Ludovic Kennedy

Ludovic Kennedy

Ludovic Kennedy, the son of Royal Navy officer, Captain Edward Coverley Kennedy, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 3rd November 1919. His mother, Rosalind Grant, was a cousin of Robert Boothby.

Kennedy was educated at Eton College and instead of going to university he joined the Royal Navy on the outbreak of the Second World War. His father was called out of retirement and as captain of HMS Rawalpindi was killed when the ship was sunk near Iceland.

Kennedy served as an officer on destroyers, including HMS Tartar. Kennedy pointed out in his autobiography, On My Way to the Club (1989) that he decided to become a writer at the age of fifteen. However, he admitted that he did not have a subject to write about. This all changed with the Second World War and in 1942 he published his first book, Sub-Lieutenant: A Personal Record of the War at Sea.

In 1946 Kennedy he enrolled at Christ Church, Oxford. After leaving university he became a journalist with Newsweek. In February 1950 he married the dancer and actress Moira Shearer. Over the next few years the couple had four children (Ailsa, Rachel, Fiona and Alistair).

In 1953 Kennedy joined BBC Radio. Later he was to become a well-known television journalist. Kennedy developed an interest in miscarriages of justice. He points out in Truth to Tell (1991): "When I was a boy I was told by my mother that my father had been court-martialled and reprimanded after the first war for not taking strong enough measures to suppress a mutiny of naval reservists who were under his command. She said that the verdict had been disgraceful and that the Navy as a whole thought my father had been shabbily treated."

The first case that Kennedy investigated concerned a murder that had taken place in 1952. On the night of 2 November 1952, Christopher Craig (16) and Derek Bentley (19) tried to break into the warehouse of wholesalers Barlow & Parker in Croydon. The two youths were spotted climbing over the gate and up a drain pipe to the roof of the warehouse by a neighbour. The police arrived soon afterwards and when they tried to arrest them, Craig opened fire with a gun, killing one policeman and wounding another before being taken into custody.

At their trial both were found guilty of murder. Bentley was sentenced to death but Craig, who had fired the shot, was too young to hang was sentenced to life in prison. The Home Secretary, David Maxwell-Fyfe, was expected to reprieve Bentley but instead he allowed him to be executed. Kennedy responded to what he believed was "contrary to all natural justice" by writing Murder Story, a play that was put on at the Cambridge Theatre in 1955.

Kennedy then turned his attention to the case of Timothy Evans who was hanged in 1950. Michael Eddowes, a retired solicitor, wrote about Evans in The Man on Your Conscience (1955) where he suggested that the real murderer of his child and wife was John Christie. Kennedy wrote: "Eddowes's book was quite short, and, because he was not a professional writer, poorly assembled. Yet, by the time I had read it three times, I had no doubts about his conclusions... In order that this truth be more widely known I resolved then to write a definitive book on the case." 10 Rillington Place was published in 1961 and it has been claimed that it was influential in the abolition of capital punishment.

Kennedy once described

Kennedy became active in politics as a result of the Suez Crisis. He joined the Liberal Party and he was their candidate at the by-election at Rochdale in 1958. He came second with the largest Liberal by-election vote since 1935. In 1959 he came within 3,000 of winning the seat, but decided to abandon politics in order to concentrate on journalism. Kennedy continued to work in television and was a regular contributor to This Week (1958-59) and Panorama (1960-63).

In July 1963 Kennedy attended the trial of Stephen Ward at the Old Bailey. As he later pointed out: "Because of the rich and diverse characters that the case had spewed up and because also my instincts told me that this was going to be another miscarriage of justice though of a rather different kind, I attended the trial throughout, and six months later published my book on it." These characters included John Profumo, Christine Keeler, Mandy Rice-Davies, Eugene Ivanov, Vickie Barrett, Ronna Ricardo and Samuel Herbert.

In his book The Trial of Stephen Ward (1964) Kennedy concluded: "...the general feeling in court had been that although there could be little doubt that Ward was a habitual associate of prostitutes there had been little in the way of evidence to justify the charges of living on their immoral earnings, which, when all was said and done, was why we were here; and the impression on the Press benches that this was really a political trial, an instrument of revenge by the Establishment for the scandal caused by the exposure of Profumo."

Kennedy once described himself as someone who became "committed to revealing hidden truths". Fellow investigative journalist, Duncan Campbell, has pointed out: "Kennedy was always supportive of other, younger journalists working in the miscarriages of justice field and he frequently challenged the establishment notion that reopening such cases undermined faith in the judicial system."

Kennedy continued to work as a television journalist working on 24 Hours (1969-72), Tonight (1976-78) and Did You See? (1980-88). Kennedy also developed an interest in the case where Bruno Hauptmann had been executed for the murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr., the 20-month-old son of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. His documentary film on the case, Who killed the Lindbergh Baby? appeared in 1982 and his book, The Airman and the Carpenter in 1985.

Other books by Kennedy include Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Bismarck (1974), The Crimean War: The British at War (1976), Nelson and His Captains (1976), Presumption of Innocence: Amazing Case of Patrick Meehan (1977), Hundred Years War (1977), A Book of Railway Journeys (1980), Menace: Life and Death of the Tirpitz (1981), An End to Belief? (1984), On My Way to the Club (1989), Truth to Tell (1991), In Bed with an Elephant: Personal View of Scotland (1995), All in the Mind: Farewell to God (1999), The Peninsular War (2000), 36 Murders and 2 Immoral Earnings (2003) and Mutiny at Salerno: An Injustice Exposed (2005).

Kennedy's wife, Moira Shearer, died on 31st January 2006 at the age of 80. His final campaign was as a supporter of voluntary euthanasia.

Ludovic Kennedy developed pneumonia following a fall in 2008. He died at a nursing home in Salisbury on 18th October 2009.

