b. 06/01/1873 Edinburgh, Scotland. d. 24/04/1907 Edinburgh, Scotland.
Charles Thomas Kennedy (1873-1907) was born in Westport, Edinburgh on 6th January 1873 and owing to the depression in 1891 joined the 2nd Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. He spent the next three years training and taking part in manoeuvres with the regiment before it was posted to service in India in 1894. Whilst Kennedy was with the Regiment in India he took part in the suppression of an uprising on the North West Frontier, the HLI being part of the Malakand Field Force. Charles Kennedy returned to Scotland in 1898 after completing his 7 years enlistment term, and was placed on reserve status. However, a little over a year later the 2nd Boer War erupted and Kennedy was recalled to the colours in October 1899.
As part of the Highland Brigade, the Highland Light Infantry’s first major action was in the disastrous battle of Magersfontein. Charles Kennedy also participated in the decisive encircling operation that became known as Wittebergen which resulted in the capture of a large portion of the Boer forces. In the days that followed the Boers resorted to well organised guerrilla tactics. As a counter-measure, most regiments, including the HLI, were broken into smaller units and then given assignments to guard certain towns and villages.
Kennedy’s company was assigned to the garrison at Dewetsdorp which is about forty miles south-east of Bloemfontein, the capital of Orange Free State. On the 18th November 1900 they were attacked by Boer forces led by Christian DeWet which took a position on one side of the hills overlooking the town. Private Kennedy and six other men volunteered to retake the position. Private McGregor, one of the seven, went to get some water but was shot down. Kennedy immediately went to his aid.
Private Kennedy carried McGregor, who was dangerously wounded and bleeding to death, from Gibraltar Hill to the Hospital, a distance of three-quarters of a mile, under a very hot fire. On the following day, volunteers having been called for to take a message to the Commandant across a space over which it was almost certain death to venture, Private Kennedy at once stepped forward. He did not, however, succeed in delivering the message as he was severely wounded before he had gone 20 yards.
Following his gazetting for the VC on 18th October 1901, just two months later, on 16th December, he was presented with his medal by King Edward VII at St James’ Palace. He subsequently failed to meet the Army’s physical requirements owing to his wound and was discharged from the Service on 25th June 1902. He then returned to Edinburgh.
At Edinburgh on 24th April 1907, he was again called on to show his bravery when a horse bolted with a contractor’s cart in Leith Walk and in attempting to stop it he was knocked down and the wheels passed over him. He saved the lives of several children who were in the path of the runaway horse and cart. Kennedy died on the way to the Royal Infirmary and was buried in the North Merchiston Cemetery on 28th April 1907. Following Kennedy’s funeral however, a headstone was not erected over his grave. On 28th April 2001, following work by the Royal Highland Fusiliers, a new headstone was placed over his grave. His medals are held by the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum, Glasgow, Scotland.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:ROYAL HIGHLAND FUSILIERS MUSEUM, GLASGOW.
BURIAL PLACE: NORTH MERCHISTON CEMETERY, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND.
PLOT P, COMPARTMENT 187.
Thomas Stewart – Image of Kennedy’s Medal Group at Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum, Glasgow.