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(Posted 1:30 a.m., Nov. 10)
Remembering two generations of Canadian war heroes

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

I.F. ‘Hap’ Kennedy (top) and R.J. Kennedy were among two generations of young men who fought in the First and Second World Wars. Both returned home unscathed to serve their community for many years afterwards. File photos

In an era when the word “hero” is bandied about at the drop of the hat, it seems fitting that we should remember three men who epitomized the true meaning of the word.

Robert James Kennedy left his family’s farm in Cumberland Village in 1914 at the of 22 to join the Canadian Expedition Force. He was one of 30,000 Canadian boys who made up the First Canadian Division.

As a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery, he saw action in every major battle of the Great War until he was wounded in August, 1917 when a German shell hit his gunpit. He made a full recovery from his injuries and sent home.

He survived the first mustard gas attacks at Ypres in April, 1915, and he was written up in the War Dispatches for his “Gallant and distinguished service in the field” during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

When he returned to Cum-berland, Kennedy married his childhood sweetheart, Eva Farmer, and the two of them settled down and raised a family together.

Kennedy would go on to serve as both reeve and treasurer of Cumberland Township, while Eva was the village nurse and mid-wife, delivering countless babies. The couple also had six children of their own. The three eldest boys all served during the Second World War.

Irving Farmer “Hap” Kennedy joined the Royal Air Force in 1940, shortly after his 18th birthday.

He would eventually become a fighter pilot and in October 1942, he was assigned to a Spitfire squadron based out of Malta in the Mediterranean.

Eight months later he was awarded the first of two Distin-guished Flying Crosses he would receive during the war for exceptional service.

“Hap” Kennedy flew combat missions on a continuous basis over North Africa and Sicily for nearly a year, pausing only once for two days leave.

In February, 1944 he was shipped back to England where he spent his time training other pilots until the opportunity came to rejoin the fray after the Normandy invasion.

After flying countless missions and barely suffering a scratch, Hap’s luck finally ran out in the skies above France. His Spitfire was disabled by anti-aircraft fire and he was forced to bail out.

Once on the ground, he was rescued by a group of French partisans. It took nearly a month for him to make his way back to the front lines and eventually England.

Before he was to report to his next assignment, Hap was given two weeks leave. He decided to use some of his time to visit his younger brother “Tot” who had been transferred to a nearby base after completing bomber training.

When Hap dropped by the mess to inquire about his brother, he was told that Tot had just been buried that same morning. He died when the bomber he had been assigned, crashed while attempting to land after completing their first mission to Germany.

After the death of his brother, “Hap” Kennedy was mustered out of the air force and back to Canada.

He returned to Cumberland Village where he served the community as the local doctor for three decades until he retired to nearby Chickadee Wood with his wife Fern.

Carleton “Tot” Kennedy was one of four Cumberland lads who would never return home. The others are Billy Lough, Cecil McFadden and David Irwin.

They paid the ultimate sacrifice and are therefore among the truest of heroes who we honour every year on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

 

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