What made the evidence of the prosecution at Ward's trial of such unflagging interest was the variety of the women who had been associated with him. The four on the bench could hardly have been more different: now a new star came to grace this milky cluster in the night sky. Her name was Margaret (Ronna) Ricardo and unlike Christine and Mandy she made no pretensions about not being a tart. It would be untrue to say she was not ashamed to admit it, for clearly she was ashamed or at least unhappy about it, but admit it she did. This honesty made a welcome change. She had dyed red hair and a pink jumper and a total lack of any sort of finesse; but after the genteel caperings of Christine and Mandy and the deadly respectability of Miss R, this also was welcome.

We had heard of Miss Ricardo before. She had given evidence at the Magistrate's Court proceedings three weeks earlier. There, among other things, she had said that she had visited Ward two or three times at his Bryanston Mews flat (we were on to Count 3 now) and on each occasion she was asked to stay behind to meet somebody. Men had arrived and she had gone to bed with them. Since then, however, she had gone to Scotland Yard to make a statement denying this. At the moment nobody knew for certain what she was going to say.

She took the oath and in answer to Mr. Griffith-Jones said that she had visited Ward at his flat in Bryanston Mews earlier this year. This, of course, was the flat where Rachman and Mandy had lived for two years. Ward had shown her the hole in the wall where the two-way mirror used to be and which Mandy in her evidence admitted to having broken. Miss Ricardo had said to Ward that she had had a two-way mirror herself. Ward had told her, she said, that he would "either cover the hole up or else get a new mirror", and she had said she had got an ordinary piece of mirror at home that would cover the gap. Now Mr. Griffith-Jones had said of the two-way mirror in his opening speech that when Ward moved into the Bryanston Mews flat "it was proposed to have it put in order again". This reply of Miss Ricardo's was the nearest he ever got to substantiating the assertion. The reader will have noticed that far from a categorical assertion of proposing to repair the mirror, Ward was undecided as to whether to cover the hole up or get a new mirror-a new mirror, note, nothing about a new two-way mirror. But how could the jury be expected to notice this?

Up to this moment in the trial the general feeling in court had been that although there could be little doubt that Ward was a habitual associate of prostitutes there had been little in the way of evidence to justify the charges of living on their immoral earnings, which, when all was said and done, was why we were here; and the impression on the Press benches that this was really a political trial, an instrument of revenge by the Establishment for the scandal caused by the exposure of Profumo, was growing all the time.

But with the calling of the name of Vickie Barrett this changed. For she was the witness for whom we had been waiting, the girl whom Mr. Griffith-Jones had said in his opening speech had visited Ward's flat for a period of over two months to give sexual comfort and stimulation to a variety of men for money which she had never received. Would her performance in the witness-box bear out the promises that Mr. Griffith-Jones had made of her? If it did, then as surely as the coming of night the jury would find, and rightly find, Ward guilty.

She came into the witness-box, a little whey-faced blonde, wearing a sort of green raincoat with a white scarf round her neck; and when she turned to face the court and while she was giving the oath, one's impression was one of shock; shock that Ward, whom one had believed to be a man of some fastidiousness in his tastes, had sunk so low. For of all the whores the prosecution had paraded or were still to parade before us this one was the bottom of the barrel. Christine and Mandy and even Ronna Ricardo had had a certain style, a kind of robustness, which compensated for their other deficiencies, but this little waif had nothing. She was like a little sad, sick elf, a photograph, as Rebecca West later put it, from a famine relief fund appeal. Clearly no improving influences had come to grace her life, no Professor Higgins had taken her under his wing : she was, in officers' mess parlance, a ten bob knock in the Bayswater Road. I looked at her standing so awkwardly in the witness-box, and then I looked at Ward, intelligent and sophisticated, in the dock, and I found it difficult to reconcile the two.

With his trademark look of wry bemusement, Kennedy laced his incisive questioning with an idiosyncratic charm that became the blueprint for a generation of journalists and a huge hit with viewers. His poise as a performer was matched by his ability to see through to the truth of a story and take a full grasp of all the issues at play, and it quickly took him to the top of his profession. After rising to early success as a newscaster for the fledgeling Independent Television News, where he worked alongside Day, he blazed a trail with investigative reporting programmes such as Panorama and Tonight.

A strong moral rectitude brought Kennedy into contact not only with current affairs but also with the past. He launched campaigns to reconsider convictions in several high-profile cases, including the hanging of Derek Bentley and the jailing of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. His exposés of corruption and incompetence in the police and legal systems were damningly effective, and he was ubiquitous in debates on the need for judicial reform.

He was an ardent and often outspoken campaigner, also prominent in calls for the legalisation of euthanasia, castigating the Roman Catholic Church’s pro-life stance as “medieval in its thinking and barbaric in its lack of compassion”. Kennedy was already a committed atheist who saw religion as undeserving of any moral high-ground, and he first become involved in the Voluntary Euthanasia Society when his mother, Rosalind, suffering from painful rheumatoid arthritis, told him that she did not want to live any longer. He went on to become president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

A perennially active thinker, Kennedy published a critique of religious doctrine and history of atheistic thought, All in the Mind: A Farewell to God (1999), aged 79. Without any sense of world-weariness, he attacked what he saw as the hijacking of altruism by Christianity, and made a cogent, lively case for the abstract nature of human moral value.

The book also allowed him to chart a much more personal journey. He wrote movingly of his father, a Christian, who died when the ship that he was captaining was sunk off Iceland in the Second World War. Describing the shattering effect of this loss, Kennedy concluded that it aptly illustrated “the uselessness of prayer”. “[My father] had a very simple faith,” he wrote. “He prayed every night and morning of his life, and I know he would have done that on the morning of the battle, and look what happened to him.”

Yet he did not dismiss the potential for spiritual satisfaction in life and was angered at the suggestion that a life without religion might be less moral. He recalled two experiences particular resonant of such spirituality in his life: as a child hearing a piper on the moors in his native Scotland; and seeing hundreds of stars, like “a watchful presence”, while standing on board a fleet destroyer at night during the war.

