North Merchiston Cemetery, Edinburgh - 28 April 2001

Owing to vandalism, neglect and the uncertainty of the future of North Merchiston Cemetery in Edinburgh, efforts by the Royal Highland Fusiliers to place a marker over the unmarked plot of Private Charles Kennedy had been thwarted.

However, recently Edinburgh City Council decided to take over the cemetery, clearing unwanted trees, bushes and undergrowth allowing the marking of Charles Kennedy's grave to go ahead. The ceremony took place on the 28th April 2001, 94 years after his funeral. It was organised by the Royal Highland Fusiliers and attended by two relatives, one from Canada who had carried out extensive research into Kennedy.

Charles Thomas Kennedy was born in Westport, Edinburgh on 6th January 1876 and owing to the depression in 1891 joined the 2nd Battalion, Highland Light Infantry. He spent the next three years training and taking part in manoeuvres with the regiment before it was posted to service in India in 1894. Whilst Kennedy was with the Regiment in India he took part in the supression of an uprising on the North West Frontier, the HLI being part of the Malakand Field Force. Charles Kennedy returned to Scotland in 1898 after completing his seven year enlistment term, and was placed on reserve status. However, a little over a year later the 2nd Boer War erupted and Kennedy was recalled to the colours in October 1899.

As part of the Highland Brigade, the Highland Light Infantry's first major action was in the disastrous battle of Magersfontein. Charles Kennedy also participated in the decisive encircling operation that became known as Wittebergen which resulted in the capture of a large portion of the Boer forces. In the days that followed the Boers resorted to well organised guerilla tactics. As a counter-measure, most regiments, including the HLI, were broken into smaller units and then given assignments to guard certain towns and villages.

Kennedy's company was assigned to the garrison at Dewetsdorp which is about forty miles south-east of Bloemfontein, the capital of Orange Free State. On the 18th November 1900 they were attacked by Boer forces led by Christian DeWet which took a position on one side of the hills overlooking the town. Private Kennedy and six other men volunteered to retake the position. Private McGregor, one of the seven, went to get some water but was shot down. Kennedy immediately went to his aid.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 18 October 1901 ]. Dewetsdorp, South Africa, 22 November 1900, Private Charles Kennedy, 1st Bn, The Highland Light Infantry.

Carried a comrade, who was dangerously wounded and bleeding to death, from Gibralter Hill to the hospital, a distance of three-quarters of a mile, under a very hot fire. On the following day, volunteers having been called for to take a message to the Commandant across a space over which it was almost certain death to venture, Private Kennedy at once stepped forward. He did not, however, succeed in delivering the message, as he was severely wounded before he had gone twenty yards.
Charles Kennedy was invested with his Victoria Cross by King Edward VII at St James' Palace on the 17th December 1901.

He subsequently failed to meet the Army's physical requirements owing to his wound and was discharged from the Service on 25th June 1902. He then returned to Edinburgh.

At Edinburgh on 24th April 1907, he was again called on to show his bravery when a horse bolted with a contractor's cart in Leith Walk and in attempting to stop it he was knocked down and the wheels passed over him. Kennedy died on the way to the Royal Infirmary and was buried in the North Merchiston Cemetery on 28th April 1907. Following Kennedy's funeral however, a headstone was not erected over his grave.

Medal entitlement of Private Charles Kennedy - 2nd Bn, Highland Light Infantry

  • Victoria Cross
  • India Medal ( 1895-1902 )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Punjab Frontier 1897-98"
  • Queen's South Africa Medal ( 1899-1902 )
    • 3 clasps:
    • "Cape Colony" - "Paardeberg" - "Wittebergen"


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Iain Stewart, 26 September 2002