3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron Royal Marines
Ken was the eldest son of Olive and Don Francis and was born on 24th September 1952 at the RAF Hospital in Ely. He and his younger brother Donald, born on the 26th December 1956, attended many schools as they followed their parents around both the United Kingdom and the globe. His father was serving in the Royal Air Force. His final school was Tottenham Grammar in North London where the family settled briefly in 1969. Previous to this, he had distinguished himself at Malmesbury GS, Wiltshire, and Hullavington before that, where he was also a keen Scout. He was selected to represent the Malmesbury District at the World Scout Jamboree at Indianapolis in 1967.
He then read Law at Keene’s College, the University of Kent at Canterbury, graduating with an Honours Degree in 1974. At this point, having worked with great success in several London law offices during his student vacations, and being encouraged by a particular practising barrister, he decided to expand his horizons by moving around Europe and gaining knowledge of various countries. Back in UK for a time, he gained a PSV licence and drove London buses, he then moved on to heavy commercial articulated vehicles. His general adaptability was constantly displayed – whether it was maintaining trucks, acting as a stand-in chef or simply driving backwards and forwards to the Middle East. By 1976 he had decided that his future lay in a more structured career and he was accepted for officer training in the Royal Marines.
Ken received his Green Beret on April 1st, 1977, and then passed out of Lympstone at the top of his Batch in August that year, and was awarded the Sword of Honour. His first appointment was to 41 Commando RM, where he served for the next four years, initially as a rifle troop commander, then as anti-tank troop commander, and finally as a company second in command. During this time he served in two Northern Ireland tours and a UN peace keeping tour in Cyprus. In 1978 he met his future wife, Jan, and married her in April 1980. The following year, 1981, he transferred from a short service commission to the general list, volunteered for flying training and successfully gained his helicopter pilot’s wings at the Army Air Corps Centre, Middle Wallop. In February 1982 he was appointed to 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron down in Plymouth, flying the Gazelle.
In this role, he left for the Falklands on April 5th, 1982, the second anniversary of his marriage to Jan. On Friday May 21st, 1982 while flying in support of the initial landings at Port San Carlos, he and his crewman, Lance Corporal Brett Giffin, were shot at with ground fire from a heavy machine gun – and killed instantly. The aircraft crashed on a hillside. Their bodies were recovered to the liner SS Canberra, and when that ship was ordered to leave the Falklands and head for South Georgia, Ken’s body and Brett Giffin’s were committed to the sea in a special service attended by many on board the liner. Five months later, on 28th October 1982, his son, Thomas, was born. Ken’s widow, Jan, has happily married again and Thomas has a half-brother and sister. Olive and Don live in Faldingworth, Lincolnshire and his brother Donald is a resident of Manhattan, New York.
Ken’s name is commemorated on a number of memorials, but his life is detailed here. He was, quite simply, a splendid Royal Marines officer who achieved very high standards in whatever he did. He is fondly remembered.
Family and friends are encouraged to contribute.
We will add information to this memorial as we receive it.
If you have a photo, an anecdote, or simply to say you remember him, we will be very pleased to hear from you, so please contact the sama office at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2022, as part of the 40th Anniversary commemorations, geographical features were identified and named after the fallen of 1982. FRANCIS HILL is a prominent low hill (350 foot elevation) on mainland East Falkland, on the south side of Smylie Creek and east of Race Point.
It is in position
51° 25′ 57.21″ S, 058° 59′ 20.64″ W