Sir Ludovic Kennedy, the distinguished broadcaster, outspoken campaigner and committed atheist, has died aged 89 at a nursing home in Salisbury, his family said today.

It is understood the former BBC presenter, whose genteel charm belied a rigorous interviewing technique that made him one of television's most successful journalists, had been in a frail condition after developing pneumonia following a fall last year. Kennedy would have celebrated his 90th birthday next month.

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said: "Sir Ludovic was a stalwart supporter of the BHA and a progressive campaigner on many fronts. He will be sorely missed."

A lifelong Liberal – he once stood unsuccessfully as a candidate – Kennedy was lauded by the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, as "one of the great thinkers of his generation. His pursuit of justice and his championing of sometimes unpopular and controversial causes marked him out as a true liberal," he said.

A vociferous advocate of assisted dying – one of his books is entitled Euthanasia: the Good Death – his belief in the right to die with dignity was born from watching his mother Rosalind's last, painful months.

He resigned from the Lib Dems in 2001 when the former leader Charles Kennedy refused to include the issue of voluntary euthanasia in the party's election manifesto, though he later rejoined.

Kennedy's uncompromising pursuit of miscarriages of justice was rooted in the unfair court-martialling of his father, Captain Edward Kennedy, who later died in action during the second world war when the merchant cruiser he commanded was sunk by a German battleship off Iceland.

It was "Ludo" Kennedy's particular charm as a broadcaster that he behaved on air as he did in real life – as though he were at some informal gathering of old friends. Benign, handsome and slightly Woosterish, he conveyed the impression of being a talented amateur who had drifted into a popular medium which he regarded as somewhat beneath him. Indeed he never really lost a certain aristocratic contempt for television and dismissed as ludicrously self-important the views of those television executives who believed that "a thing said simultaneously to 15 million people will carry more influence than something said privately at a pub or dinner party or picked up elsewhere in the course of the day."

Yet Kennedy combined his laconic, humorous style with a rage for justice that made him a formidable investigator. He specialised in ferreting out truth, pursuing almost-lost causes and bringing to light what seemed to him to be miscarriages of justice. Some of his television exposés were followed up with books, of which the most famous were to do with the execution of Timothy Evans (the man hanged in 1951 for murders which, it later transpired, had been carried out by John Christie), the framing of Stephen Ward in the Profumo case and, with The Airman and The Carpenter (1985), the electrocution in America of Bruno Hauptmann, the man accused, probably falsely, of being the kidnapper and murderer of the Lindbergh baby. More recently, Kennedy campaigned for the release of the Birmingham Six and other IRA suspects who, it is now recognised, had been the victims of serious injustices.

Kennedy was fond of recalling Goethe's advice to "distrust all those in whom the urge to punish is strong". In 10 Rillington Place (1961), Kennedy showed how, in the Evans case, a man of subnormal intelligence had been used as a scapegoat to save people trouble. In other cases the story was of law enforcers ganging up to "frame" a scapegoat to assuage their own fears and sense of outrage. His exposure of the Evans case was said to have played an important part in turning the tide of opinion in Parliament in favour of the abolition of the death penalty. But some regretted that one effect of his campaigns on particular instances of injustice had been to undermine public confidence in the police and courts in general.

Kennedy entitled his autobiography On My Way to the Club, and for all his iconoclasm he remained an insider, which is perhaps why he proved so formidable and effective a campaigner. He got things done not by alienating, but by being painstakingly reasonable and he had a ready audience among members of the Establishment, most of whom he knew personally.

Despite his espousal of unpopular causes (he also championed atheism, republicanism, voluntary euthanasia and fox-hunting), none of the wrongs he set out to right left him with a hair out of place. His campaigns cost him little more than being blackballed for membership of an Edinburgh golf club and, following the release of the Birmingham Six in 1991, the friendship of Lord Lane, the appeal judge in the case whom Kennedy had urged to stand down.

To those of us who believe that British justice is fallible, Ludo Kennedy (obituary, 20 October) was an icon. Although, these days, even some of the highest judges in the land have been known quietly to concede that the system over which they preside is capable of making mistakes, in Ludo's day few, if any, were prepared to contemplate that possibility.

What's more – as the two woefully inadequate inquiries into the Timothy Evans case demonstrate – the judicial establishment was prepared to go to some lengths to avoid having to face up to the fact that something had gone horribly wrong.

It was Ludo who wiped the smile off their smug faces. What made him especially effective was that he was himself an impeccably establishment figure. His Eton and Oxford education, the fact that he was a member of the same clubs and possessed of the same self-confidence as those who occupied the upper reaches of the judiciary and government, meant that he was ideally placed to take them on. And he didn't hesitate.

I first got to know him more 20 than years ago, when the Sunday Times commissioned him to produce a detailed study of the Birmingham pub bombings case, which I had been pursuing for some time. In those days it was a lonely cause, but once he came on board it became considerably less so.

True to form, he invited me to lunch at his club in St James's and from then on we never looked back. Much of his renown derived, of course, from his having been – along with Robin Day – a presenter in the early days of television. I didn't realise how famous he was until I invited him to dinner at the House of Commons, only to find him being buttonholed by a procession of people, from members of the then Tory cabinet to the waiters in the dining room.

Ludo's strength was that, unlike some members of the great and the good, once he had alighted upon a just cause, he stayed with it to the end. Witness his pursuit of two cases concerning murders that took place in 1969 – that of Patrick Meehan in Scotland, and that of David Cooper and Michael McMahon, which was referred to the court of appeal a record four times.

One of my abiding memories of Ludo was sitting next to him, day after day, in the jury box at the Old Bailey (which had been set aside for "distinguished" observers) during the final appeal of the Birmingham Six, sharing Polo mints and sardonic asides.

He once recounted an encounter with the then lord chief justice, Geoffrey Lane, who claimed to have seen him on a golf course in Scotland. "Not me, I wasn't there," replied Ludo. Adding cheekily, "a case of mistaken identity". A concept which, of course, Lord Lane had some difficulty in accepting.


