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The Papers of Rowland Kenney and Kit Kenney

Reference Code: GBR/0014/KNNY

Scope and Contents

Comprising official papers, correspondence and notebooks mainly relating to Norway and Finland.
The papers focus on Rowland Kenney's work in Norway during the two World Wars and on Kit Kenney's work in Finland and Norway during the Second World War.


  • Creation: 1906 - 1952

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

Rowland Kenney was born in Oldham, on the Yorkshire and Lancashire border, in 1882, the seventh of eleven siblings; two of his sisters were the prominent suffragettes, Annie and Jessie Kenney.

He left school at the age of 10 and worked as a manual labourer for many years before moving into clerical jobs and joining the newly established Independent Labour Party (ILP). Moving to London, he managed the ILP's Literature Department and pursued a career in journalism, becoming the editor of the Daily Herald in 1912.

After his marriage to Asta Ingrid Brockdorff in 1911, the couple lived for a time in her native Norway. His language skills and knowledge of Norway provided an entrée for him into the British Department of Information which sent him to the British Legation in Norway as Press Officer in 1916. Working under cover as a Reuters correspondent, he secretly steered negotiations to shift the influential Norwegian Telegrambureau away from its ties to the German news bureau, Wolffs, to become a new, Britain-friendly bureau.

After the First World War, he was appointed Assistant Commissioner in the British Mission to Poland, 1919, where he collected material on the Polish left wing for the Versailles Conference. He went on to work for the Political Intelligence Department and the News Department of the Foreign Office and played a key role in the establishment of the British Council in the inter-war years.

In 1939, Rowland Kenney returned to Norway as the Press Attaché at the British Legation in Oslo, but was forced to escape after the Germans invaded in April 1940. He led a group of Legation personnel to the West coast of Norway for evacuation and then commenced activities as Intelligence Officer, in co-operation with Captain Frank Foley, sending information about military and naval movements, bombing raids and other matters. On returning to London, he worked for the Northern Section of the Foreign Division of the Ministry of Information and then the Foreign Office, where he was seconded to the Norwegian Government in Exile as Honorary Adviser. He returned to Norway, in 1945, as Counsellor in the British Embassy in Oslo.

He was awarded the rank of Knight (First Class) in the Order of St Olav, 1942, and a CBE, 1946.

He died in London in 1961.

His publications include: "Men and Rails" (1913); "A Pedlar's Pack" (1923); his autobiography, "Westering" (1939); and "The Northern Tangle" (1946).

Kit Kenney was born in Farnham, Surrey, in 1913, the only child of Rowland and Asta Kenney. After school, he studied aeronautical engineering at Queens' College, Cambridge.

He started his working life in the aeronautical industry, but moved to the Foreign Office, in 1939. He was Press Attaché in Sweden, Norway and, from late 1939, Finland, where he was active, probably as an agent, in the Winter War. He left Finland in late 1941, returning to England via Germany, Occupied France, and Portugal. Back in London, he was head of the Norwegian Section of the Political Warfare Executive and a part-time adviser and instructor for the Special Operations Executive.

After the war, he was posted as First Secretary to the British Embassy in Oslo, 1945-8, and Consul General in São Paolo, Brazil, 1949-52. He returned to London on secondment to the Ministry of Labour, 1952-4, where he then took up a post as Principal in the Military Recruitment Department, from 1956. He returned to working overseas, at the British Embassies in Helsinki, 1961-5, and Rome, until 1978.

He was awarded an OBE, 1947.

He died in Canterbury in 1988.


14 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

A copy of this finding aid is available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were given to Churchill Archives Centre by Rowland Kenney's granddaughter and Kit Kenney's daughter, Asta-Maria Kenney, in November 2017.


This catalogue was created by Sophie Bridges, March 2018. Biographical details were obtained from information compiled by Asta-Maria Kenney.


Kenney, Rowland, 1882-1961, journalist and diplomat, and Kenney, Kit, 1913-1988, diplomat

2017-11-16 13:59:26+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087