Diamond War Memorial Project

Private Charles Kennedy

6th Battalion Royal Irish Regiment. Regimental Number 2445
Born: ---- Died: 1916-01-21 Aged: 26 Enlisted: Derry.

Interred in Bethune Town Cemetery. Name commemorated on the Diamond War Memorial.

Resided at 14, Ann Street, Derry. Son of Patrick and Anne Kennedy, and brother of Mary Ann McLaughlin, 26, Lower Nassau Street, Derry.

Private Kennedy joined the Irish Brigade in December 1914. A brother, Private Patrick Kennedy, who served with the 6th Inniskillings, later wrote an account of his own experiences in the Great War. At the outbreak of the war he was working in Glasgow. He went to the recruiting office at the Gallow Gate and joined the British army. After medical inspection he went in front of an army officer who asked him if he was joining for the duration of the war. He replied yes. It was the officer's belief that the war would not last more than six weeks, and recommended he join the regular army, so as to see life in different countries. Patrick signed for the regular army, and later remarked that the officer had predicted the length of the war wrongly. The officer wanted him to join a Scottish regiment, the Scotch Guards, but he said the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers would do for him. He was sent to Hamilton Barracks, and from there to the Inniskillings depot at Omagh, and then moved to the Royal Barracks in Dublin for a short period. He was shifted again to the Richmond Barracks at Inchicore, and spent time training there.

After seven days leave at Christmas Patrick was sent to Basingstoke, England, where he completed his training. In July 1915, he set off for Gallipoli with the 10th Irish Division. When the train stopped at Exeter they received a good reception, being greeted with tea and sandwiches and gifts of cigarettes and matches. They thanked them all for their kindnesses, and with goodbye and good luck they set off for Devonport and the troopship, Andania. Bound for Gallipoli, the first place they landed was Malta, then on to Alexandria in Egypt, and from there to Mudros, on the southern coast of the Greek island of Lemnos, and finally to Mitylene, the Greek island in the Aegean Sea, also called Lesbos. They transferred to another ship and set sail for Suvla Bay.

As they were landing on the beach they were shelled and many were killed and wounded. The British battleship, Queen Elizabeth, shelled the hills on their front. They got the word to advance, and orders to take a hill, known as Chocolate Hill. Patrick was wounded in the leg by crossfire. He kept advancing until he dropped and lost a lot of blood. They were all issued with field bandages, which they kept in their tunic pockets, and Patrick proceeded to dress the wound on his leg, which was by then swollen and painful. Owing to the heavy shelling his company had to retreat a couple of times, which made things worse for him. He kept down because he found it impossible to move. His company captain, Carruthers, came to him and Patrick informed him that he had been wounded, to which Carruthers replied 'you lucky devil.' The company advanced again and took Chocolate Hill.

Patrick remembered being surrounded by dead men that night, and the following evening the stretcher-bearers saw him and came and took him to the beach where the R.A.M.C. and doctors were tending to the wounded. He recalled the awful sight of the bodies of dead men being placed in a big pit that had been dug for them. Patrick got his leg re-bandaged, and was taken with other soldiers to the beach. A member of the R.A.M.C. carried him on his back to the water's edge when an officer told him that Patrick was for the hospital ship, and to leave him down until he received an order to move him. The officer then walked away. Another officer appeared and wanted to know why Patrick was not taken to the boats that were taking injured men out to the hospital ship. Patrick's helper told him what the previous officer had said. The other officer then ordered that Patrick be taken to one of the boats.

He reached the hospital ship and set sail for Alexandria in Egypt, where he was taken to hospital. He was there for some time, and, as there were so many wounded arriving, was shifted around a lot. He was then taken to a convalescent camp at Mount Troodos Hill Station in Cyprus, and when his time expired was moved back to a base camp in Alexandria, and then back to Gallipoli. On his way back his ship was told to proceed to Salonica in Greece, and he was amongst the first British soldiers to land there. At the time Lord Kitchener came to Gallipoli to view the situation, and then gave orders for the evacuation of all troops from Salonica.