Sir Ludovic Kennedy 1919 – 2009

Post by paulcadogan » Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:39 pm

Sir Ludovic Kennedy - eyewitness to Bismarck's final battle, author of "Pursuit" and son of Captain Kennedy of the Rawalpindi - has died at the age of 89.

We all know his face very well - from numerous interviews and commentaries on the battle that we have seen in documentaries. He always voiced his great admiration for his German battleship foe of so long ago and his heartfelt description of the scene of the "trickle of men" running out onto Bismarck's quarterdeck that brought home to him the terrible human tragedy he was witnessing, will remain for posterity.

Another living link to the Bismarck saga has passed. He fought his War bravely, now may he rest in Peace.

Re: Sir Ludovic Kennedy 1919 – 2009

Post by José M. Rico » Wed Oct 21, 2009 6:59 pm

Re: Sir Ludovic Kennedy 1919 – 2009

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:59 pm

I could be wrong -- I hope someone would correct me if I am -- but it has been my belief that Kennedy's description of the 'trickle of men' etc., -- though of great emotional impact to listeners -- was entirely imaginary insofar as his ship, HMS Tartar, had actually been retired from the pursuit in order to refuel some time before Bismarck sank. If that is the correct, then Kennedy never witnessed the sinking at all.

Perhaps some Royal Navy operational experts could clarify this.

Re: Sir Ludovic Kennedy 1919 – 2009

Post by paulcadogan » Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:38 pm

I've always wondered about that as I've never read of Tartar being on the battle scene. I've always figured she must have been up to a point. Or was Sir Ludovic merely quoting what he was told by others and it sort of became his own? I'll take a look at the relevant chapter in "Pursuit" and see what he wrote. Unfortunate though that we start thinking of this at the sad time of his passing.

Re: Sir Ludovic Kennedy 1919 – 2009

Post by paulcadogan » Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:15 am

Pursuit P.207: In the big ships they were to occupied with fighting to take an objective view of the battle. It was different in the destroyers, in Vian's flotilla and in Tartar and Mashona: these last two Tovey had detached at the start of the action to return to Londonderry to fuel, but having come so far they weren't going to miss the battle for anything.

P. 208: They stayed almost until the end, hoping that Tovey might order them to go in and fire torpedoes, dreadfully disappointed that he didn't (one officer in Tartar with perhaps the only movie camera in the fleet had hopes of filming Bismarck at close quarters). But their fuel situation was acute.

So the film footage of the final action that we've seen in documentaries was actially shot from HMS Tartar. If she had only been sent in at the end, what amazing footage we might have had. Might have helped settle quite a few arguments! What an opportunity lost.

So Sir Ludovic's account was valid eyewitness testimony. He can sail into his eternal rest unblemished.

Re: Sir Ludovic Kennedy 1919 – 2009

Post by Bill Jurens » Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:10 am

I don't wish to be argumentative, but I think if you read the text carefully, you will see that Kennedy isn't clearly saying he was there at all, e.g. "They stayed ALMOST until the end. " (emphasis mine) which suggests they left BEFORE the end. Nor does he say that the film of Bismarck sinking was taken from Tartar he says somebody on Tartar had a camera and WANTED to make some film, not that some film was actually made. And he doesn't say the only movie camera in the fleet, he says PERHAPS the only movie camera in the fleet. So the language is carefully chosen. Of course the main problem is that you really can't use Kennedy himself to back up his own testimony. We really need independent verification.

At best, If Tartar was still in the vicinity when Bismark sank, it would seem almost certain that she would have been much too far away to make any visual observations about 'trickles of men' etc. Had she been close enough to see individual men, even with binoculars (if she could see through the smoke at all) it would seem highly improbable that she could not have avoided being recorded by other ships in the vicinity, and she certainly would have had to have been close enough to appear on track charts of the action, if only as an unwelcome intruder. (Incidentally, If Tovey had indeed detached her and ordered her to Londonderry, it is hard to believe that Tartar would have participated in the final action at all, which would have required her to blatantly and obviously disregard Tovey's orders. This would have almost certainly resulted in a court martial..) But no destroyers show up on ANY track charts -- or at least any track charts that I can find -- of the action at all. And none are mentioned in the action reports of the ships that actually were there, e.g. Rodney and KGV etc. Which very strongly suggests that Tartar and her sisters were gone.

While it is true that some internet sites say Tartar was 'present' at the final action, other sources (also on the internet) are quite explicit in stating that Tartar (and Kennedy) did not witness the sinking at all. Many of the ship histories of Tartar don't mention her participation in the Bismark actions at all, suggesting that her role, at best, was minor, i.e. that while the ship 'participated' in the hunt for the Bismarck -- as did almost every British unit in the North Atlantic at that time -- she played no significant role in the final battle or elsewhere.

I have gone through this action several times in some detail over many years, and prepared a number of track charts of the final action for publication. I have yet to find any independent and objective evidence whatsoever that Tartar was near enough to have seen anything significant. If Tartar really was there, why did nobody else record her presence?

I remain hopeful that someone might come up with more significant and independent evidence regarding Tartar's movements on 27 May.


Ludovic Kennedy

Ludovic Henry Coverley Kennedy was a Scottish journalist, broadcaster, and author. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Strathclyde in 1985 and also held similar posts at the Universities of Edinburgh and Stirling. He was knighted in 1994 for services to journalism.

He was a member of the crew of the British destroyer HMS Tartar that took part in the pursuit and destruction of the German battleship Bismarck in May of 1941. &aposSub-Lieutenant&apos (1942) told of his naval experiences and &aposPursuit&apos (1974) told of the sinking of the Bismarck.

