THE restoration of a Donaghadee war memorial will ensure the selfless act of bravery of Victoria Cross recipient William Kenny will ‘live on’.
The Saintfield war hero was awarded the highest honour for gallantry and ‘conspicuous bravery’ when he paid the ultimate sacrifice, aged just 20 years old, during a Mahsud’s tribe attack in India in 1920.
The VC honour was awarded posthumously to Lieutenant Kenney’s father Mr John Joseph Kenny, who was a serving policeman in the seaside town, by King George V over a century ago.
Local residents raised concerns after the war memorial fell into a state of disrepair and two local councillors, Janice MacArthur and James Cochrane, worked with the council to safeguard the seafront tribute.
However the DUP representatives have appealed to irresponsible dog owners to ensure their pets are not allowed to urinate against the memorial and hope a railing can be placed around it for protection.
Lieutenant Kenny was just 20 years old and was in the 4/39th Garhwal Rifles during the Waziristan Campaign, when his company was repeatedly attacked by a large number of the Mahsuds.
The citation states: “For over four hours this officer maintained his position, repulsing three determined attacks, being foremost in hand to hand fighting which took place, and repeatedly engaging the enemy with bomb and bayonet.
“His gallant leadership undoubtedly saved the situation and kept intact the right flank, on which depended the success of the operation and the safety of the troops in the rear.”
It goes on to recall how Lieutenant Kenny recognised that a diversion was necessary to enable the company’s withdrawal saying, ‘with a handful of his men he turned back and counter-attacked the pursuing enemy, and, with the rest of his party, was killed fighting to the last’.
Mrs MacArthur and Mr Cochrane welcomed the significant upgrade of the Donaghadee memorial that was installed in 2016 but over the years had become eroded by the weather and was illegible.
Mrs MacArthur said: “Several members of the public had approached me about the state of the memorial and having liaised with council on this over the last few months. I’m delighted that they have replaced the memorial with a new piece of granite which is now clearly inscribed.
“Further, they have newly inscribed the text below which tells the story of WD Kenny’s bravery and ultimate death at war. It is right and proper that memorials to our war dead should be kept in pristine condition in honour of these war heroes, not least memorials to VC holders such as William Kenny who sacrificed his life in India.
“It is recorded that ‘this very gallant act of self-sacrifice not only enabled the wounded to be withdrawn but also averted a situation which must have resulted in considerable loss of life’.
Mrs MacArthur added: “The VC cross was awarded posthumously to Lieutenant Kenny’s who had been a police man in Donaghadee by his Majesty King George V on 2 November 1920. It is important that the memory of VC Kenny lives on and that his story is visible for all to see.”
Mr Cochrane said: “It is very welcome to see that the Lieutenant Kenny Memorial in Donaghadee has now been restored to its former state. It was deeply frustrating to see the memorial deteriorate and become eroded over the years. Both myself and Cllr MacArthur are very happy to see it that it is now in a state befitting of the man it is named after Lieutenant Kenny VC.
“William Kenny’s passing is also recorded on the War Dead Muster in Donaghadee Parish Church. It is important that his story is kept alive both at the church and at this memorial.”
Both councillors expressed concern that a small number of dog owners are allowing their pets to urinate on the memorial and have urged the public to ensure it is respect. They are continuing to work with council to see if a small railing can be placed around the memorial to protect it.