Denis Kendall (1903-1995)
DENIS Kendall came to Grantham in 1938, stayed for 14 years and turned the town upside down.
He had been production manager at Citroen in Paris for nine years, before moving across the city to the munitions arm of motor manufacturers Hispano Suiza.
With the Second World War looming he was brought in by Lord Brownlow as the driving force in creating and sustaining the Grantham munitions factory BMARCo.
William Denis Kendall was the stuff of legends. The son of a Yorkshire miller, he ran away to sea at 14, made a small fortune helping police raid opium dens along China’s Yangtze River and ran a waterfront cabaret in Shanghai.
From there, he went Philadelphia as a steeplejack and later went to work for Philadelphia’s Edward G Budd Manufacturing Co where he rapidly rose to Budd’s representative at France’s Citroen auto plant.
Once established in Grantham, he bought a Rolls-Royce, a Chevrolet, a yacht and built himself a luxurious £22,000 house called Brusa (Britain-USA) on Belton Lane.
He also threw lavish parties yet toured Grantham on his motorbike.
Kendall pulled off a sensational victory in the polls to become MP for Grantham and Sleaford, when he stood against Churchill’s choice, Sir Arthur Longmore to be elected in 1942. He served for eight years.
Kendall caused controversy on a number of fronts, locally, nationally and, on one headline-grabbing occasion, causing such a furore it even angered Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
It was the wartime accusations made by Kendall in Parliament that American servicemen stationed in the area made it “unfit for a woman to walk unescorted through the streets of Grantham at any time of day or night, due to the ineffectiveness of the American author-ties to deal with the improper behaviour of the American Forces”.
He raised the matter in the House in May 1944, directly to Churchill.
The matter rumbled on nationally in the press, but resolved itself within a couple of weeks when most of the Americans left the Grantham area on June 6, D-Day.
As the war ended he tried to produce the Kendall Car, but managed only four prototypes. His motorcycle was also a disaster.
In his attempt at introducing a mass-produced £100 people’s car, Kendall found himself taking on the motor industry itself, biting off more than even he could chew. It cost him thousands, and his main backer the Maharajah of Nawanaga lost an estimated £300,000.
His Kendall Tractor fared a little better to eventually be bought by Newman Tractors.
He also published his own newspaper, the Grantham Guardian.
He left Grantham in 1952 and returned to America, having lived there in the 1920s before his Citroen era.
He became a millionaire by establishing American MARC, producing the first aluminium outboard motors for the growing leisure boat market. It made him a fortune, most of which he lost in bad share deals.
He lived in Los Angeles for many years where he died shortly after visiting Grantham to celebrate the Americans’ wartime contribution.