Major Mentor; Generous General
Major-General Robert Bernard Penfold CB LVO
1916-12-19 — 2015-04-22
As a long-time British professional Army officer from 1936 to 1972, with his military career canvassing India, Iraq, Tanganyika, Kenya and UK, including a commanding post of the South East District.
1916-12-19 Robert Bernard Penfold was born in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, UK. (24 km west of Cambridge and 79 km north of London)
His father, Mr Bernard Hugh Penfold (1880 －1917) was from Birdham, Chichester, West Sussex; his mother, Miss Ethel Ives Arnold.
In 1911, they were married and also had two daughters.
Mr Hugh Penfold was a manager in Barclays bank, who joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps shortly after WWI.
After combat missions in Ypres, Belgium and Somme, France, he was transferred to the 15th Battalion, Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment (The Sherwood Foresters).
In 1917-10-20, Second Lieutenant Hugh Penfold, commemorated on The Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium MR.30 and named on “Selsey War Memorial WW1”, was killed in the the Battle of Passchendaele.
Later, his young son Robert was admitted to the prestigious Wellington College and Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
Career in Military:
After graduation, Robert Penfold followed his father’s footsteps to join the Army.
On 1937-11-03, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and posted to the North West Frontier Province of the British India service.
From 1942 to 1943, he was transferred to the Poitier troops in the Middle East.
In 1944, he was transferred to the Tactical Training Center as General Counsellor until the end of WWII.
In 1945, shortly after the war, he returned to the Indian Army.
In 1946, he was the instructor at the Command and Staff College in Quetta.
In 1947, he returned to join the British Army’s Royal Artillery Regiment, and was promoted to Honorary Lieutenant Colonel.
From 1950 to 1952, he became the Deputy Director in the Training and Personnel Division of the Army.
In 1953, he was transferred to the Royal Naval College Office.
From 1957 to 1959, he took position as the Joint Delegation Secretary of the British Force in Washington D.C., to provide support and liaison pertaining to the closely connected Army affairs between the two nations.
On 1957-10-29, General Penfold was awarded Member of Victorian Order, MVO honors (1984, automatically promoted to the LVO honors).
Penfold later served primarily in the UK, Africa and the Middle East.
In 1959, he became the commanding Officer of the 6th Battalion King’s African Rifles in Tanganyika, East African, until its independence in 1961.
From 1961 to 1962, he returned to London as colonel in the Department of Defense.
From 1962 to 1964, he was appointed as the Commander of the 127th Infantry Brigade.
From 1964 to 1965, he was again dispatched overseas to the Middle East as Security Operations Advisor to the High Commissioner in Aden during the Aden Emergency.
In 1966, he was transferred back to England, and worked at the Imperial Defence College, from Major General he was appointed as the Chief of Defence Staff in the Kenya Armed Forces.
From 1967 to 1969, he served as the Commander of the British Army Training Team and the Cabinet Security Committee in Kenya, to ensure a smooth transition of power after its independence.
He provided training to the armed forces for localization and professionalization of senior officials.
In 1969, he went on to be the General Officer Commanding South East District.
On 1969-06-14,he was appointed CB,The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, on the Queen‘s Birthday Honors List.
In October 1972, he retired from 36 years’ service in the British Army, with his military career reaching all over India, Iraq, Tanganyika and Kenya.
Career in Racing Administration:
On 1971-03-16, RHKJC formally announced to go professional. Under the shrewd leadership and endeavour of the next two Chairmen, Sir Douglas Clague and P G Williams, General Penfold started to raise the standard of racing in the Territory.
On 1972-01-17, General Penfold accepted the invitation to become the first general manager of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club, executing directives from the Board of Stewards, and took total management of the Clubs’s affairs.
At that juncture so seismically prompted by the doping scandal that rattled Happy Valley – and the Territory, in the greater scheme of proceedings – in 1969-1970, Sir John Saunders, then Chairman of both the HSBC and the RHKJC, decided to appoint an expert to professionalize Hong Kong racing .
On 1972-01-22, as per the press, General Penfold had two important projects raring to go: the Ocean Park and the new Sha Tin Racecourse.
Opening its doors on 1977-01-10, the Ocean Park is simply spectacular right off the gate. This HK$150 million marine extravaganza, funded entirely from racing profits, is an endeared amusement to millions all to this day, and is vital in one of the most densely populated metropolis in the world.
On 1972-05-30, General Penfold disclosed increments of purse allocations for the next racing season.
In early 1973, he issued a stern warning to all trainers, where they would be held responsible for all positive drug tests of any declared runners under their care.
In 1973, General Penfold launched a comprehensive range of new betting products, including the Tierce and Quartet, accordingly for those who won the first three and the first four correct order of horse had dividends.
