From Winston Churchill’s speech:


"When I think of these days I think also of other episodes and personalities. I do not forget Lieutenant-Commander Esmonde, V.C., D.S.O., Lance-Corporal Kenneally, V.C., Captain Fegen, V.C., and other Irish heroes that I could easily recite, and all bitterness by Britain for the Irish race dies in my heart. I can only pray that in years which I shall not see, the shame will be forgotten and the glories will endure, and that the peoples of the British Isles and of the British Commonwealth of Nations will walk together in mutual comprehension and forgiveness."



From The Irish Times, Saturday, June 9, 1945:


“LONDON LETTER

FRIDAY NIGHT


Sergeant Pat Kenneally, of the Irish Guards, one of the Eire V.C.’s mentioned in Mr. Churchill’s broadcast, is likely to be demobilised in the early part of next year.  He may then become a film actor, but has not quite made up his mind.


Recently a British film company, noting his fine presence and handsome features, persuaded him to undergo a film test.  The test revealed that he had the making of an excellent actor, and the film company has asked him to take some lessons from an elocutionist in the art of “throwing the voice,” if he decides to take up the screen as a career.  At the moment his voice is soft and low, and delightfully pleasant.


Sergeant Kenneally joined the Irish Guards at the age of seventeen, and won the V.C. in North Africa, where he twice routed a German company single-handed.  He is married to an English woman, Miss Elsa Francis, and their home is at Dudley.”



Birmingham Post, The (England) - Monday, October 2, 2000:


“Guards Hero Who Won Vc In Desert Stand: Obituary


The last surviving Victoria Cross winner of the Irish Guards , who single-handedly attacked and forced back a company of German grenadiers, has died aged 79.


Birmingham-born John Kenneally died after a suspected heart attack at his home in Rochford, Worcester.


The father-of-four and one-time Dudley car dealer had just returned home from a regular dialysis session at Wordsley Hospital in Dudley when he was taken ill.


Retired soldiers in the West Midlands branch of the Irish Guard were yesterday in mourning.


Mr Kenneally, born in 1921, was one of only five Irish Guard soldiers presented the Victoria Cross following his heroic Tunisian desert exploits in April 1943.


Kevin Treacy, vice-chairman of the West Midlands regimental branch, said: 'We are all devastated by the loss of such a brave man. His wife Elsie is very upset.'


A funeral will take place next week.”



Worcestershire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, and Shorpshire Counties Publications (England) - Thursday, October 5, 2000


“Death of a hero


Tributes have been paid to a Victoria Cross winner and former Dudley car dealer, who has died aged 79.


Courageous John Kenneally was awarded the VC after single-handedly fighting off 200 Germans while a lance corporal in the Irish Guards in Tunisia in 1943.


He lived in Parkes Hall Road for more than 30 years, and ran Kenneally Motors in Wellington Road from after the war until the mid-1960s.


The fearless dad-of-four died at home of a heart attack.


He had just been for dialysis at Wordsley Hospital to treat a kidney problem.


A lone Irish Guards piper will play a graveside lament as mourners say a final farewell to him tomorrow, (Friday).


Eight Guards pallbearers are also to attend the funeral, at Rochford Parish Church, Worcester, at noon.


John and wife Elizabeth were living in Rochford after leaving Dudley in the early 1980s.


Born in Birmingham and educated at King Edward Grammar School, John joined the Irish Guards in 1941 and was one of only five from the regiment to be awarded Britain's highest military honour.


Close friend and vice-chairman of the regimental branch based in Wordsley Kevin Treacy said: "John was an incredibly brave and courageous man who was very well known around Dudley and nationally.


"But he was also a modest and down-to-earth chap, even in recent years when his health started to suffer.


"He used to be a regular at the reunions and he would have hoped to have been at our annual dinner in November but it was sadly not to be.


"His heroics in the war were the ultimate form of bravery and he will be sadly missed by everybody who knew him."


He remained in close touch with his regiment, attending many of its veterans' reunions.”



From Worcestershire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, and Shorpshire Counties Publications (England) - Thursday, October 5, 2000:


“War hero who deserted dies


A SOLDIER who deserted his regiment to see more Second World War action and went on to win the Victoria Cross has died.


John Kenneally aged 79, of Rochford, near Tenbury Wells, won the honour only a month after joining the Irish Guards .


The father-of-four originally enlisted with the Royal Artillery in 1939, when he was 18, and when his name was Leslie Jackson.


But he found there was little action and in 1941 he ran away, intending to join the Irish Guards .


After working with Irish labourers he changed his identity so he could enlist with the regiment without prosecution for desertion.


