F/L Kenyon was a member of 419 Squadron in 1942 when the Squadron was new and Wellington aircraft were the squadrons
From March 10th until July 16th 1942, the then P/O Kenyon flew mostly with S/L D.L. Wolfe, although he did complete
one operation with W/C John Fulton during that time. He completed his first Tour then was on his leave and other duties
until returning to the squadron.
Return To 419 Squadron
His prewar artistic abilities were put to use by some of the crews to create the nose art for their Halifax bombers
among the works were "Thundering Heard" the Halifax of F/O Heard and "Bird on a Bomb" which was painted on DT619.
He also took time to do sketches in the log books of some of the airmen. A series of sketches of the men well know
to the squadron was also completed.
It would be on his 44th sortie that his luck would change. As part of his duties as Squadron Gunnery Leader he
took the place of the rear gunner on F/L Quaile's Halifax LW240.
On this operation to Modane on the night of September 16/17 1943 when Kenyon found himself parachuting from the
stricken aircraft and into darkness then on the run.
What occurred during his evasion is unclear. He managed to elude capture for ten days. Then on September 27th he was caught
near Dax. The French town was on the way to the Spanish border and near the coast of the Bay of Biscay. It would be
assumed that he was being taken to the Spanish border when he was caught.
The distance between Dax and area where the other evaders began their journeys is over 720km., so we would have to
conclude that he was being helped to cross that distance in occupied France.
Stalag Luft III - The Great Escape and the Great Artists
Kenyon joined a number of talented artists and craftsman at the POW camp. He was ordered by Group Captain Massey
to record in sketches the activities of the tunnel diggers and the work going into the making of "Harry". One of
the three tunnels, Tom, Dick and Harry now famous in the books on the Great Escape. The cramped space made the
work difficult and F/L Kenyon often followed the example of another famous artist and drew the sketches while lying
on his back, while using the tunnel ceiling as the easel.
His part in the escape included being one of the forgers who made fake documents, maps and railway schedules. The
fine detail work on the forgeries took a toll on his eye sight. The damage to his eyes kept him from joining in as
one of the escapers.
The drawings he made along with other items used to create the false paperwork all needed to be hidden. It was known that once
the escape was made the camp would be torn apart by the guards looking for hidden contraband. So it was decided to
place all the drawings and escape aids in waterproof milk cans then bury them in one of the uncompleted tunnels.
And that is where they remained in either Tom or Dick, different resources mention both of them as the hiding spot.
At the beginning of December 1944 the Germans decided to move all the Allied POWs. It was the coldest winter in years
and prisoners were forced on the long march.
Not all the POWs were on the march, the ill and injured stayed behind in the camp hospital until the Russian Army
arrived and liberated them. One of the men left behind, a British Officer, knew where the hidden milk cans and their contents were
buried. He dug them out of what was the flooded tunnel. The water was gone by the time he had dug down to get the
cans and found they were still watertight. He then brought them back with him to Britain.
Post War Years
His love for scuba diving brought him new challenges and rewards in the years following the war. He worked with Jacques Cousteau
developing underwater filming and photography. This underwater world he brought to the public in the form of comic
book like novels of discoveries and adventures in this realm.
In the early seventies after his work as an advisor on the movie the Great Escape Kenyon was interviewed by a researcher
about his famous sketches of the escape. The researcher mentioned that the subject of the drawings was very emotional for
Asking about the movie revealed the former forgers dislike for the portrayal of the character played by Donald Pleasence,
who in the movie represented all the different men who worked on the fake documents. Not acting just the way the character was
Ley Kenyon passed away in 1991.
While researching Ley Kenyon, I discovered that a Lord Kenyon had mentioned a fellow by the name of Aspinall in his
papers. Lawrence Aspinall was one of the crew of the Halifax in which Kenyon was shot down in, just one of those things.