Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day - Remembering Joseph McKenna

Over the last few months, I have been researching the military records for my ancestors. I'm always looking for a story about their life so I can feel a deeper connection with them. They are more than just the birth and death dates on their headstone (if they have one). 
Since it was Memorial Day it was fitting to look into one of my ancestors who died in service for their country. I have been tagging members of my family tree with a "Died in service" or "Killed in action" tag to help filter on those individuals I want to come back to. I want to memorialize each one of them. I researched one of my Canadian relatives today. 

My 2nd cousin 2x removed, Joseph Alphonsus McKenna, died on August 19, 1942 in France. He served in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Using his Find a Grave memorial, his service file, and some creative Googling, I learned his story of sacrifice.
Joseph enlisted at the age of 18 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He was a farmer, working on his father's farm. He left high school at 14, only attending one year. His mother had died earlier that year. I wonder if Joseph was feeling lost at the time.
His rank was ordinary seaman and he moved up the ranks to an able seaman, working on different ships (listed in his service file).

According to his Find a Grave bio, he was involved with the Dieppe raid. He was shot in the chest and killed instantly while manning a Lewis gun on one of the landing craft.
I found the memoirs of A.G. Kirby posted on a blog that described what he found the next morning:
"Evidently, poor Joe had taken a burst of machine gun fire through the windscreen and with his chest torn asunder, collapsed into the bilge along with his Stoker. They both died immediately, we were told, and lay together in a pool of blood all the way home. For Joe and his English Stoker, R-84 had become a plywood coffin."

What an awful way to die.

McKenna's body was taken to Newhaven, England where he was buried in the cemetery there.
You can pay your respects to his memorial https://findagrave.com/memorial/159599101
Thank you Joseph for your service. You are not forgotten.

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