By March 1943, L/Cpl Kenneally was with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards bound for Tunisia.


A month later was attacking The Bou, launching a single-handed attack, charging down a bare stony forward slope, firing his machine-gun from the hip as he ran.


The next day, he repeated the feat, accompanied by a Reconnaissance Corps sergeant.


In 1995, Mr Kenneally, was presented to the Queen and Queen Mother as one of Britain's most distinguished war veterans.


At the time, he told the Evening News "leaving the Artillery as I did can only be called desertion.


"I was terribly frustrated about being away from all the action.


"I was a headstrong young man who wanted to get stuck-in."


His Victoria Cross is now on display at the Irish Guards Regimental Museum in London, along with five others won by its soldiers.


"He was a significant individual, " said Lt Col Robin Bullock-Webster.


"One thing that sticks out was when he was awarded the VC, it was presented to him by Field Marshall Alexander, from one Irish Guard to another.


"He was also invited, on behalf of the Queen, to distribute the Queen's shamrocks to the regiment in London.


"That was a significant mark of respect."


Mr Kenneally died at his Worcestershire home on Wednesday, September 28, after a suspected heart attack.


He was due to be buried at noon today with full military honours at Rochford Parish Church.


He leaves a wife, Elsie, two sons and a daughter.”



Worcestershire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, and Shorpshire Counties Publications (England) - Thursday, October 5, 2000:


“'An act that can seldom have been equalled'


John Kenneally won his VC as a lance corporal in the Irish Guards during one of the last phases of the Tunisian campaign in April 1943.


Defending an important foothold in the North African country, he single-handedly fought off a 200-strong German company using just a light machine gun.


And the following day, the gallant guardsman repeated the feat after being shot through the leg - only to spend the rest of the day hopping around shooting at the enemy, refusing to receive medical treatment.


His feat changed the course of the conflict and earned him the top award for valour.


The citation for his VC said: "His rapid appreciation of the situation, his initiative and extraordinary gallantry in attacking single-handed a massed body of the enemy and breaking up an attack on two occasions, was an achievement that can seldom have been equalled.


"His courage in fighting all day when wounded was an inspiration to all ranks."


John was the last surviving Irish Guards VC and his death means there are now only 23 VCs alive.”



Worcestershire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, and Shorpshire Counties Publications (England) - Saturday, October 7, 2000:


“The passing of the bravest of the brave


IT sometimes falls to us to consider in these columns what makes a man tick. What motivates him to make a positive contribution to society or, on the other hand, what leads him into the paths of darkness?


We're prompted into such thoughts again by the funeral yesterday of John Kenneally, who won the Victoria Cross for his extraordinary bravery during the Second World War.


Words such as "hero" are often bandied about in this day and age, but it's only when we consider the exploits of someone like L/Cpl Kenneally that the true meaning of the word becomes plain.


In 1939, when he was 18, he joined the Royal Artillery - when his name was Leslie Jackson. But, as he told the Evening News more than half a century later: "I was terribly frustrated about being away from the all action. I was a headstong young man who wanted to get stuck in."


So he deserted, changed his identity and joined the Irish Guards. In 1943 he was with the 1st Battalion in Tunisia when came his moment - or, rather, moments, because there were two of them.


In the first he spotted a company of Panzer Grenadiers forming up to attack his company's vital position. He decided to attack them and, single-handedly he charged, firing his Bren gun from the hip. The enemy broke and ran - and L/Cpl Kenneally returned to his position.


The next day he charged another group of the enemy and routed them. This time he was wounded but still kept up the fight.


The final words of the citation said his action "was an achievement that can seldom have been equalled. His courage in fighting all day when wounded was an inspiration to all ranks".


For a man also wounded on the beachhead of Anzio and who played his part in the Palestine emergency of the late 1940s, there could be no higher praise.”



From Worcestershire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, and Shorpshire Counties Publications (England) - Saturday, October 7, 2000:


VC hero's coffin borne by Irish Guards


ARMY deserter-come-hero, John Kenneally, was buried yesterday with full military honours.


The 79-year-old won the Victoria Cross whilst serving with the Irish Guards , for launching a single-handed attack on German troops in Tunisia.


A lone piper led the coffin into St Michael's church at Rochford, near Tenbury Wells, where members of the Royal British Legion paid their final respects.


Fifty years after Mr Kenneally was awarded the medal he revealed he had originally enlisted with the Royal Artillery in 1939, as 18-year-old Leslie Jackson.


But after two years he deserted the regiment because he wanted to see more action and changed his name to join the Irish Guards .


One month after arriving in North Africa with his new regiment the L/Cpl won his war medal.


