It is through the generosity of Kenneth Balfour that the Private Physiotherapy Educational Foundation was established. We are grateful to him for his foresight in endowing this Charitable Foundation with funds that will be used to further the education of patients and physiotherapists alike.
This page illustrates the remarkable life of Kenneth George Francis Balfour, M.C., B.E.M. 14th June 1909 – 25th. January 1998
Kenneth Balfour was born and brought up in the county of Dorset, the third of six children of Lt.Col. Kenneth R. Balfour, former Conservative MP for Christchurch, Bournemouth. He was educated at Broadstairs, Eton and finally Harvard University in Boston where he read English Literature and developed a love of English and European History.
Kenneth’s ambition was to become a journalist – he wrote with style and wit and in a expressive handwriting- but his return from Harvard in the 30’s found England in the grip of the Depression and jobs were extremely scarce. In 1938 he travelled to Spain (during the Spanish Civil War) where he spent several months sending back reports to The Morning Post in London.
War was by that time threatening the rest of Europe and, already in the supplementary reserve of his father’s regiment, the First Royal Dragoons, he went directly to join the regiment in Palestine at the outbreak of war. Kenneth took this as an opportunity for fresh adventure and, briefly seconded to the Royal Air Force in Northern Africa, learnt to fly small reconnaissance aeroplanes. An amateur photographer, he recorded the war, partially from on board a navy vessel. He became regimental photographer throughout the war and his photographs documented the passages of war in which his regiment were engaged.
He served in Egypt, Sudan, and Abyssinia. In the Western Desert, he spent time with the Long Range Desert Group, taking part in the battles of Tobruk and El Alamein. He went on to Italy and North-West Europe and finally took part in the liberation of Denmark. The regiment landed in France two days after D-Day and they fought through France, Belguim and Holland and were amongst the first British troops engaged in the assault crossing the Rhine. Kenneth won his military Cross during the battle of Arnem and was twice mentioned in dispatches.
The reserved language of the citation noted that he had served with distinction as a troop leader, particularly during the fighting to keep open the Nijmegen-Eindhoven, saving many vehicles from destruction in doing so. It reads “During the whole of the European campaign, Major Balfour’s personal example and leadership has been an example to all who have served with or under him”.
Kenneth Balfour gave a remarkable eye-witness account of a battle against German Tanks in a Dutch Village in September 1944. It was for his part in this battle that he was awarded his Military Cross. This personal account gives an idea of what lay behind the brief words of the citation:
“Having lost my squadron owing to illness during the pre-invasion period when we landed in Normandy, I found myself relegated to commanding HQ squadron, which was a very dull occupation. So I asked to be posted to a Sabre Squadron, as a troop leader.
“As there was no vacancy. I therefore somewhat surreptitiously joined my old friend Anthony Goodall’s troop in the capacity of a troop corporal, one of the nicest things about a family regiment being that you can get away with this sort of thing.
“The troop corporal normally leads the troop in a Dingo armoured scout car, and it was in that position that on September 22 the troop was warily making its way through the village of Eerde when it came under fire.
“Anthony signalled to me to let him through and almost immediately his armoured car was wrecked by a Bazooka team hidden in a ditch. By this time I could see quite a lot of Germans, who were firing bullets and armour piercing shells at us, resulting in the loss of two more armoured cars.
“I, with the remaining Dingo, raced back a mile to give warning and prepare for the impending attack. On arrival, I found the traffic at a standstill, the road having already been cut by the enemy to the north.
“Luckily, our immediate stretch of road contained the windfall of four 3.7in anti-aircraft guns, nicely to hand on transporters. Despite my knowing nothing about artillery, it was not difficult to make a plan whereby the guns could give massive support to our little force which now numbered nearly 100 men. For further strength I had been able to whistle up three tanks from Divisional HQ, just as the enemy debouched from the woodland round the village.
“It all seemed very simple to me: tanks to lead the infantry on the flanks, and the 3.7’s to fire straight down the middle, which they did with tremendous success. I saw them pick off two enemy tanks before I had gone a hundred yards.