On 1973-10-17, for the first time in history, Happy Valley sparkled like a stellar pearl in the dark of the night, as night racing was inaugurated, to increase the number of racing dates during the season, and combat illegal betting activities.
On 1974-04-20, while access was initially restricted against teenagers under 17, six OCB branches were officially opened, with telephone betting service augmented shortly afterwards to further eradicate illegal bookmaking.
On 1975-07-11, the Betting Duty (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill was gazetted. Then RHKJC started to operate an authorized lottery service on Government’s behalf, and was asked to introduce the Mark Six to combat rampant illegal gambling on che fa – a lottery game that had become very widespread at the time.
Sha Tin Racecourse
In October 1971, the government concurred, en principle, to the construction of new Sha Tin Racecourse, of which General Penfold later took full charge.
When ground was broken in December 1973, the ambitious racecourse project, tagged then at an astronomical HK$ 700 million, roared on at full speed. 16 million tonnes of soils were gathered from 4 locations to fill out 260 acres of reclaimed land from the Shing Mun River Channel.
On 1977-11-08, General Penfold scheduled 30-36 meetings, up to 14 horses in a race, for Sha Tin with six Sunday meetings. He also mentioned the new Pokfulam Riding School for the public and people with disability.
On 1978-01-21, General Penfold successfully resolved the labor dispute through mediation and accepting the terms of the mafoos (grooms). Mrs Eileen Stringer, the Personnel Manager, resigned during the crisis.
On 1978, Pokfulam Public Riding School became the first public leisure riding facility in Hong Kong.
On 1979-04-18, General Penfold stressed the Club had given, and would continue to give , full co-operation to the police and ICAC in any investigations into racing, after the case of Stephen W K Pau.
On 1972-01-17, General Penfold signed a five-year contract and later extended to the 1978 Sha Tin Racecourse opening. Then it was extended for one additional year further to ensure the functioning of the new Racecourse and to provide smooth transition to his successor.
In December 1979, General Penfold officially retired after his eight years’ brilliant tenure.
On 1980-01-05, a farewell ceremony was held in Sha Tin Racecourse between races.
He successfully materialized professional racing and the Sha Tin Racecourse, and improved facilities for both the members and the public, so his performance was greatly praised.
On, 1979-05-01, the Industrial Commercial Daily Press lauded General Penfold as “the Magician”, who simply reiterated more than a hundred years’ of racing legacy in Hong Kong, and led the Club into the new millennium.
Not only did he wrote an indelible page in Hong Kong’s racing history, but also begot memories that last a lifetime for generations of race fans.
Chairman P G Williams said that since the General entered the club’s service in the early days of professional racing, and in seven years,”our standards in every aspect of the sport and its administration have risen dramatically to the point that we are envied and admired throughout the horse racing world.”
And said, “Without his drive, determination and imagination, I do not believe we would have had the same achievement and certainly not in the amazingly short time this vast undertaking was constructed”.
General Penfold enjoyed his retirement in Andover, Hampshire, located at the Southern part of England.
From 1980 to 1986, he was the President of the British Horse Racing Advisory Council.
On 1987-05-25, General Penfold returned again for the Horse of the Year Election Event, and attended the closing weekend of that racing season.
In 1940, General Penfold married Ursula Gray, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel EH Gray.
They had two daughters, Erica Jill and Valerie Gay.
General Penfold‘s hobbies include shooting, golf and gardening, he was a member of The Army & Navy Club in London.
He was the member of the Muthaiga Country Club in Nairobi, Kenya.
On 2015-04-22, General Penfold, aged 98, passed away peacefully at home, in Ryme Intrinseca, Dorset, South West England.
On 2015-05-11 after General Penfold‘s funeral, they had a lovely military farewell and drinks at his house with Jill. Mr James Barber came, Mr Philip Johnston and Robert Locking were there together with their wives, Liz and Sarah.
2015-05-08, commenting on General Penfold, the Club’s Chairman, Dr Simon S O Ip said:
listing of full name and acronym of honor:
Victoria Junior Medal (MVO) (1957-10-20)
Order of the Bath, Campion (CB) (1969-06-14 Queen‘s Birthday Honours List)
Non-official Justice of the Peace (J.P.) (1975)
Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO) (1984-12-31)
Place named after General Penfold:
Located in Sha Tin Racecourse, New Territories, Hong Kong.
1979-05-11 the Park was originally known as Infield Park, a large piece of greenery in the middle of the Sha Tin Racecourse has been opened to the public.
1979-09-17 the Park has been renamed as Penfold Park.
Acknowledgment to Mr Clithering for relevant data.
Acknowledgement to Mr. Bernard Yiu for re-working.