Kinred, former Manx woman golf champion, would have taken place next month.

Mrs Kinred had been Marjorie May Bampton, and they had married in the Registry Office in Douglas in 1940 – he was almost 60 years old, she was 29 years old.

The result of his legal action against Lynn Carlyle isn’t recorded. His wife, Marjorie May Kinred, died in Chichester in 1982. However, she was predeceased by the Revd Hugh Cowell Kinred, who died in Douglas, Isle of Man, in 1956. He was 75 years old.

He led an amazingly complex life, and though he may have been guilty of giving misleading accounts about some aspects of his life, one thing is certain: he was a brave man, who stepped out from behind the protection of his dog-collar in 1915, and joined a fighting regiment. Then, when faced with imminent danger, he acted in a brave and selfless way, thus saving the lives of seven of his comrades.

At an auction of militaria at 25 Blythe Road Auctions in London on the 18th March 2015, a framed copy of the Daily Mirror of 22nd August 1916, together with the remains of his Whitfield body armour (see photo above) came under the hammer.

It sold to a museum (not us) for £200.

Frenchay Village Museum - March 2015