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The Harry Kenwright Story

Harry’s entry in the school register can still be found today. The school looks after these records with some pride. He is number 953 and his brothers Walter and Cliff are on this page too. We are so blessed that Walter and Elisabeth sent all their children to our school.

Harry’s friends refer to him being the nicest and most popular of men. He undoubtedly would have enjoyed a happy school life. He was clearly a very talented singer and had the honour of being a soloist at St Elphins parish church.

St Elphin's church

After finishing school, Harry became a printer for the Warrington Examiner. The newspaper started publishing in 1875 but is no longer in existence.

Harry's work

Life in the Army

At the start of the Second World War, Harry was still working for the Warrington Examiner. However, during 1940 when the position looked precarious for the Allied Forces, he joined up with the Irish Guards. This was a prestigious Regiment and on 17th June, 1941 he was transferred to the newly created Armoured Division (2nd Battalion). This would have been quite a challenge as he and most of his fellow soldiers had never even driven a car before!

They remained in the UK, training, until 13th June, 1944 when they set off to Normandy to support the D-Day landings of the previous week.

Harry by this time had been promoted to Sergeant and commanded a Sherman Firefly. This tank was fitted with a powerful 17 pounder anti tank gun as its main weapon.  It became highly valued as the gun could penetrate the German tanks in a way that the other Sherman’s could not. In recognition of this, German crews were instructed to attack Fireflies first. Because they had a visibly longer barrel crews tried to camouflage it.


After breaking out of the Normandy beachhead they advanced east of Caen heading for Belgium and Holland. On the 29th July, 1944 they crossed the River Seine. By this time the German Army in France had reached near total collapse. Since Normandy the terrain had changed for the battalion and the countryside became much more open and flowing. The advance was now generally along a road with sufficient air support to brush aside any opposition. Driving through the local towns and villages, the population was so very grateful for their liberation. Harry would have enjoyed seeing all the flag waving crowds.


During the Ardennes offensive, the Battalion experienced bitterly cold weather which forced the tanks to start their engines every hour to prevent diesel fuel from freezing. The winter of 1944/45 was one of the coldest on record. The Battalion spent much time in Landen and Tilburg, the latter being the last location before making the advance over the Rhine into Germany. It is from about this time that we have a fantastic photograph of Harry and Number 3 Troop. John Bent and Harry have been identified on the picture.


Harry is on the front row and John is pictured, second row far left.

On March 30th, 1945 they crossed the Rhine at Rees in NW Germany. Engineers had laid down pontoon bridges for them to drive over. This was to be the final push to end the war in Europe. Tragically, Harry was to be killed three days later when he entered Gildehaus in the lead tank. Soldiers from the 3rd

Battalion had seen a German Stug concealed at the side of the road and tried to warn Harry’s tank not to go any further forward. Unfortunately, they did not get the message in time. The tank, whose crew was Harry, Eager, Doades and Hetherington, took a direct hit. Doades was the driver and he bailed out to the left only to be shot dead by a Fallschirmjager (these were paratroopers and were seen as an elite unit of the German military). Hetherington and Eager bailed out right into an open sewer and escaped. Harry jumped off the rear and was hit by a shell that threw him down the road.  John Bent, with some of his comrades, had the horrible task of burying him in a nearby field before continuing their journey through the heart of Germany. John was captured on April 21st, 1945 but survived the war to lead a happy life. Oakwood Avenue School were immensely proud to meet him in 2017 and listen to his & Harry’s story and also participate at the Memorial Service held in honour of Harry. Both these brave men and all the other soldiers who fought in the War, ensured that all future generations could enjoy the freedom that we often take for granted today. Harry and John will be honoured forever by our pupils.

At the end of the war Harry’s grave was moved to the CWGC cemetery at Rheinberg. He is named on the Padgate War Memorial in Warrington.


There is one mystery that remains about the events of April 2nd, 1945. Harry’s younger brother John Kenwright wrote to Chris Bent in October 2017. He remembered Hetherington coming to visit his Mum Elisabeth in 1946 (John was 12 at the time) and saying he was so sorry as it was he who should have died rather than Harry. He claimed that once the tank was hit he had carried on firing his gun from the top of the tank and Harry had to come back for him to get him to run for cover. As a result of this, Harry was then hit by the shell that killed him. We will never know what actually happened on that fateful day, but regardless, Harry will always be a hero for our school.                                            

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