Mr Kenneally was the last surviving Victoria Cross winner with the Irish Guards . His medal is now on display in the regimental museum in London.


Mr Kenneally leaves a widow Elsie, two sons and a daughter.”



Worcestershire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, and Shorpshire Counties Publications (England) - Wednesday, October 11, 2000:


“Last journey of VC hero


JOHN Patrick Kenneally, a heroic member of the Irish Guards in the Second World War whose bravery was honoured with the Victoria Cross, has died at his home near Tenbury, aged 79.


His passing leaves only 23 living Victoria Cross holders.


Mr Kenneally, of Rochford, won his VC as a lance corporal with the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards during the Tunisian campaign in April 1943.


During the final assault on Tunis it was vital that a huge rock-strewn feature known as the 'Bou' was captured in order to take the city.


On April 28, around 100 Germans were seen forming up to assault an Irish position on the ridge and Mr Kenneally decided this was the moment to launch an attack on the enemy himself.



Charged the enemy


He single-handedly charged down the bare hillside, firing his Bren light machinegun from the hip as he went.


The enemy company broke and ran, while he scrambled back up the slope and continued to harass their withdrawal.


Two days later he repeated his feat, this time accompanied by a Reconnaissance Corps sergeant, when he again spotted a German force.


The duo charged and routed the enemy, but while scrambling back up to the crest again, Mr Kenneally was hit in the calf by a 9mm bullet.


With his Bren in one hand and supported by another Guardsman with the other, nothing would persuade him to give up his weapon or leave the position.


Mr Kenneally, his assumed name, was born on March 15, 1921 as Leslie Robinson and brought up in Birmingham, where he was given a good education at King Edward's.


When war broke out in 1939, he had already joined the TA as a Gunner, before being transferred to the Honourable Artillery Company.


Here he overstayed his leave and served a spell of detention in Wellington Barracks guardroom in the charge of the Irish Guards .


He was impressed by their high standards and wanted to transfer, but the Gunners refused his application and so he deserted.


Mr Kenneally, then still Leslie Robinson, joined a gang of Irish building labourers, whose leader provided him with a new identity - that of John Patrick Kenneally, who had returned home to Ireland.


Armed with this new identity, he enlisted in the Irish Guards and by March 1943 he was sailing with the 1st Battalion for Tunisia.


After leaving the Army, Mr Kenneally ran his own garage before retiring to Worcestershire.


Even in his later years, Mr Kenneally was still fiercely proud of the Irish Guards and recently wrote to The Daily Telegraph to rebuke Peter Mandelson for his remark about the Guards being 'chinless wonders'.


He is survived by wife Elizabeth and five children.”



From Worcestershire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, and Shorpshire Counties Publications (England) - Wednesday, October 11, 2000:


“Comrades-in-arms gather to pay last respects


EX-SERVICEMEN from across Britain packed into St Michael's Church in Rochford, near Tenbury, to pay their last respects to a very special old soldier - Victoria Cross holder John Kenneally.


It was an unprecedented funeral for the small church and its community, and many Irish Guards , past and present, turned out to mourn his death.


He was laid to rest in peaceful rural surroundings far removed from the Second World War battlefields where he earned his finest accolade with the Guards.


Mr Kenneally, who died at home aged 79, was given a moving military farewell, including a bugler and a piper from the Irish Guards . He was remembered as a hero who was also a gentle man.


Son Shane recalled his father as a man who 'enjoyed life to the fullest', while son-in-law Robert Perrin hailed his 'genuine friendliness to everyone he met'.


A section of Mr Kenneally's VC citation was also read out by relative John Perrin, which praised his 'magnificent gallantry' and 'courage'.


And the three hymns recited during the funeral could hardly have been more apt - 'Onward Christian Soldiers', 'He Who Would Valiant Be' and 'I Vow To Thee My Country'.


Thomas Dunne, Lord Lieutenant for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, attended in addition to around 150 family members, friends and colleagues present.


Six serving Irish Guards carried the coffin, which was draped with a Guards flag, into the church and later out again to Mr Kenneally's final resting place.”



From Worcestershire, West Midlands, Herefordshire, and Shorpshire Counties Publications (England) - Thursday, October 12, 2000:


“Final tributes to hero John


Scores of tearful mourners turned out for the funeral of war hero John Kenneally on Friday.


John, a former Dudley car dealer, won the Victoria Cross in 1943 for his heroics in conflict in Tunisia as a lance corporal in the Irish Guards .


The courageous soldier fought off 200 Germans single-handedly while defending a vital foothold in the battle.


