b. 24/08/1880 Drogheda, Ireland. d. 10/01/1936 Hammersmith, London.
William Kenny (1880-1936) was born at Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland on 24th August 1880. His father Patrick served as a Private in the 75th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders) from 1866-1889 in Gibraltar, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, Ireland, Channel Islands, Aldershot, Chatham, Egypt and Aberdeen. William’s mother was Ann nee Dollaghan. They had married on 24th August 1876. William had two brothers and six sisters, two of whom emigrated to the USA. He was educated in Drogheda.
William enlisted in 1897 at the age of 17, but his mother discovered what he had done and bought him out. He ran away again in 1898 and re-enlisted. In the Army he was known as “Paddy”. He served in South Africa 1899-1901 and later at Cawnpore, India, where he was present at the 1911 Delhi Durbar.
William arrived with his Battalion at Zeebrugge, Belgium on 7th October 1914 attached to 5 Section, 2 Platoon and was appointed Bugler and Runner to Captain (later Major General) J L G Burnett, commanding A Company. The Battalion took part in the failed attempt to relieve Antwerp and the subsequent retreat from Ghent to Ypres.
On 23rd October 1914 near Ypres, Belgium, Drummer Kenny rescued wounded men on five occasions under very heavy fire. Twice previously he had saved machine-guns by carrying them out of action, and on numerous occasions he conveyed urgent messages under very dangerous circumstances over fire-swept ground.
The Battalion tried to keep William out of danger, but he managed to slip into the front line occasionally. Following the gazetting of his VC on 18th February 1915, he was presented with the medal by King George V at Glasgow Green on 18th May 1915. He broke his wrist later that year and was hospitalised at Newton Abbot, Devon. He was awarded the Cross of the Order of St George 3rd Class (Russia) on 25th August 1915.
He was granted to Freedom of Drogheda in 1915 and presented with a cheque for £120. He was also presented with a watch at the Mansion House, London. He was then promoted to Sergeant and later appointed Drum Major. He was also mentioned in despatches in January 1917.
In 1917, William was at a communal bath when orders came to return to the front lines immediately. In the haste to get dressed, William grabbed the wrong clothing and identity discs. During the following action, William’s comrade who was wearing his clothes and identification was killed, and William was with the burial party when a Brigadier arrived talking about the loss of William Kenny VC. Kenny saw his name on the cross and had to explain about the mix up in the bathhouse.
On being discharged in 1919 he joined the Corps of Commissionaires, working on Bond Street, Berkeley Square and finally at the Park Royal. He lived in the Corps Barracks in the Strand. He was a member of the VC Guard at the interment of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920. He never married.
He died at Charing Cross Hospital, London on 10th January 1936. At his funeral his pallbearers were former Gordon Highlanders who were also members of the Corps of Commissionaires. He was buried in the Corps of Commissionaires Section of Brookwood Cemetery. The grave marker was lost, but a headstone was erected nearby in 1999. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with four clasps, King’s South Africa Medal with two clasps, 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, 1911 Delhi Durbar Medal and the Russian Cross of the Order of St George 3rd Class. His medals are held by the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GORDON HIGHLANDERS MUSEUM, ABERDEEN.
BURIAL PLACE: BROOKWOOD CEMETERY, BROOKWOOD, SURREY.
CORPS OF COMMISSIONAIRES PLOT. GRAVE 199356
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Kenny VC Medal Group at Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen and the VC Stone at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Kevin Brazier – Image of Brookwood Cemetery Plan.