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Thursday, 30 July 2015

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Grandad Eddie has lots of tales to tell

A WAR books author who claimed to be the last man alive to have served in all three services of the Navy, the Army and the Airforce, has been challenged in his claim by news that Whitehaven’s Eddie Kennedy has the same distinction.

in the services: Eddie Kennedy, who has served in all three of the armed services

Robert Widders, author of the acclaimed Spitting On A Soldier’s Grave, served in all three branches of the armed services.

In his first book, A Few Deeds Short of a Hero, Liverpool-born Widders makes the claim in tracking his own life from childhood through naval service in the NATO rapid response Atlantic Squadron during the Cold War, through Army military manoeuvres in Germany, and active service in RAF Field Hospitals during the Gulf War.

Eddie Kennedy, 77, who lives at Sneckyeat Grove, Hensingham, has never heard of Mr Widders but knows that he too served in all three services and is still very much alive!

When Eddie joined Kells British Legion they asked him for his discharge papers – he supplied four lots, from the Royal Navy, Border Regiment, REME and RAF Regiment.

Mr Kennedy was only 17 when in 1951 he left his parent’s home at Gameriggs Road, Greenbank, to join the Royal Navy. He was being trained to be an electrician and served at Portsmouth and Warrington before deciding it wasn’t for him and, after just one year, he left.

He was called up for National Service in December 1952 and served as a Lance Corporal with the Border Regiment in Egypt and Cyprus. On discharge he worked locally at Marchon and with John Laing construction in labouring jobs until 1956 when he joined REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers). He served with them in Germany for three years until 1959 after which he signed up with the RAF Regiment.

He stayed with the RAF until 1970, leaving when he was aged 36. During that time he served in Singapore, where he did 13 para jumps (“I was terrible at landing!’’), Malaya, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Muscat and Oman. During 1969/70 Senior Aircraftsman Kennedy did a turn in Northern Ireland.

After leaving the forces he worked as a scaffolder at Sellafield and later as an industrial radiographer for a firm called Maple, in Iran. Subsequently he worked for International Combustion in the Sudan and for a while in Holland, taking retirement when he was 65.

Quite a varied career for grandad Eddie who has a son, daughter and four step-children. Nowadays he undertakes more leisurely pursuits such as gardening and walking his rescue dog, springer spaniel Jet.

It was local historian Ray Devlin, an ex-serviceman, who spotted the anomaly in Mr Widders’ claim, as he knew Eddie had served in all three armed forces.

Mr Widders, who now lives in Bristol, said this week: “I’m absolutely thrilled to hear about Eddie Kennedy, I have always hoped to find someone else who has served in all three services. It would be great to meet him one day. And if I ever publish a second edition of the book, I’ll make due mention of him in it. Please pass on my best wishes to Mr Kennedy.’’

Spitting On a Soldier’s Grave was, acclaimed as “an amazing story of heroism and betrayal’’. It told about the 5,000 Irish soldiers who fought with the Allies in World War II and returned home to face court martial and be banned from working for seven years.

Mr Widder called upon the Irish government to grant a pardon to the few who are still alive and it has said the matter is “under active consideration’’.

It wasn’t just the soldiers themselves who suffered. In some cases their children were taken from them, condemned in court, and sentenced to a childhood of abuse in the Industrial Schools.

Mr Widders’ latest book,The Emperor's Irish Slaves, about Japanese PoWs, will be published next week.

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