He undertook many campaigns on behalf of people who had been wrongly convicted of murder, including Derek Bentley and Timothy Evans and also wrote an account of the trial of Stephen Ward follow Ludovic Henry Coverley Kennedy was a Scottish journalist, broadcaster, and author. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Strathclyde in 1985 and also held similar posts at the Universities of Edinburgh and Stirling. He was knighted in 1994 for services to journalism.

He was a member of the crew of the British destroyer HMS Tartar that took part in the pursuit and destruction of the German battleship Bismarck in May of 1941. 'Sub-Lieutenant' (1942) told of his naval experiences and 'Pursuit' (1974) told of the sinking of the Bismarck.

He undertook many campaigns on behalf of people who had been wrongly convicted of murder, including Derek Bentley and Timothy Evans and also wrote an account of the trial of Stephen Ward following the Profumo affair. He also wrote an account of the murders at Ten Rillington Place.

He married actress Moira Shearer (1926-2006) on 25 February 1950 and the couple had four children.


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About Ludovic Henry Coverley Kennedy

Sir Ludovic Henry Coverley Kennedy (3 November 1919 – 18 October 2009) was a British journalist, broadcaster, humanist and author best known for re-examining cases such as the Lindbergh kidnapping and the murder convictions of Timothy Evans and Derek Bentley, and for his role in the abolition of the death penalty in the United Kingdom.

Early life and naval career

Kennedy was born in Edinburgh, the son of a career Royal Navy officer, Edward Coverley Kennedy, and his wife, Rosalind Grant, daughter of Sir Ludovic Grant, 11th Baronet. His mother Rosalind was a cousin of the Conservative politician Robert Boothby, later Lord Boothby. He was schooled at Eton College (where he played in a jazz band with Humphrey Lyttelton), and was set for university when the Second World War broke out.

Kennedy's father, by then a 60-year old retired captain, returned to the navy and was given command of HMS Rawalpindi, a hastily militarized P&O steamship, known as an Armed Merchant Cruiser. On 23 November 1939, while on patrol southeast of Iceland the Rawalpindi encountered two of the most powerful German warships, the small battleships (or battle cruisers) Scharnhorst and Gneisenau trying to break out through the GIUK gap into the Atlantic. The Rawalpindi was able to signal the German ships' location back to base. Despite being hopelessly outgunned, Captain Edward Coverley Kennedy of the Rawalpindi decided to fight, rather than surrender as demanded by the Germans. Scharnhorst sank Rawalpindi of her 312 crew 275 (including her captain) were killed. His son Ludovic was twenty years old. Captain Kennedy was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches and his decision to fight against overwhelming odds entered the folklore of the Royal Navy.

Ludovic Kennedy followed his father into the navy he served as an officer on destroyers, mostly in the same northern seas. His ship (HMS Tartar) was one of those that pursued the battleship Bismarck following the Battle of the Denmark Strait although he did not witness her sinking because Tartar went to refuel some hours before the end. Kennedy later wrote about this in Pursuit, his chronicle of the chase and sinking of the Bismarck.

He had two younger sisters, Morar and Katherine. Morar married the playwright Royce Ryton in 1954. Katherine married Major Ion Calvocoressi in 1947.

Journalism and broadcasting

Having studied for one year at Christ Church, Oxford, before the war, he returned to complete his studies in 1945. At Oxford he helped found the Writers' Club and then sought a means of support while he completed a book on Nelson's captains. After leaving Oxford he began a career as an investigative journalist.

A campaigning, investigative reporter, Kennedy wrote for a number of publications, including Newsweek. From 1953, he edited and introduced the First Reading radio series on the BBC Third Programme, presenting young writers such as Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin. Later he became a television journalist and a newsreader on ITV's Independent Television News alongside Robin Day and Chris Chataway. He presented the BBC's flagship current affairs programme Panorama for several years. Kennedy was interested in miscarriages of justice, and he wrote and broadcast on numerous cases.

A major interest of Kennedy's was naval warfare. He wrote and presented a substantial number of television documentaries for the BBC on maritime history in the Second World War, beginning with Scapa Flow, followed by the dramatic narrative of the sinking of the Bismarck in which he was personally involved. Other subjects included the U-Boat war, the story of HMS Belfast, and the raids on Dieppe and St. Nazaire. "The Life and Death of the Scharnhorst" (1971) brought him into contact with survivors of the battlecruiser that had sunk his father's ship Rawalpindi. The series climaxed with the acclaimed "Target Tirpitz" (1973), a history of the extraordinary attempts to sink the feared German battleship. Two of these films led to subsequent books.

In 1980 he presented an episode of the BBC television series Great Railway Journeys of the World, in which he crossed the USA.

From 1980 to 1988[8] he presented the television review programme Did You See. He interviewed Peter Cook's character Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling in A Life in Pieces in 1990. He appeared as himself in several episodes on the political comedy series Yes, Minister. Kennedy was the subject of an episode of That Reminds Me (2002: season 4, episode 1).

Private Eye magazine sometimes referred to him as 'Ludicrous Kennedy'. In the long-running BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, Alf Garnett – while attacking BBC personalities – spoke of him as a Russian Mick ("Mick" being an offensive term for an Irishman), meaning "that Ludovich Kennedy!"

Kennedy's highly regarded book Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the "Bismarck" (ISBN 978-0-304-35526-6) detailed the career of the Bismarck, her sinking of British battlecruiser Hood, and her destruction by the Royal Navy.

He wrote several books that questioned convictions in a number of notable cases in British criminal history. One of the first miscarriages of justice he investigated was the conviction and hanging of Timothy Evans in his 1961 book Ten Rillington Place (ISBN 978-0-586-03428-6). He was found to have murdered his baby daughter in 1950, but Kennedy contended that Evans was innocent, and that the murders of his wife and baby had been committed by the serial killer John Christie. Christie was hanged three years after the hanging of Evans, following the discovery of six more bodies at 10 Rillington Place, none of which could be ascribed to Evans. Indeed, two of the skeletons found at the house dated back to the war - long before Evans and his family had moved in. After a long campaign, Evans was posthumously pardoned in 1966. The scandal helped in the abolition of the death penalty in the UK. Kennedy's book was filmed in 1970 as 10 Rillington Place, starring John Hurt as Evans and Richard Attenborough as Christie. In 1985, Kennedy published The Airman and the Carpenter (ISBN 978-0-670-80606-5), in which he argued that Bruno Hauptmann did not kidnap and murder Charles Lindbergh's baby, a crime for which he was executed in 1936.[2] The book was made into a 1996 HBO film Crime of the Century, starring Stephen Rea and Isabella Rossellini.

