b. 15/02/1827 Leeds, Yorkshire. d. 08/06/1908 Palmerston North, New Zealand
Edward McKenna (1827-1908) was born on 15th February 1827 in Leeds, Yorkshire. He enlisted with the 65th Regiment of Foot (later York & Lancaster Regiment) on the 15th January 1854 at Leeds, at the age of 17 years old. His profession was listed as a wire worker, and he was described as “5ft 6 inches tall, of a sallow complexion, with grey eyes and brown hair”. On the 1st March 1860 he was promoted to Corporal, then Sergeant on 1st July 1862, and later Colour Sergeant in May 1863. His Army career was mostly spent in Australia and New Zealand, where his service spanned from 1856 to 1863.
On the 7th September 1863, at Cameron Town, New Zealand, Colour Sergeant McKenna would perform supreme gallantry when after both his officers, Captain Smith and Lieutenant Butler had been shot down, he charged through an enemy position where he was heavily outnumbered. He managed to take the position with a small party of just two sergeants, a bugler, and thirty-five men over rugged country, with the loss of just one man killed and another missing.
McKenna was gazetted for the VC on 16th January 1864, and was presented with his medal on 18th June 1864 by the GOC New Zealand, Lieutenant-General Sir D A Cameron at Te Awamuta Camp. Sadly, his original VC was stolen sometime in 1868, and he purchased an official replacement. He retired from the Army as an Ensign, and lived the remainder of his life in New Zealand. He died on 8th June 1908 in Palmerston North, aged 81, and was buried in Terrace End Cemetery. By his own wishes, his widow presented his replacement VC, other medals and revolver to the Auckland Institute & Museum, shortly after his death.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUCKLAND WAR MEMORIAL MUSEUM, NEW ZEALAND
BURIAL PLACE: TERRACE END CEMETERY, PALMERSTON NORTH, NEW ZEALAND.
PRESBYTERIAN BLOCK II, PLOT 65
Auckland War Memorial Museum – Image of the McKenna VC Medal.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the McKenna VC Medal Group at Clifton Park Museum, Rotherham.