b. 26/12/1886 Wexford, Ireland. d. 29/06/1915 Gallipoli, Turkey.
William Stephen Kenealy (1886-1915) was born at 38 Parnell Street, Wexford, Ireland on Boxing Day 1886. He was one of five sons born to John Kenealy, a colour sergeant in the Royal Irish Regiment. The family moved to Wigan, Lancashire, at the end of his father’s military service, where he worked as a check-weigher at Bryn Hall Colliery. The journey proved to be an eventful one as their ship, SS Slavonia was wrecked, but the Kenealy family, including the four-year-old William, were all saved.
Educated at St John’s School, Wigan, and St Oswald’s School, Ashton-in-Makerfield, William joined the Low Green Collieries as a pit boy, aged 13. A prominent member of the local football team, he spent ten years in the mines before deciding to pursue a military career, like his father before him. In September 1909, he enlisted for seven years. All his service was spent with the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers. Returning from India after the outbreak of war, he re-enlisted and spent four days leave at his parents’ home in Stubshaw Cross.
Like the majority of men in his battalion, the landing at W Beach on 25th April 1915 represented a baptism of fire. On that morning, three companies, and the Headquarters of the 1st Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers, in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by a very deadly fire from hidden machine guns which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained. Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Capt. Willis, Serjt. Richards, and Pte. Kenealy have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty.
Promoted to Lance Corporal, Kenealy survived the three battles of Krithia which decimated his unit. He was mortally wounded in the Battle for Gully Ravine on 28th June, when the battalion was commanded by Major Bromley, and died the following day. His grave is located in the Lancashire Landing Cemetery where his rank is given as lance sergeant, although there is no record of this promotion. News of his death didn’t reach his family until October 1915, long after they had celebrated his Victoria Cross award and after plans had been made by the local council to honour him. In October 2009, a commemorative plaque was unveiled in Stubshaw Cross Heritage Garden in his memory.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19, and the medals were donated to the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum, Bury, Lancashire, where they are displayed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LANCASHIRE FUSLIERS MUSEUM, BURY, LANCASHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: LANCASHIRE LANDING CEMETERY, GALLIPOLI, TURKEY.
ROW C, GRAVE 104.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
John Patterson – VC Medal Group in the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum, Bury.