In 1990, Kennedy became the advisory committee chairman of Just Television, a television production company dedicated to exposing miscarriages of justice.

In 2003, he wrote 36 Murders and 2 Immoral Earnings (ISBN 978-1-86197-457-0), in which he analysed a number of noted cases, including the Evans case and those of Derek Bentley and the Birmingham Six, a number of which were affected by claims of police failure, police misconduct or perjury. In it he concluded that the adversarial system of justice in the UK and the United States "is an invitation to the police to commit perjury, which they frequently do", and said that he preferred the inquisitorial system. Kennedy also wrote:

Sub-Lieutenant: A Personal Record of the War at Sea, 1942

Trial of Stephen Ward, 1964, ISBN 978-0-575-01035-2

Very lovely people a personal look at some Americans living abroad, 1969, ISBN 978-0-671-20205-7

Nelson and His Captains (also called Nelson's band of brothers), 1975, ISBN 0-00-211569-7

Presumption of Innocence: Amazing Case of Patrick Meehan, 1976, ISBN 978-0-575-02072-6

Death of the Tirpitz (also called Menace – The Life and Death of the Tirpitz), 1979, ISBN 978-0-316-48905-8 On My Way to the Club, 1990, ISBN 0-00-637079-9 (his autobiography)

Euthanasia: The Case for the Good Death, 1990, (ISBN 978-0-7011-3639-0)

Truth to Tell: Collected Writings of Ludovic Kennedy, 1992, ISBN 978-0-552-99505-4

In Bed with an Elephant: Personal View of Scotland, 1995, ISBN 978-0-593-02326-6

All in the Mind: A Farewell To God, 1999, ISBN 978-0-340-68063-6 (a critique of Christianity)

In 1958, Kennedy stood for election to Parliament as the Liberal candidate in the Rochdale by-election called after the death of the sitting Conservative MP, Wentworth Schofield in December 1957. He lost to the Labour candidate, Jack McCann, but achieved a massive increase in the Liberal vote, pushing the Conservatives into a distant third place. The Rochdale contest was the first British by-election to receive live television coverage (locally, by Granada Television).

Kennedy supported Scottish Independence.

In addition to his writing and campaigning on miscarriages of justice, Kennedy campaigned on a number of other issues.

A lifelong atheist, he published All in the Mind: A Farewell To God in 1999, in which he discussed his philosophical objections to religion, and the ills he felt had come from Christianity. He was a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association,[13] he contributed to New Humanist magazine, he was an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotland.

He was also an advocate of the legalisation of assisted suicide, and is a co-founder and former chair of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. His book, Euthanasia: The Case for the Good Death, was published in 1990.

Kennedy resigned from the Liberal Democrats in 2001, citing the incompatibility of his pro-voluntary euthanasia views with those of the then Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy (no relation) who is a Roman Catholic.

He then stood as an independent on a platform of legalising voluntary euthanasia in the 2001 general election for the Wiltshire constituency of Devizes.[2] He won 2% of the vote and subsequently rejoined the Liberal Democrats.

In February 1950 he married the dancer and actress Moira Shearer in the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace. He later remembered their meeting in 1949, when he was reluctantly persuaded by a friend to accept a complimentary ticket to a fancy dress ball held at the Lyceum ballroom in London. Shearer - who had recently become famous for her role in The Red Shoes - was presenting the prizes at the occasion, and Kennedy later recalled that "I felt a tremor run through me when I caught sight of her. She looked even lovelier than in the film."

Summoning up his courage, he approached the 23-year old dancer and asked her to dance. She would be delighted, she told him, only "I don't dance very well." She was not, Kennedy revealed, a competent ballroom dancer. The couple had one son and three daughters from a 56-year marriage that ended with her death on 31 January 2006 at the age of 80.

He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Strathclyde in 1985.

He was knighted in 1994 for services to journalism, on the recommendation of John Major's government. Major's predecessor Margaret Thatcher had vetoed Kennedy's knighthood.

Kennedy died of pneumonia in a nursing home in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on 18 October 2009.


KENNEDY, Sir Ludovic (Henry Coverley)

KENNEDY, Sir Ludovic (Henry Coverley). British (born Scotland), b. 1919. Genres: Criminology/True Crime, History, International relations/Current affairs, Law. Career: Television and radio journalist, 1955-88. Publications: Sub-Lieutenant, 1942 Nelson's Band of Brothers, 1951 One Man's Meat, 1953 Ten Rillington Place, 1961 Murder Story (with essay on Capital Punishment) The Trial of Stephen Ward, 1964 Very Lovely People, 1969 Pursuit: Sinking of the Bismark, 1974 A Presumption of Innocence, 1976 The Portland Spy Case, 1978 Menace: The Life and Death of the Tirpitz, 1979 (ed.) A Book of Railway (Sea, Air) Journeys, 3 vols., 1980-82 Wicked beyond Belief, 1980 The Airman and the Carpenter, 1985 On My Way to the Club (autobiography), 1989 Truth to Tell (collection), 1991 In Bed with an Elephant: A Journey through Scotland's Past and Present 1995 All in the Mind: A Farewell to God, 1999. Address: c/o Rogers, Coleridge and White, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN, England.

