The King's Royal Rifle Corps

Colonel Frank Douglas-Pennant, Lord Penrhyn MBE DSO

Lord Penrhyn was a celebrated commander of the newly established Reconnaissance Regiment in World War 2. His citation for the DSO stated, 'His complete disregard for his own safety was an inspiration to his officers and men.'

Malcolm Frank Douglas-Pennant was the 2nd son of the 5th Baron Penrhyn, born on 11th July 1908. In that year his father's horse, Rubio, won the Grand National at 66-1. Frank was educated at Eton and Sandhurst and commissioned into the 1st KRRC, his father's old regiment, which was in India. When the regiment moved to Burma he was adjutant, then he was posted to the 2nd Battalion back in England. In July 1940 he attended Staff College and then was posted to the 38th Irish Brigade as brigade major.

In November 1942 Major Douglas-Pennant took part in the invasion of Algeria with the 38th Brigade. For the next 5 months he was in constant contact with the enemy in a succession of hard fought battles until the final surrender of the Axis forces in Tunisia. His activities at this time earned him the MBE, the citation said that he was a 'cool and competent Staff Officer, quite unperturbed by enemy actions'.

He was with the Brigade for the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 but then posted to the 1st KRRC where he was told that he was to command the 5th Recce Regiment. After a period protecting communications between Naples and Foggia, the 5th were sent to the Anzio beach-head. Three months of fighting followed which ended for the regiment at Ostia. In the spring of 1945 they were sent to Marseilles and then by train to Holland and Germany. There they spearheaded the 5th Infantry Division's push to the Elbe.

On April 21-22 after an approach march of 120 miles, 5th Recce went straight into action clearing the enemy from woods and villages north-east of Uelzen. On both days Douglas-Pennant could be found wherever the opposition was stiffest, encouraging his men. They found him to be an inspirational leader, courteous, modest to the point of shyness and inclined to take a lenient view of minor transgressions.

The regiment went on to the Baltic where, at Neustadt, they came upon a group of concentration camp survivors who were destined to be put onto ships that were going to be deliberately sunk to get rid of them. Douglas-Pennant found a well equipped German hospital and ordered them to treat the prisoners. When they refused he drew his pistol and threatened them until they complied.

After the war he served in Brunswick and Hanover, on the Staff. In 1948 he was 2nd in command of the 2nd Battalion KRRC at Barton Stacey and later was involved in the preparations for the merger of the regiment with the Rifle Brigade to form the Green Jackets. He commanded the 2nd Battalion Royal Green Jackets at Tidworth and then Munster in Germany. From 1954 to 58 he commanded the regimental depot at Winchester.

He retired from the army in 1958 and, when his father died in 1967, he inherited the title of 6th Baron Penrhyn. His elder brother had previously died, without a male heir. The family home, Penrhyn Castle in Gwynedd had been passed to the National Trust in 1951 so he lived at Dean Farm, then Littleton Manor near Winchester. He had married Elizabeth Laurie in 1954 and had two daughters. She died in 2002 and he died on 8th November 2003 aged 95.

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by Stephen Luscombe