” It took nearly an hour to regain Eerde. On arrival, and flat on my stomach, there was a fair old wail of rattles, sizzles and hissings, but the opposition was no longer very resolute, and a lone Tiger, with a damaged track seemed more anxious to find its way out of the place than to stick around.
“Suddenly, peace and quiet was established, but we had lost 12 officers, a further 10 other ranks and 20 wounded. The enemy had suffered similarly, but we identified only two officers.
“At last light I rejoined the squadron, knowing that I had been lucky, or maybe privileged, to be in the right place at the right time, with the right wireless sets.”
Major Balfour returned to Eerde just before first light next morning, and was relieved to find the village free of Germans.
“But just as I was finishing my second mug of tea, I got the fright of my life when on looking back behind me, I saw perching in the semi-darkness a swarm of dour looking men, hung with picks, spades and rifles”
They were the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who proceeded to dig themselves in. Major Balfour was recalled soon afterwards, a few hours before the Germans began a serious attack. Later that day the US 101 parachute division took Eerde.
Like so many of his generation, he seldom talked of his experiences after the war but the eight volumes of photographs he took spanning 1939-45 are a magnificent record of a young man’s war – adventure and travel, comradeship, – the stark beauty of the desert, the ravages of modern industrial warfare, the horrors of death and destruction, with, as an epilogue, the liberation of Denmark and a period of great rejoicing.
Kenneth returned briefly to his previous career in insurance before, in 1947, buying his first newspaper shop in Chalfont St. Peter. He had no car and relying entirely on bus services and his bicycle, began slowly to expand his business, always in easy distance of Marlow so that he could get back to his mother if she needed him. This first shop flourished through Kenneth’s insistence on the principle of friendly family service – “a shop is more than a shop” he maintained, – every year visiting all his shops to encourage and keep close links with all his staff and employees.
He gradually expanded a network of shops in the home counties and in 1971, the Balfour News was one of the first companies to be awarded the Distributive Training Award for their excellent staff training programme. As Chairman, and finally President of Balfour News, he remained very closely involved with his employees and with the company to the end of his life. In 1987 he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to the Post Office Industry.
After his mother’s death, Kenneth moved to Marlow- and his house, Quoitings, and the town of Marlow held an enormous place in his affections. He was twice Mayor of Marlow and on the Marlow District Council for many years. He gave the Balfour Gardens to the town.
He had a highly energetic and enquiring mind and an appetite to explore the world, traveling extensively in Uganda and up the Niger river to Timbuctoo. In 1961, aged 52, he climbed the Matterhorn (14,692ft). On reaching the top he was disappointed to find that the weather and light conditions were not ideal for photography – so he climbed the mountain again the following day!
Such and active and adventurous spirit relies greatly on excellent physical well-being. His lifelong recourse to help from many physiotherapists ranged from a fall from his horse as a cavalry officer in 1942, through the inevitable aches and pains of everyday life to his final and prolonged battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
In 1978, he married Heather Whitaker, a London based physiotherapist whose treatments had for several years enabled him to continue an extremely active life, which included riding his horse several times a week in Windsor Great Park. To their great sadness, he and Heather never had any children of their own. However, as an uncle to his ten nephews and nieces, and as a friend to countless other children, he was always a most magic, generous and special person. He and Heather had tragically few years together before her death from breast cancer in December 1985. It was a time of many hopes and plans as Heather became increasingly involved in the business and great sadness as her illness began to prevent her from playing an active role in the company.
In 1988, wanting to commemorate both his wife and his gratitude to physiotherapy, he contacted Wendy Blythe, then chairman of OCPPP – and from this meeting the Private Physiotherapy Educational Foundation (the PPEF) was born.
Kenneth was a highly intelligent and generous man who inspired affection and respect from both family and friends and employees. An entertaining and stimulating companion, he himself valued the benefit of education in all its guises and one of his lasting legacies will be the promulgation of knowledge through the Private Physiotherapy Educational Foundation (PPEF).