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Ludovic Kennedy

“ESSENTIALLY a communicator” was the way Sir Ludovic Kennedy described himself. A Scottish “lad o' pairts” might have been a better term. Not only did he have prodigious talents as a writer and broadcaster, but he used them to the full. If his manner was relaxed, his questioning courteous and his bearing almost patrician, he was no dilettante. The amiability and easy charm merely helped to disguise both his professionalism and the zeal that burned within him.

In nothing was that zeal more apparent than in his lifelong concern with miscarriages of justice. This, he thought, was planted in his mind in early childhood by meeting a prison visitor who consorted with the wicked inmates of Bedford jail. It was surely strengthened when he later learnt of the career-breaking court-martial of his adored father, a naval captain, in 1921. By talking to his men, rather than using force against them, Captain Kennedy had averted a mutiny but was nonetheless censured and denied a new command.

The guilty men in this episode were gutless admirals. In the cases Sir Ludovic was to broadcast and write about, the villains were usually corrupt policemen, complacent judges and those who defended an adversarial system of justice that encouraged “the police to commit perjury”. Among the cases he examined were those of Timothy Evans, hanged for a murder he had not committed Stephen Ward, prosecuted after the Profumo affair, who was probably framed Bruno Hauptmann, accused of murdering Charles Lindbergh's baby and the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four convicted (unsafely, it turned out) for IRA bombings. Sir Ludovic's book about Evans, “10 Rillington Place”, is widely said to have played a part in ending capital punishment in Britain.

Sir Ludovic was not, however, a single-issue man. Another cause was atheism. As a good child, he had said his prayers every night, but as a teenager gave up, since “no one was listening”. His father, he presumed, knelt as usual to pray the night before he and his ship were blown to pieces by German bombardment. Sir Ludovic's scepticism about a deity was then clinched by Thomas Paine's “The Age of Reason”.

The right to a good death

Voluntary euthanasia was a later concern, this one strengthened by watching his mother's drawn-out death in 1977. His compassion then was in contrast to his feelings as a child, when he had feared and hated this burly, domineering figure who would come down the road with her three close women friends dressed in tweeds and brogues and looking “like a squadron of battleships in line abreast”. It was her icy inability to show affection, he believed, that was responsible for the black moods and psychosomatic ailments that plagued Sir Ludovic for decades, causing him to consult psychiatrists on hundreds of occasions over 25 years. He hoped to feel better after each visit, but rarely did, even after a session with a Jungian analyst who fell fast asleep during his patient's “free association” on the couch.

If his dark interior moods were at odds with his self-assured exterior, so did his Liberal politics jar with his Conservative family background and his upper-class, Eton-and-Christ-Church education. Twice he stood for Parliament as a Liberal, and each time came close to winning. Latterly, the reluctance of his party first to make common cause with the Scottish Nationalists, then to put euthanasia in its manifesto, made him choose in 2001 to stand, not altogether gloriously, as an independent.

Although Sir Ludovic's father was a Lowlander and his mother a Highlander, an English childhood and an English accent made him consider himself an Anglo-Scot. For all that, the country and its people were important to him. The seeds of his commitment, he wrote, were sown when, as a small child, he woke up on a night sleeper to Nairn and pulled back the blind to see “a great sea of purple sloping downwards from the track…and below it a long, thin oblong loch, flanked by purple hills and, to complete the picture, a stag trotting purposefully downhill.” Only later did he come to view Scotland through a less Landseerian lens, seeing the Scots as an overlooked nation and arguing the case for home rule in “In Bed With An Elephant”, an enjoyable blend of history, anecdote and advocacy about the land of his birth.

In this, as in all his work, he brought to an argument the cogency of the rationally convinced with the wisdom of one who could see the other side. That other side he often understood because it was in his genes and upbringing. Small-minded Edinburgh lawyers who disapproved of his campaigns might blackball him from their golf club, and did, but their slightly more sophisticated counterparts in London could hardly dismiss him as a wild leftie: they had known him in the Bullingdon Club and shared his views on hunting.

In truth, though his background and even friends were establishment and his causes unfashionable, he was not a man of contradictions. Rather, he held the convictions of a thoughtful, civilised man, who could as easily write plays as pamphlets or naval history, who liked the pipes as much as jazz and was as moral, for all his atheism, as any man of God. And, in all he did, he brought humour and humanity unusual among zealots. A lad o' pairts indeed.

This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition under the headline "Ludovic Kennedy"


British Journalist, Ludovic Kennedy, Dies at 89

Ludovic Kennedy, a British author, broadcaster and investigative journalist who campaigned against miscarriages of justice and religious dogmatism and in support of euthanasia and independence for his native Scotland, died Sunday in Salisbury, England. He was 89.

His family said he died in a nursing home, British news organizations reported.

One of Britain’s most prominent television commentators and reporters, Mr. Kennedy wrote 25 books on a wide range of subjects, including naval warfare and maritime history, the royal family, religion, travel, politics and crime, as well as television documentaries, newspaper and magazine columns and a play.

But he was perhaps best known for his attacks on miscarriages of justice. One campaign won a posthumous pardon for a wrongly executed man and freedom for a number of other men serving life sentences for murders they did not commit. His efforts helped overturn the death penalty in Britain.

Mr. Kennedy also campaigned, unsuccessfully, for overturning the verdict against Bruno Richard Hauptmann, who was electrocuted in 1936 for the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby in 1932. In his 1982 BBC documentary, “Who Killed the Lindbergh Baby?” and his 1985 book, “The Airman and the Carpenter,” Mr. Kennedy argued that Hauptmann, a German immigrant carpenter arrested more than two years after the abduction, had been railroaded by the police and prosecutors because America needed a scapegoat for the crime. The book was made into a 1996 HBO film, “Crime of the Century.”

Mr. Kennedy, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994 for contributions to journalism, was a familiar face on British television for decades. His BBC productions covered current events, profiled celebrities, introduced writers like Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin, and examined issues from euthanasia and the nature of prejudice to trends in crime and literature.


