Helen Bennett visited the museum to tell us about Gardner Kennedy.
(William Robert) Gardner Kennedy was my paternal Irish Grandmother’s first cousin. He was the son of Mary and William Kennedy of Ardbana House Coleraine, Northern Ireland. His father had an engineering firm. He was my Irish Grandmother’s cousin. (Annie Morton McMillan of Turnagrove Co Antrim) There is a very strong familial likeness between Gardner Kennedy and his Turnagrove cousins, most of whom I knew.
Gardner Kennedy died on the Swaben Redout on July 1st 1916 which is where his regiment the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers fought Reg no:18637. Lance Corporal, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
He has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, and on the Coleraine War memorial, although on the latter his Christian name is incorrectly spelt. He enlisted on 5th October 1915.
His brother, Lieutenant John Alexander Kennedy, survived the war. However further tragedy struck the family on 2nd March 1917 when the Kennedy family lost their only daughter, Mary Boddie, wife of Geoffrey W Boddie.
About 1959 or 1960 I visited Edie Kennedy who (I presume) was Gardner Kennedy’s sister law at Ardbana House, a splendid detached house full of faded elegance. I met Jack, Edie’s son who was a wild child, liked building his own racing cars. Of Edie, I remember only a little old lady, shrunken but lively, sitting regally amongst the faded and cluttered Second Empire furniture in front of a huge fireplace with an enormous glassed domed clock on the mantel piece. The Kennedy family in the past had had money. Of our conversation I remember nothing except, reading my father’s notes, we talked of Irish History.
My father (JD Long OBE) born in 1915 never knew his cousin, but always wanted to keep his memory alive. In later life my father was upset to find that Gardner Kennedy’s name had been last omitted from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Roll of Honour. He asked me to remedy this which I did with pleasure.
We took our children to Thiepval in 1996, and we have visited frequently since. Contrary to my father’s view when he visited Thiepval in the latter years of his life, I found Thiepval, a place of Cathedral – like peace and reconciliation, and the graveyards, places of sadness and of peace.
My husband and I visited the Swaben Redout and the Ulster Memorial two weeks ago. What a mission it was to capture, so many died, so much bravery. Now I know where Gardner Kennedy died and when he is most likely buried.
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