Patrick went to the Bulgarian front and helped relieve the French troops on Rocky Peak. Frost and snow were very hard to put up with, he recalled, especially as there was no shelter. He was once on patrol with a fellow from Belfast, called Archie Kennedy, when three Bulgarians approached them with white flags. They took their rifles and the Bulgarians were so glad to have arrived safely at their lines that they repaid them with cigarettes. Patrick's major received information from these Bulgarians about an attack that was to take place. When the attack began they were told to stand firm, until they got orders as to what to do. Their machine guns were put out of action, and a large number of men were killed when their trenches were shelled. The Dublins and Connaughts, on their left, advanced and lost many killed and wounded. Then they received the order to retreat. Patrick's pal, Archie Kennedy, was in front of him when he was killed. Patrick felt sorry for him, as he was such a nice lad.

Patrick's battalion, and the 5th battalion Inniskillings, went on rearguard action. They came to the supporting trenches and drew up for some time. The shelling resumed and, as it was so heavy, they were compelled to go on the retreat again. They came to a hill strewn with rocks, and called it Pimple Hill. The Bulgarians kept shelling them. Some of their lads were lying wounded. Their company officer requested volunteers to bring back the wounded. A party, including himself, Jimmy Meehan, and George O'Neill from Derry, went out. With shelling and rocks flying George got hit on the face. Patrick shouted to him to make his way back, and then Jimmy and Patrick made their way to the first wounded man. He was in a bad state. They made an armchair lift for him, and brought him back safe through the shellfire. They went out for a second time and got another wounded man. When they were lifting him he kept screaming to leave him alone. They got him up again and through all the shellfire managed to get him back safely. They noticed another wounded soldier trying to get back and went to his aid. Their company officer told them he would recommend them to be mentioned in despatches.

Afterwards they came to Monastir, a town one-hundred-and-thirty miles north west of Salonica, and, after all the hardships he had gone through, Patrick was sent to a hospital staffed by Canadians. When he went to take off his shirt he discovered it was sticking to his back. He had not realised that during the heavy shelling and excitement he was splintered with shellfire. The doctors and nurses treated them very well. When it was time to leave the sister in the ward said he was very helpful and would miss him very much.

Shortly afterwards Patrick went to the Struma river in the Balkans. He contracted malaria fever and was sent to hospital in Salonica. Ding Devlin, from Derry, who was in a rest camp next to the hospital came to see him and mentioned the death of his brother, Charley, who had been killed in France. Patrick was upset about it. Devlin was sorry for bringing the subject up, as he thought Patrick knew about the death of his brother.

Patrick grew worse with the malaria and was sent to a hospital ship bound for Malta. On the way they were held up by a German submarine and searched. They were given time to get off the ship before the Germans blew it up. Patrick spent some time in hospital in Malta, and was destined for England when he was considered fit enough to travel. Owing to the sinking of so many ships by the Germans, it was some time before Patrick was placed in the hospital ship, 'Dover Castle', which was in June 1917. He spent some time in bed, and one day got up to go on to the deck, for a change of scenery. He was having a look around when someone shouted that a torpedo was coming from a German U-boat. The torpedo killed a large number of the crew, and forced the ship to turn sideways. There was some excitement when the lifeboats were lowered. Some men jumped into the sea, and others slid down ropes. They got clear of the ship, and two British destroyers came to their aid. A second torpedo came, straightening the ship before it sank to the bottom of the sea.

The destroyers took them on board, and set off for Bona, a seaport of Algeria at the mouth of the river Seybouse. They were taken to a French fort, manned by native soldiers. Six of them tied their blankets together went down the fort wall and made off. They spotted a French convent and nuns, who told them to come inside and treated them with refreshments and fruit. One of the nuns, after hearing Patrick speak, asked him where he came from. He replied that he came from Derry. She said that she had read about Derry, and its oak groves and Saint Columba. She gave Patrick a medal and said she would pray that he would get home to Ireland.

Patrick and his friends then went into the town, where they were treated well by the French people. They were rounded up and taken to a naval hospital ship. As the ship could only take so many, Patrick found himself left behind, but several days later an Australian ship arrived and set sail for England. After a stop at Gibraltar, they arrived at Bristol and were taken to hospital. Patrick received two days leave in Derry, where he succumbed to another attack of malaria, and spent time in Ebrington Barracks hospital.