John was a leading figure in the world of Rugby Union. He made 28 appearances for the County, a number of them as Captain, three Oxford Blues, captained England for whom he played 23 times. He was Chairman of the steering committee which organised the game’s first World Cup in 1987 and was in charge of organising the World Cup competition to be played in Britain and France this year.
In 1981 he was made a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd and his services to rugby were officially recognised in 1989 when he was appointed a CBE.
A memorial service was held in Truro Cathedral in which Harvey Richards (TS 1937-42) gave the address.
From Kendall Carpenter’s obituary in the Truro School Former Pupils Newsletter, February 1991
Kendall Carpenter in 1980 with Ken James, former rugby master (TS 1942-71), at a School Centenary reunion.
‘One of the truly ‘great’ names in world rugby. ‘Carps’ won 23 England caps (1949-1954), and was also a legendary Oxford University Blue and Barbarian.
He served as President of the England RFU (1980-1981), the England Schools Rugby Football Union (1985-1990), and Cornwall RFU (1984-1987).
However, his arguably greatest honour was to be Chairman of the committee that organised the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.’
At Truro School
John Kendall Carpenter came to the school as a boarder in the Fourth Form in September 1939.
Outside of the classroom he was a member of the 2nd XI Football Team and the Drama Society. In the early 1940s he took part in a production of J.B. Priestley’s Laburnum Grove. In 1941 he took part in Bees on the Boat Deck by J.B. Priestley. The Drama Society report in December 1942 included
…The following boys are to be commended for their good reading:- Thomas, D.K., Carpenter, Shiner and Shaw [Robert]
Cast of Laburnum Grove, left to right: P Murch, W Evans, Beard (KC), Bezant, Carpenter, Rene, Bates, Davis, Norris.
Scene from Bees on the Boat Deck, 1941
Carpenter passed the Oxford & Cambridge School Certificate Exam in 1941 and the Higher School Certificate the following year. In 1943 he gained the London University Higher School Certificate and was exempt from the Inter. BA in 3 subjects. During his final years at the school he was a prefect.
He returned to the school on several occasions for visits; at the end of September 1945 he called at the School while still in the Fleet Air-Arm after just returning from the United States.
Truro School & Kent College Prefects, 1942 – back row: E.J. Taylor, J.F.R. Moddrel, M.F. Foster, J.R. Cattell, D.W. Shiner, P.W. Watson, J. McG. K. Carpenter, J.F. Bunney Middle row: F.E. Stevens, R.L. Mendez, J.G. Cooper, P.C. Pawlyn, D.G. Norris, R.J. Hendy, E.A. Little. Front row: T.F.B. Jaggar, D.K. Thomas, J.C. Faull, W.S. Hickson, J.V. Carnall. Absent – R. Pread, E.W.P. Davies.
Truro School & Kent College Prefects 1943 - back row: A.D. Tregilges, E.J. Taylor, F.R.E. Cann, A. Bellingham, H.G. De Jimenez, J.A. Williams, R.L.J. Goddard, M.F. Trew, K.J. Macdonald, J.V. Carnall Front row: J.M.K. Carpenter, D.K. Thomas, T.F.B. Jaggar, J.C. Faull, J.F.R. Moddrel, W.R.J. Hendy, E.A. Little, W.S. Hickson, D.W. Shiner. Absent – D.A. Davies, J.F. Bunney
In 1943 Kendall-Carpenter began a university course at Oxford before enlistment. The school magazine in January 1944 reported that he was at Exeter College, Oxford, taking a Fleet Air Arm Short Course.
He writes that he has to do a day and a half training each week with the Naval Division. He has joined the John Ford Dramatic Society, the Union Society and the Conservative Club.
After the war ended he resumed his studies and became the first former Truro School pupil to gain an Oxford blue, gaining 3 between 1948 and 1950 in the Varsity rugby matches at Twickenham.
David Frost, the former Guardian rugby correspondent, recalled a famous tackle in the 1949 Varsity match when John Kendall-Carpenter preserved Oxford’s 3-0 winning lead by thwarting J.V. Smith, the Cambridge centre, in the dying moments of the game.
