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20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment

Major-General Sir Howard Kippenberger, — kbe, cb, dso, ed, — died Wellington, 5 May 1957

page xi

Major-General Sir Howard Kippenberger,
kbe, cb, dso, ed,
died Wellington, 5 May 1957

I have sometimes been asked by people who knew Kip only in Peace, knew only the military historian, the quietly-spoken, shy, retiring scholar, just what were the qualities he possessed that made him so beloved of the men he commanded in War.

Upon reflection I believe Kip's words in the Preface to this book partly answer the question. He speaks of ‘high dedicated endeavour’, and I think this phrase not only supplies the key to Kip's character, but helps to explain why men so completely believed in him.

In the first place we trusted Kip because we felt that here was one who had dedicated himself completely and absolutely to the task ahead. He was a true soldier, with the true soldier's regard for his men. I do not think he was ambitious in the sense that personal advancement meant everything. He was ambitious for the Battalion, the Brigade, the Division. He was so completely absorbed in the military picture that as an individual he counted for little.

Such absorption to the complete exclusion of his welfare, his own personal safety, made men realise that here was one who thought more of them than of himself. In action he would go wherever his presence was necessary, and when Kip arrived with time always for a friendly word for the men and encouraging advice for the officer, the effect on morale was immediate.

He loved his men. He knew them individually. He was proud of their reputation. Praise for the Battalion he passed on to others. Censure or criticism from above he kept to himself.

His standards were high, discipline good. He never resorted to loud shouting or table thumping, nor were his punishments severe. Men in detention were of no use to the Battalion. Men who had been treated fairly but leniently became good soldiers. Kip believed that discipline would never be a problem in a unit where administration was sound and leadership good.

page xii

Kip's flair for soldiering took him to high commands, but he never lost the common touch, never lost contact with the men. His wounds and war experiences must have seared his soul, but his simplicity, his humour and his humanity remained unchanged.

In Kip's own words, this history records the high endeavour of the 20th; but his own high endeavour is recorded in our hearts.

J. T. Burrows