Willian Kenny was born 24th August 1880 in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. He was a Drummer in the 2nd Battalion, Gordon Highlanders and a career soldier, having already served in the Boer War where he was also decorated. He was with the Gordon Highlanders in Egypt before transfering to Ypres at the start of that battle. As a Drummer, Kenny’s job in action would have been as a ‘runner’, taking messages between different parts of the Battalion.
His decoration was announced in the London Gazette on 18th February 1915.
The citation read:
"For conspicuous bravery on 23rd October, near Ypres, in rescuing wounded men on five occasions under heavy fire in the most fearless manner, and for twice previously saving machine guns by carrying them out of action.
On numerous occasions Drummer Kenny conveyed urgent messages under very dangerous circumstances over fire-swept ground."
Drummer William Kenny received his VC from King George V on 18th May 1915 at Glasgow Green, Lanarkshire. Click on the image left for a larger view of this event. The Musicians' Company decided to recognise all professional musicians that received the VC honour by awarding them also a Gold Watch. It was subsequently
decided that Kenny would be presented with his Gold Watch by the Lord Mayor (Sir Charles Johnston) at Mansion House on 8th March 1916 (along with two other musician VC recipients, Spencer John Bent and Thomas Rendle). To the right is a page from the Birmingham Gazette of Tuesday 9th March 1915, click the image for a close up of the photograph of Kenny and Bent - the caption says it took place at Guildhall, but that is a mistake, it was Mansion House. The Musicians' Company Court Minutes give a full account of the presentation. Click Here for MB10 and look at pages 24 onward.
Another picture and write-up of the Gold Watch presentation event, appeared in the Daily Graphic of 9th March 1915. The two recipients can also be seen studying the Watch. The Master Musician at the time was Captain Adrian Charles Chamier who read out the citations for all three men.
Kenny reached the rank of Drum Major and was discharged from the Army in 1919 and lived and worked in London until his death in 1936. In 1999 his grave received a new headstone, arranged by the Highlanders Regimental Association. His Victoria Cross and other medals are on display at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen (Click on picture right for larger view)
Photo by Gordon Highlanders Museum, Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0