Private Robert John Kennedy


Robert John Kennedy was born on 13 March 1897 at Galgorm Parks, Ballymena, County Antrim, the ninth of ten children of farmer James Kennedy and his wife Elizabeth (nee Simpson). His mother died when he was just six years old. By 1911 he was living with his father and five siblings and working on the family farm.

Kennedy enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Antrim on 1 November 1915 (No.1761). He embarked for France on 18 May 1916, where he was posted to A Squadron, part of the 1st North Irish Horse Regiment.

From 13 June to 11 August 1917 Kennedy was hospitalised in France due to an inguinal hernia. Before he was able to return to duty with A Squadron, on 26 August  he was posted from the cavalry depot to the 36th (Ulster) Division's Infantry Base Depot for transfer to the infantry

This occurred because the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment had been ordered to disband, with most of its men, together with a number of surplus men from the 1st NIH Regiment, transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers – renamed the 9th (North Irish Horse) Battalion. Private Kennedy, one of those from the 1st Regiment, was formally transferred to the battalion on 20 September. He was issued a new regimental number – 41344 – and posted to B Company.

In November and December 1917 the 9th Battalion fought at the Battle of Cambrai, first going into action in the attack on the village of Moeuvres on 22 and 23 November. The battalion war diary for those days reads as follows:

[22 November] The Battn moved up at 6.30 a.m. to a position N. of Bapaume & Cambrai Road arriving at 8.30 a.m. Here the Battn waited for an order to attack Inchi when Moeuvres was taken by the 12th Royal Irish Rifles. At 11.45 a.m. the 12th R. Ir. Rifles captured village of Moeuvres. It was unable to clear trenches East of village. At 5.30 p.m. Battn moved up to support 12th R. Ir. Rifles in the village of Moeuvres. At 5.45 p.m. 12th R. Ir. Rifles reported driven out of village. At 8.30 p.m. Battn less 'D' Coy counter attacked village of Moeuvres but was driven back to trenches immediately south of the village, where it took up a defensive position for the night.

[23 November] Battn attacked Moeuvres at 10.30 a.m. At 11 a.m. Battn reported in village. At 11.45 a.m. enemy counter attacked from trenches West of village. 12.15 p.m. counter attack driven off. At 4.30 .p.m village evacuated by Battn on account of supports not coming up. 5 p.m. 'C' & 'D' Coys took up position on Sunken Road South of village and 'A' & 'B' Coys went back to trenches North of Bapaume & Cambrai Road.

Casualties for 22nd & 23rd: Officers killed 1. Officers wounded 6. ORs 82 casualties.

Kennedy was one of the casualties, severely wounded in the right thigh.

After treatment at the 8th American General Hospital at Le Treport, on 20 December he was evacuated to the UK, where he was admitted to Springburn Hospital in Glasgow. On 14 February 1918 he was transferred to a convalescent hospital, Caldergrove, at Hallside, Lanarkshire, where he remained for six weeks before returning to duty with the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, at Rugeley.

At the end of May, Kennedy embarked for France, joining the 9th (NIH) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, in the field at Proven on 8 June.

Kennedy saw action with the 9th Battalion in Belgium during the Advance to Victory offensive from August 1918. On 4 September they attacked near Wulverghem. According to the battalion war diary:

8 a.m. Battle. H.Q. was formed at T.10.d.05.80. and under an artillery barrage the battalion, in conjunction with other battalions on flanks, attacked. Good progress was made. 'D' Coy lost direction and got as far as Stinking Farm (U.7.a). Not being protected on flanks the enemy attempted to cut them off and the Coy had to retire. Our line was established from road (T.6.d.35.80) where touch was made with the 30th Div., along hedge running south through T.6.d.4.0. to river in T.12.b. then along breastwork trench from T.12.c.50.95 – T.18.a.80.90, with the gap between "B" and "A" Coys. "D" Coy was put in support along road running south through T.6.c. and T.12.a. The enemy were not very numerous but their m.g. fire was heavy. The shelling was fairly heavy but was confined to vicinity of St. Quentin Cabaret. During the operation Battle H.Q. was moved to T.5.d.80.40. Six prisoners were made, four of whom were sent through 29th Div. on the right. Some of our men on the right were cut off and are thought to be made prisoners. The 29th Div. took Hill 63 but did not come up far enough to cover our right flank. During the day there was an amount of sniping and m.g. gun fire and the enemy shelled St. Quentin Cabaret and T.12.a. with 5.9. In the afternoon he attempted a counter-attack by coming up along railway between "B" and "A" Coy. but was driven back by m.g. and rifle fire. At dusk our patrols were pushed forward to get the line behind Bristol Castle but were unable to do so owing to m.g.

Kennedy was wounded during the fighting on this day – by a small shell fragment in his right shoulder. On 8 September he was evacuated to England, where he was treated at Croydon War Hospital. The wound was not severe and on 30 October he reported for duty at the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers at Leigh-on-Sea.

On 31 December he was granted 1st Class Proficiency pay. Two days later he was disciplined for being absent, losing seven days pay. On 19 February 1919 he was transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, his military character on his file marked as 'very good'. Later that year Kennedy applied for a wound pension, but this was rejected.