b. 27/07/1888 Hackney, London. d. 06/05/1979 Chertsey, Surrey.
Henry Edward Kenny (1888-1979) was born at 34 Upper Market Street, Woolwich, London on 27th July 1888. His father, John, was a carman originally from Leeds, Yorkshire, but both his parents hailed from County Limerick, Ireland. His mother was Susan nee Brown, and they married on 3rd July 1882 in Shoreditch. They had a large family with eight children including Henry. Henry was the second oldest, and had three brothers and four sisters.
He was educated at St John’s Certified Industrial School, Walthamstow. He enlisted on 29th October 1906 and transferred to the Reserve in 1911. He was employed by Messrs Abdulla, the cigarette manufacturers of London, until recalled and went to France on 12th August 1914. Henry was in the retreat from Mons and the Battles of the Marne and the Aisne, followed by First Ypres in October and Festubert in December. In 1915, he took part in fighting at La Bassee and Neuve Chapelle.
On 25th September 1915 near Loos, France, Private Kenny went out on six different occasions under very heavy shell, rifle and machine-gun fire. Each time he carried into a place of safety a wounded man who had been lying in the open. He was himself wounded as he handed the last wounded soldier over the parapet.
His wounds caused him to be treated at No 1 British Red Cross Society Hospital (Duchess of Westminster’s Hospital), Le Touquet and later at Lady Astor’s Hospital at Taplow, Buckinghamshire. Having recovered from his wounds, he went to 3rd Battalion in Felixstowe as an instructor. After ten days he requested and was granted a transfer back to 1st Battalion in France before Christmas 1915.
The VC was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 20th May 1916. He was later promoted to Sergeant and was discharged in March 1919. He was a member of the VC Guard at the interment of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920. Post-war he was employed as a checker by Spencer Press Ltd in London, a subsidiary of Abdulla’s in the tobacco trade. In October 1921, he took part in the unveiling of the War Memorial in Hackney, accompanied by Issy Smith VC. He also attended the funeral of Arthur Sullivan VC in the Guard’s Chapel, London in April 1937.
During the Second World War, he served in the Local Defence Volunteers and Home Guard at Highams Park, London. He challenged the King when he inspected 2,000 LDVs at their headquarters at Woodford, Essex. When he was introduced to the King later the same day, the King recalled meeting Henry at the Hackney Empire in 1920 when, as Duke of York, he attended a special performance for a discharged soldiers’ organisation. He died at St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, Surrey on 6th May 1979 and was cremated at St John’s Crematorium, Woking. His ashes are interred at St Mark’s Churchyard, Whiteley Village, Hersham, Surrey.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977. His VC was sold by Glendinning’s for £12,500 on 24th June 1992. It was purchased by Michael Ashcroft and is displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: WOKING CREMATORIUM, WOKING, SURREY.
ASHES INTERRED IN ST MARK'S CHURCHYARD, WHITELEY, HERSHAM, SURREY. PLOT 109.
Henry Kenny's medals including VC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).
War Illustrated, 22nd April 1916