Kenny – Private Thomas

4 April 1882 – 29 November 1948:=

Thomas was born at Hartbushes, Hutton Henry, South Wingate, County Durham. He worked as miner in Wheatley Hill Colliery, Durham. He enlisted into the 13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in August 1914.

On 4th November 1915, near La Houssoie, France, in thick mist, an officer in charge of a patrol (Lieutenant Philip Brown) was shot through both thighs. Private Kenny, although repeatedly fired on by the enemy, crawled about for more than an hour with his wounded officer on his back, trying to find his way through the fog to the British trenches. He refused to leave the officer although told several times to do so, and at last, utterly exhausted, left him in a comparatively safe ditch and went for help. He found a rescue party and guided them to the wounded officer who was then brought to safety.

Private Kenny was the first soldier in the Durham Light Infantry to be awarded the VC in the First World War.

In addition to this act, during the Battle of the Somme, on 17 July 1916, Thomas saved Private Frank Moody’s life by carrying him to safety after he had received a serious gunshot wound to his leg.

Post-war, he worked at Wingate Colliery until 1927 and then returned to Wheatley Hill Colliery as a stoneman and drifter where “The Kenny Drift” was named after him. During the Second World War he served in the Home Guard. After an underground accident in 1944, he became a surface worker.

Upon his death he was buried in an unmarked grave until an appeal was launched by members of The Faithful Inkerman Dinner Club and a headstone was added in August 1994. His VC is privately held.

Filed under: WW1