Politics

In 1958, Kennedy stood for election to Parliament as the Liberal candidate in the Rochdale by-election called after the death of the sitting Conservative MP, Wentworth Schofield in December 1957. He lost to the Labour candidate, Jack McCann, but achieved a massive increase in the Liberal vote, pushing the Conservatives into a distant third place. The Rochdale contest was the first British by-election to receive live television coverage (locally, by Granada Television).

Kennedy supported Scottish Independence.


Ludovic Kennedy, the man who helped end capital punishment

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Ludovic Kennedy, one of the leading broadcasters and writers of his generation, has died of pneumonia in a Wiltshire nursing home, aged 89.

Sir Ludovic probably reached his biggest audience in November 1982, when he appeared in the popular sitcom Yes Minister . In the episode entitled "The Challenge", the hapless minister Jim Hacker agrees to be interviewed by "my friend Ludo", thinking that he will be given an easy time, only to be subjected to a John Humphrys-style grilling with such potentially disastrous results that Hacker and his civil servants spend the rest of the episode making sure the interview is never broadcast.

It was a funny interlude in the life of an intensely serious man who, outside his professional life, spent a great deal of time campaigning for the causes in which he believed.

They included the right to die at the time of your choosing. A humanist, he was president of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and resigned from the Liberal Democrat party in 2001 when its then leader, Charles Kennedy, refused to endorse assisted dying. He had supported the party and its forerunner, the Liberal party, for decades, standing as a Liberal candidate in 1958, but fought the 2001 election as an independent in Devizes, Wiltshire, and collected a respectable 1,078 votes. He later rejoined the party.

"Ludovic Kennedy was one of the great thinkers of his generation," the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, said yesterday. "His pursuit of justice and his championing of sometimes unpopular and controversial causes marked him out as a true liberal. He will be greatly missed."

As a writer Kennedy was famous – and to some notorious – for revisiting high-profile criminal cases where he suspected a miscarriage of justice. His most successful book was 10 Rillington Place, in which he argued that Timothy Evans, hanged in 1950 for the murder of his infant daughter, was innocent and that the murder was actually carried out by the serial killer John Christie, who lived at the same address. The book not only achieved a posthumous acquittal for Evans, it also helped bring about the abolition of capital punishment in Britain in 1965.

By then Kennedy was a well-known face in Britain, as a presenter of BBC's Panorama, and later as an ITN newsreader. He was knighted in 1994 for services to journalism.

He also campaigned for a posthumous pardon for Derek Bentley, who was hanged in 1953 for the murder of a policeman even though he was being restrained by police when an accomplice shot dead PC Sidney Miles.

And he challenged the reputation of the FBI by revisiting one of the most celebrated cases in US criminal history to argue that Bruno Richard Hauptmann, executed in 1936 for the kidnap and murder of the baby son of the aviator Charles Lindbergh, was also innocent.

One of his last books, published in 1999, was All in the Mind: Farewell to God, in which he argued that God was a creation of the human imagination, rather than the opposite.

Ludovic Kennedy was born in Edinburgh in 1919. As a schoolboy at Eton, he played in a jazz band with Humphrey Lyttleton. He joined the navy as a young man, and his ship HMS Tartar was involved in the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. He was married for 56 years to the ballet dancer Moira Shearer, who died in 2006. They had a son and three daughters.

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Society, said yesterday: "Sir Ludovic was a stalwart supporter of the BHA and a progressive campaigner on many fronts. He will be sorely missed."


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A really well-written and well researched book. Not only covers the kidnapping and the ensuing trial in detail, it also gives an excellent flavor of the times, both politically and socially.

It is very clear that it is highly doubtful that Hauptman committed this crime.

I guess the only lesson that one can take away from it is to never lie to the police about ANYTHING because once you lie to them they'll never believe you about anything else. But even had Hauptman been totally honest with the police from the outset it is doubtful the outcome here would have been different.

I had already lost all respect for Charles Lindbergh after it came out that he had fathered seven illegitimate children by three different mothers (two of them sisters, forgodsake). To me Bruno Richard Hauptman came off as a pretty normal guy compared to the way Lindbergh ended up to be. Hauptman had friends who really liked him and a wife who really loved him. He was nice to his friends and his wife and was a loving father to his child.

Lindbergh, as it turns out, was a cold and detached man who was narrow-mind, dogmatic, and not particularly nice to either his wife or his children.

What if Bruno Richard Hauptman was actually telling the truth about where he obtained the kidnapping money? What if the notorious “16th Rail” was, as some claim, planted evidence? What if Hauptman had nothing to do with the kidnapping and the death of the Lindbergh baby?

Facts not in dispute are as follows:
• Hauptman had about a third of the ransom money
• Hauptman bought gas with a bill from the ransom and was thus identified
• Someone passed about $2,980 of the money at a bank and was never caught or identified
• Both JFC and Lindbergh said they recognized Hauptman as Cemetery John
• No fingerprints of Hauptman were found on the ladder or the ransom letters
• Modern computer analysis of the ransom notes and Hauptman’s writing sample show that Hauptman did not write the notes

This book explores the crime, the search for the kidnappers, the arrest, trial, and execution of Hauptman, and the actions of Lindbergh himself. Lindbergh was very much in control of the investigation. The only thing the authorities were able to do was to make the ransom money rather easy to track. Even here they were stymied a bit when JFC, with a stated purpose of saving Lindbergh money, failed to give the kidnapper(s) the portion of the money made up of $50 gold certificates. The $50 bills would have been more easily traced.

Was Lindbergh, newly minted National Hero, given so much leeway on the case as to cause an innocent man to go to the electric chair? Was Lindbergh, a proponent of a pure race, guilty of having his child murdered because the child was “a tad slow?” Where was the rest of the money, since Hauptman, a speculator on the stock market, did not spend the cash?

These are arguments that will never be answered. What happened has gone down in History and cannot be changed. But I do believe that there was more than enough reasonable doubt for Hauptman to be found not guilty…


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