Gunner Michael Kehily | 119763

A daughter's pilgrimage

'The story of discovery about my father’s history in WW1 began for me last year when my son told me that that his friend, Andy, might be able to find out details of the part my father played in the war. 

Having passed on dad’s regiment and serial number, I was not expecting too much. But I now know that Andy spent many hours reading through War Diaries and he discovered that my father enlisted on 2nd April 1916 at Bandon, Cork, Ireland, in the 16th (Irish) Division. 

My father was aged 16, like so many others he lied about his age.

The War Diaries showed that my father saw action at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 at Flers-Courcelette and the Battle of Morval.

During the offensive in 1917 of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) my father received gunshot wounds to his right shoulder. 

Andy explained that he could not tell exactly where my father was injured but was he was taken to an Advance Dressing Station at a farm at Elverindge, called Marguerite Farm.  Years later when my oldest sister was born she was named Marguerita.  All of these details were unknown to any of the family. We felt very emotional and thrilled and we all were pleased to draw our own conclusions that our father had named his first-born daughter after the farm where he was treated for his wounds.

By the age of 20 dad was discharged from the RFA.  His pension records show that he was unable to use his right shoulder and arm, he was also 90% deaf.  

All of these details, and many more, were presented by Andy and we were all enthralled at seeing so much about what my father went through.

Andy then agreed to an encore, and a couple of weeks later he showed the presentation again to my surviving siblings,  my grandchildren, and other members of the family.   We were all in awe at how knowledgeable and interesting Andrew was, he brought our dad so close to us by enabling us to learn so much about his early life.  Andrew involved my youngest grandchild, aged nine, in assisting him with the Powerpoint slide deck which helped to gain the interest of the younger members of the family, who all became captivated by the story.

My sister Marguerita knows that dad was at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, where we presume the operation took place on his arm and shoulder after he was cleared out of France.  We recall that in later years our mother was told that it had been possible to save my father's arm  from amputation by the use of pioneering surgery.  This was only due to the fact that the injury was sustained towards the end of the war, had it been earlier his arm would have been amputated as there were so many casualties to be dealt with.  

We also learnt from our mother that the operating surgeon travelled around the country with dad demonstrating the technique he had used to other surgeons

In 1936 my father was in the hospital for disabled servicemen at Preston Hall, British Legion Village near Maidstone in Kent, whilst there he taught himself shorthand and eventually became a valuable member of the administration team until his early death on 9th November 1945, aged 46 years.

In November this year my husband and I, Michael and his wife travelled for a weekend with Andy to Somme and Ypres where he showed us the places that my father would have been in action and also Marguerite Farm, Elverdinge.  

Unknown to me Andrew had arranged that whilst we were in Ypres I would have the honour and privilege of laying a wreath during the Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony in memory of all who had died in WW1 and also in memory of my dad who did not die but suffered from his war wounds until the day he died. Andrew crafted something which we attached to the wreath and the penultimate line sums up Andrew’s passion that every man should be remembered. His choice of words come from a poem by Laurence Binyon which he read to us and which caused us all to have a tear in in our eyes, even Andrew.

I would need to write a book to try and include all the information Andrew gave me, he has the great gift of imparting knowledge in a very interesting way.  I am truly grateful for all the time and effort he put into finding out about just one man’s history. Andy deserves the fullest praise for the care and commitment he gave to his task.I understand that this is something Andy does a lot and, whenever he is offered payment, he suggests a donation to a charity.

I would have been unable to put so many of these facts together, without the incredible research provided by Andy.

Its impossible to describe how much all this has meant to me as I was only a one-year old baby when dad died so all of these details have given me a very revealing picture of what he must have gone through at such an early age.



The note attached to the wreath laid by Eileen

In memory of my father Gunner Michael Kehily 119763

16th (Irish) Division 75 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

My father enlisted on 2nd April 1916 at Bandon (near Cork), Ireland

Like so many others, he lied about his age - he was 16

Dad’s first experience of active service was in September 1916 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, Somme.

In 1917 the Division was resting 1km west of Elverdinge, Ypres in the build-up to what became the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). 

During the offensive in 1917, Dad received a ‘Blighty’ (gunshot wound, right shoulder). He survived, unlike so many others.

By the age of 20, Dad was discharged from the RFA. 

His pension records show that he was unable to use his right shoulder and right arm. He was also 90% deaf.

But Dad survived the war, unlike those whose memory this memorial commemorates with such dignity. 

Dad married my Mum. They had five sons and three daughters. 

Dad also committed himself to working at a hospital in Kent for Soldiers less fortunate than him. 

This became the Royal British Legion Hospital.

I don’t know where Dad was injured but we do know that he was treated for wounds at an Advance Dressing Station called Marguerite Farm, Elverdinge. Years later when my older sister was born, Dad named her ‘Marguerite’.

My older siblings told me that Dad struggled with his wounds and his deafness. 

In fact, he struggled with them for another 28 years until June 1945 when he died – yes, he was aged 45. 

I was aged 1.

And so, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, will you please remember all of them?

This wreath laid 2nd November 2019 with my son - named Michael.

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