Sir Eric Penn OBE GVCO MC

Eric Charles William McKenzie Penn was born on 9 Feb 1916. He was the only (and posthumous) child of of Capt E F Penn who also served in the Grenadier Guards but was killed in Oct 1915. He was educated at Eton and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He entered the Grenadiers in 1938 and served with the 1st Battalion in the BEF, evacuating with his men at Dunkirk. He was then in the 6th Battalion in 1942, fighting in Tunisia, Salerno and Mount Camino.

He won the Military Cross for his bravery at Tromonsouli on 29-30 Jan 1944. In appalling weather and with complete disregard for his own safety, Captain Penn led his no.3 Company in a night operation to capture this important hill. The attack involved advancing against 8 Spandau Machine-guns positioned at a range of 200 yards. The feat could not have been accomplished without his example and leadership. In these operations the 6th Battalion was reduced from its original strength of more than 800 to 263 men.

After the war Eric Penn was posted to Germany, Libya and Egypt. He retired from the army in 1960. His uncle, Major Sir Arthur Penn was a courtier at that time and encouraged Eric to join the Royal Household. He was already on friendly terms with Princess Margaret as well as the Queen and Prince Philip. From 1960 to 1964 he was Assistant Comptroller in the Lord Chamberlain's office, responsible, amongst other things, for censorship of West End plays. One instance of a change he made was for Peter Cook's satirical revue 'Beyond the Fringe'. A stage direction was 'Enter two outrageous old queens'; this was changed to 'Enter two aesthetic young men'.

In 1963 Penn was appointed Extra Equerry to the Queen and in 1964 became Comptroller, until 1981 when Sir John Johnston, another Grenadier Guards officer, took over. Penn had a reputation for severity and punctiliousness, expecting a hundred percent from his staff. He was, however, also courteous and diplomatic. He married Prudence Stewart-Wilson in 1947 and had 2 sons and a daughter. He died on 12 May 1993.

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by Stephen Luscombe