Brig. E.J.L. Speed

Brigadier Elmer John Leyland Speed MC

John Speed never owned Moreton Hall or the tennis court but he did lead a group of enthusiasts that leased the court from Colonel Ogilby in the 1930s and 40s. He is also credited with saving the court from being requisitioned during the second world war.

Elmer John Leyland Speed was born in London in 1892 to Stockbroker Francis Elmer Speed and Elinor Speed (nee Leyland). By the outbreak of the first world war his father was working as a Barrister and had become the High Sheriff of Kent with the family living at the Manor House, Knowleton Court, in the hamlet of Knowleton. Francis Speed was keen that every man from the Knowleton Estate should sign up and so from a population of 39, 12 men enlisted including John, his father and brother Douglas. This led to Knowleton being awarded the title of Britain’s Bravest Village by the Weekly Dispatch newspaper as the village with the highest percentage of men enlisting by March 1915. A cross honouring those men was erected after the war in 1919. The title was however disputed with complaints that Knowleton was not a village and that many of the estate workers counted in the twelve lived in neighbouring villages not Knowleton. As a result a second cross was awarded to Shillinghurst in Dorset.

Speed served with the 2nd Life Guards during the war returning as Captain and having been awarded the Military Cross. He also returned with the other eleven Knowleton men making Knowleton a ‘thankful village’.

He remained with the Life Guards for the rest of his career eventually rising to the rank of Brigadier. On 12th May 1937 as Lieutenant Colonel he held the ceremonial title of Silver Stick-in-Waiting and in this role undertook ceremonial duties in the coronation procession for King George VI.

Brigadier Speed died in Canterbury on 8th July 1959 aged 67 having previously retuned to the family home at Knowleton Court.

We have very little information about Elmer John Speed's life in Moreton Morrell or his time at the court but there is one small memento of his part in the club's history still on display in the club room. The Honours Board for the Garland Cup shows that in 1924 it was won by Capt. E. Speed.