No. 7012717, Royal Ulster Rifles and No. 4 Commando
Died of wounds on Wednesday 19 August 1942 (aged 24)
Troon Cemetery, Ayrshire, Scotland (Section J. 1. Grave 113)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s)
James Keenan was born on 18 May 1918 in Greyabbey and he was the second surviving son of James and Annie Keenan (nee McCready) who lived in Greyabbey and later at 24 Corry Street, Newtownards. James Keenan Senior worked as an agricultural labourer/farm servant and he and Annie McCready were married on 25 June 1909 in Trinity Presbyterian Church Greyabbey. James Keenan was a son of Samuel Keenan, a labourer. Annie McCready was a daughter of John McCready, a labourer.
James and Annie Keenan (nee McCready) had at least five children:
Sarah Jane (born 6 June 1910 in Greyabbey)
Robert Brown (born 13 September 1912 in Greyabbey)
Mary (born 28 December 1914 in Greyabbey; her father was at Clandeboye serving with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles)
James (born prematurely 12 January 1916 in Greyabbey; his father was in France serving with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles; died of debility 14 January 1916)
James (born 18 May 1918 in Greyabbey; his father was in France serving with the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles)
During the Great War James Keenan Senior served with the Royal Irish Rifles and was wounded in France. At the outbreak of the Second World War he volunteered again for service but was turned down because of his age.
James Keenan Junior joined the Royal Ulster Rifles in 1933 and volunteered for service in a Commando Battalion. He and Jeanie Jess Barry of Troon in Scotland were married in Troon in April 1942, some four months before James died. In July 1942 James and Jess Keenan spent some time in Newtownards during his last spell of home leave.
James’s sister Sarah married Arthur Eccles on 28 March 1936 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s).
Lance Corporal James Keenan (No. 7012717) died of wounds on 19 August 1942 following the raid on Dieppe in France by British, Canadian, American and French forces. Having sustained serious injuries, he was found unconscious on the battlefield and conveyed to one of the ships waiting offshore to bring the raiders back to England. He died on board ship and his body was taken to Scotland (where his wife lived) for interment. His parents, James and Annie Keenan, travelled over from Newtownards for the funeral on 29 August 1942.
In a letter to Lance Corporal James Keenan’s wife, Lieutenant Colonel the Lord Lovat MC wrote, ‘I wish to take this opportunity of expressing my deepest sympathy in your bereavement. Your husband behaved magnificently and was a credit to his Commando and his Country. There is little one can say on these occasions, but perhaps it will be of comfort to know that he died in the hour of victory. No man could have done more’.
Lance Corporal James Keenan’s wife and parents placed separate Killed on Active Service notices in the 5 September 1942 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle and the one from his parents, brothers and sisters contained the verse:
The news was sad, the blow was hard,
God’s will, it shall be done,
With a manly heart he did his part,
And a crown of victory won
In subsequent years they placed Our Heroes – In Memoriam notices in the Newtownards Chronicle and the notices contained different verses.
1943 Our Heroes – In Memoriam:
May the heavenly winds blow softly
O’er that sweet and hallowed spot,
Th8ough the sea divides us from your grave,
You will never be forgot.
1944 Our Heroes – In Memoriam:
Two years have passed since that sad day,
When one we loved was called away;
His heart was good, his spirit brave,
His resting-place a soldier’s grave.
1945 Our Heroes – In Memoriam:
Friends may think he is forgotten,
But the wound’s as fresh today,
As when he left us broken hearted
Just three years ago today.
Lance Corporal James Keenan (No. 7012717) was buried in Troon Cemetery, Ayrshire, Scotland, and there is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:
TO BE WITH US
IN THE SAME OLD WAY
WOULD BE OUR DEAR WISH TODAY
Lance Corporal James Keenan (No. 7012717) is commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St. Mark’s).