KENNA, Paul Aloysius  [1862-1915]

It was for his bravery in the famed Battle of Omdurman that Paul Aloysius Kenna, then a captain in the 21st Lancers, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

He was born in Liverpool on 16th August 1862 the son of James Kenna, a prosperous cattle trader, and his wife Julia (née Kearney). Both his parents were Irish, coming to Liverpool in the 1850s. At the time of Paul’s birth the family lived at 87 Everton Road L6, later moving to ‘The Oaks’, Oakfield L4 and then 22 Richmond Terrace L6. All of these homes have since been demolished.

Paul attended St Francis Xavier’s School but when he was 11 his father died and the family moved to Ramsgate, Kent. Aged 17 he entered Stonyhurst College, studying there for two years.

In 1885 he entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and the following year was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the West Indian Regiment, serving in Jamaica and Sierra Leone. A keen and capable horseman he soon found his way into a cavalry regiment, joining the 21st Hussars, serving in India, where he was promoted to captain in 1895.In July 1895 he married Lady Cecilia Josephine Bertie, but tragically his young bride died just 3 months later from typhoid fever. It was in a state of near suicidal depression that in 1896 he sailed for Egypt, to serve under Kitchener in his campaign against the Mahdi, Khalifa Abdalli.

It was at the battle of Omdurman, on 2nd September 1898 that Kenna’s actions led to his Victoria Cross. His citation reads

At the battle of Omdurman on the 2nd September 1898 Captain P A Kenna assisted Major Crole-Wyndham…by taking him on his horse, behind saddle (Major Wyndham’s horse having been killed in the charge) thus enabling him to reach a place of safety; and after the charge of the 21st Lancers, Captain Kenna returned to assist Lieutenant de Montmorency who was endeavouring to recover the body of Lieutenant R G Grenfell.

He also received the Khedive’s Medal with Khartoum clasp. His Victoria Cross investiture took place at Osborne House where he was further honoured by being invited to dine in private with Queen Victoria.

Kenna then served in the Boer War, being mentioned in dispatches and being awarded the Queen’s Medal with six clasps and the King’s Medal with two clasps. His contribution to the war effort was described by Lord Kitchener as “invariably excellent”. The end of the Boer War saw him appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and promoted to Major. He saw further service in Sudan before returning to England where, in 1905, he married Angela Hibbert, the couple having two daughters.

Kenna also became a celebrated equestrian and was captain of the British team at the 1912 Olympic Games at Stockholm.

The outbreak of the First World War saw him out in command of the Notts and Derby Mounted Brigade with the rank of brigadier general. Taking part in the Gallipoli Campaign Kenna was killed by a single sniper shot at Suvla Bay on 30th August. He was buried in the cemetery at Suvla Bay.

There is a memorial plaque to Kenna at St Francis’ Xavier school in Beaconsfield Road, Woolton and at Stonyhurst College.

Kenna's grave


There is a comprehensive chapter on Paul Kenna in James Murphy's excellent book Liverpool V.C.'s [Pen & Sword 2008]. The Wikipedia entry is very basic.