He lived in Parkes Hall Road for more than 30 years and ran Kenneally Motors in Wellington Road from after the war until the mid-1960s.


Dozens of ex-servicemen and Irish Guards crammed into the tiny Rochford Parish Church for the funeral of the brave 79-year-old.


Eight Guards' pallbearers attended the service and a lone piper played a graveside lament as the gallant dad-of-four was lowered into the ground.


John was the last surviving Irish Guards VC and his death means there are now only 23 VCs alive.”



From The Guardian, Tuesday 7 November 2000 Obituary by Diana Condell:


“In April 1943, during the latter phase of the Tunisian campaign, Lance Corporal John Kenneally, who has died aged 79, was a Bren gunner with No 1 company, 1st battalion, the Irish Guards, part of 24th Guards Brigade, when General Sir Harold Alexander ordered the final assault on Tunis. On Alexander's proposed route lay the German-held and heavily fortified rocky feature, Djebel Bou Azoukaz.


The 24th Guards attacked on April 27, but just failed to secure the Bou. Next day, the Irish Guards gained a foothold on a strategically vital, mile-long ridge. It was imperative that Kenneally's company - with fewer than 200 men - should hold their ground while further attacks were organised.


Spotting a company of Panzer Grenadiers forming up below the crest, Kenneally took them on. Firing his light machine gun, he charged down the bare forward slope - and the enemy company broke and ran.


On April 30, this time with a non-commissioned officer from the Reconnaissance Corps, Kenneally again spotted a German force preparing to attack. Both men charged and, again, the enemy scattered, but, on the way back up, Kenneally was shot in the leg. No one realised he was wounded until he was seen hopping from position to position supported by a fellow guardsman. He refused to give up his firing position. That August he was awarded the Victoria Cross.


John Patrick Keanneally was not his real name. Born Leslie Jackson, he was the son of an 18-year-old Birmingham girl and a wealthy Mancunian textile manufacturer. He was brought up in one of the roughest districts of Birmingham, but his mother managed to give him a good education, at King Edward's School. By 1939, he was a Territorial army gunner. Transferring to the Honourable Artillery Company, he overstayed his leave and spent a period of detention at Wellington barracks.


There he saw the Irish Guards, and, impressed with their bearing, requested a transfer. When this was refused, he simply deserted and joined up with a group of Irish labourers. Through them, he acquired the identity card and insurance number of a man who had returned to Ireland and, as John Patrick Kenneally, promptly enlisted in the Irish Guards.


After the fall of Tunis, he was promoted to sergeant and, during the Anzio fighting in February 1944, was again wounded. Just as the war was ending, he joined the 3rd battalion in Germany. The life of the occupation forces was not much to his taste, so he volunteered for the newly-formed 1st Guards parachute battalion. After training, he went to Palestine, where he served with distinction in the last days of the British mandate.


On his return to England in 1948, Kenneally requested a posting nearer his wife and family, but none was forthcoming, so he bought himself out of the army in July 1948. He built up a successful career in the motor industry, but always retained his links with the Irish Guards.


With not a drop of Irish blood, Kenneally was immensely proud of being identified as a "Mick", steadfastly loyal to his regiment. He was a modest and unassuming man, greatly liked by all who knew him.


He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. A third son predeceased him.


John Patrick Kenneally VC, soldier, born March 15 1921; died September 28 2000”


From Evening Mail (Birmingham, England) - Tuesday, March 4, 2003:

“Tribute to VC soldier

A LATE Midland soldier, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry during the Second World War, has had a plaque dedicated in his honour.

John Kenneally, who died two years ago aged 79, won his VC while serving as a Lance Corporal with the Irish Guards during the Tunisian campaign in April 1943.

Born in Birmingham, Mr Kenneally married a Tipton girl and ran a car showroom in Dudley for 25 years. A plaque presented by the Irish Guards West Midlands Association has been was unveiled in his honour at the Cotterills Farm Tenants Management Offices in Walker Street, Tipton.”


Publications: The Honour and the Shame: John Kenneally, VC

Lance-Corporal Kenneally’s VC can be viewed along with others awarded to members of the Guards’ Regiments, at the Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks.


Click here to view Kenneally being presented with his V.C. by General Alexander (Pathe News)

Click here to view Kenneally after investiture at Buckingham Palace (Pathe News)


Click here to view 1Bn group photo, Chelsea Barracks, 1944




Quis Separabit


Sources: Wikipedia, The Times, The Irish Times, The Guardian, Pathe News

Photos: IG Journal; Peter ‘Micky’ Campbell

 

KENNEALLY, JOHN PATRICK, VC, 1BN