‘Smith slipped his man, side-stepped two coverers and seemed certain to cross at the corner and bring at least an equalising try (three points in those days), reported the Guardian. Cambridge hats were already in the air and Oxford’s supporters were dumb with horror but then at the last possible moment Kendall-Carpenter dived and took man and ball into touch a yard from the line.’
Carpenter played 23 games for England at No.8 and Openside Flanker, and captained the side on several occasions. He is one of only four Cornishmen to captain the England side.
In March 1949 The Truronian reported that Kendall-Carpenter was selected to play for the England XV v Ireland, France and Scotland.
England v France, 1951
Friday the 23rd of February, saw one and twenty Truro School Boys (we were all at least young at heart!) leave the terrace for a lightning trip to what was – before the days of America with her attendant glories, tobacco, jazz, gum and ‘puddy-tats’ – the hub of the world. What faced us was not a two hour journey through England’s green and pleasant land, but nine hours by night to London…
Twickenham! This was what we had come to see (so we were being constantly reminded!) – our first impression was of the vastness of the ground and the number of people there. We were not disappointed in the game – others more fitted than I have described it, suffice it to say that the better side won, and that John Kendall-Carpenter did his best with the team at his disposal – at one time it was reduced to thirteen men.
The Truronian, March 1951
‘John Kendall-Carpenter captain of England XV withdrew from Wales match because of flu, but captained remaining internationals of season’.
The Truronian, March 1951
County and Club Rugby
Carpenter made 28 appearances for the County, several as Captain.
Carpenter was President of the Cornwall RFU from 1984 to 1987. After his death a John Kendall-Carpenter Trust Fund was established. Linked to the Cornwall Rugby Football Union, the fund helped young people up to the age of 21 in sport both in Cornwall and elsewhere in the world.
Carpenter began his club rugby with Penzance Newlyn RFC, before moving to Bath, where he was dubbed “Prince of Cornerflaggers”, while he taught rugby at Clifton College and Wellington School.
After graduating from Oxford University he became a teacher. His first post was at Clifton College, Bristol. He also taught at Wellington School, Somerset. He was headmaster of Cranbrook School, Kent before taking up the headship of Eastbourne College in the early 1970s. After 3 years and following ill-health he returned to Wellington School as headmaster.
The Kendall-Carpenter Cup was established in the 1990s and awarded to the winning side of the annual Truro School v Wellington School rugby match. Truro won the first match 27-19.
Rugby World Cup
Essentially an Australasian initiative, the idea of a rugby world cup was not supported by the Home Unions at first because they feared it would change the game and affect its amateur principle.
In the 1980s New Zealand and Australia put forward proposals for a competition which led to the International Rugby Board investigating its feasibility. In 1985 the IRB members voted but the result was a stalemate. However
John Kendall-Carpenter of England broke ranks and voted for the World Cup, and then following this the Welsh vote also moved.
The Rugby World Cup was approved by 10 votes to 6. It would take place in Australia and New Zealand from the 22 May to the 20 June 1987. This gave the two host nations a little over two years to prepare.
Secretary of the IRB, Kendall-Carpenter joined Australian Nicholas Shehadie and New Zealander Dick Littlejohn to organise the World Cup. Sir Nicholas Shehadie recalled that in February 1987
John Kendall-Carpenter rang me just prior to the World Cup starting and he said, “Son we have a problem … we haven’t got a trophy”. I never thought about it too much and it seems nobody else did either… John then went down to Garrards [the Crown jewellers] in London and found this cup. He rang me and said he could buy it for £6000. I had no hesitation in telling him to do it.
Kendall-Carpenter later recalled
I felt that a Victorian, not a Georgian trophy would be appropriate, made of silver – a masculine metal – rather than gold. The craftsmanship of the period and the beauty of the piece would have to project the past into the present. At Garrards, I was told by Richard Jarvis, one of their directors, that they had re-acquired, that very day, a piece of silverware, a copy of a Victorian cup which was made in their own workshop in 1906. When they brought the cup from the vaults, I immediately knew I had found what I was looking for. It was heavy, it was compact, it was handsome.
‘The last-minute efforts of Kendall-Carpenter yielded the coveted trophy that is now the ultimate prize in world rugby – The Webb Ellis Cup’.
In 2011 Kendall Carpenter was inducted into the International Rugby Board’s Hall of Fame for his role in creating the Rugby World Cup.