Henry Kelly (VC) : biography
Major Henry Kelly VC, MC & Bar (10 July 1887 – 18 July 1960) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Kelly was born on 10 July 1887 in Collyhurst, Manchester. He was a temporary second lieutenant in the 10th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment during the First World War at the time of his award of the Victoria Cross in 1916. He was awarded a Military Cross and later a Bar to that medal in Italy in 1918. Other Military awards include the Belgian Croix de guerre, the French Médaille militaire and the Spanish Grand Laurelled Cross of San Fernando.
Kelley continued to work for the Post Office and lived in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester. Following a long illness Kelly died, on 18 January 1960, in Prestwich Hospital. He was buried after a private funeral, attended by members of his family and representatives of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding), in the Southern Cemetery, Manchester.
Between the wars
Kelly went on to join the ‘International Brigade’, in 1936, as a foreign volunteer fighting against Fascists in the Spanish Civil War and was ranked Commandente Generale. Here he was awarded the Grand Laurelled Cross of San Fernando.
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, aged 52, he rejoined the British army and served from thence as a Lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment. From October 1943 until February 1944 he was placed in charge of the District Claims office of London District, at Curzon Street. He was at that time Court Martialled and severely reprimanded for making, an allegedly, false claim for £2 10s. He later resigned his commission and left the army to return to work for the Post Office.Duke of Wellington’s Regimental Archives, Regimental Headquarters, Wellesley Park, Halifax. West Yorkshire
Kelly’s Victoria Cross is displayed in The Duke of Wellington’s Regimental Museum, located within the Bankfield Museum, Halifax, West Yorkshire, England.
Henry Kelly was born to Charles Kelly of Dublin and Jane (née McGarry) of Manchester. He was left the oldest of 10 children after his father died in 1904. He was educated at St Patrick’s School, Manchester and the Xaverian College at Victoria Park in Manchester. After moving to King Street in Moston he was employed as a sorting clerk at the Newton Street sorting office and trained with the ‘Manchester Royal Engineers territorial Regiment’. On 5 September 1914, aged 27, he enlisted into the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders as a Private. He transferred to the Manchester Regiment and became a Lance Corporal and two weeks later a Sergeant Major. He was commissioned as a second Lieutenant on 12 May 1915 into the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding Regiment). On 29 October 1918 he was awarded the Victoria Cross and after being presented with his VC ribbon, by the corps commander on 11 September he was made a Temporary Lieutenant.[History of the Service Battalions of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding Regiment) In The great War 1914-1918, by Major General DE Isles CB OBE DL, Colonel of the Regiment 1975-1982, Reuben Holroyd Print, Halifax, West Yorkshire, England ]
Award of Victoria Cross
On 4 October 1916, when he was 29 years old, he performed an act of bravery at Le Sars, France for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Later he was also awarded the Belgian Croix de guerre and the French Médaille militaire.
"For most conspicuous bravery in an attack. He twice rallied his company under the heaviest fire, and finally led the only three available men into the enemy trench, and there remained bombing until two of them had become casualties and enemy reinforcements had arrived. He then carried his Company Sergeant Major, who had been wounded, back to our trenches, a distance of 70 yards, and subsequently three other soldiers. He set a fine example of gallantry and endurance."