Hero of Great War earns respect due to him in Spalding

Cecilia Mann of Kent, granddaughter of WWI Royal Marine Reservist Richard Fennessy, lays a wreath at her grandmother's grave where a memorial plaque is also in place for him, watched by Spalding RBL vice chairman Frank White, ex-Royal Marine Lee Mallott, RBL graves registration officer Cheryl Arnold and Nicola Gay.  Photo by Tim Wilson.
Cecilia Mann of Kent, granddaughter of WWI Royal Marine Reservist Richard Fennessy, lays a wreath at her grandmother's grave where a memorial plaque is also in place for him, watched by Spalding RBL vice chairman Frank White, ex-Royal Marine Lee Mallott, RBL graves registration officer Cheryl Arnold and Nicola Gay. Photo by Tim Wilson.
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A Royal Marine Reservist who died on one of the Royal Navy’s darkest ever days has finally been paid the respect he is due - in Spalding.

Richard Fennessy was one of 1,459 victims when three British cruisers were sunk by a German submarine off the Dutch coast, exactly seven weeks after the UK declared war on Germany at the outbreak of World War I.

A special service took place on Sunday at Spalding Cemetery, where a commemorative headstone to Mr Fennessy lies, which was attended by his granddaughter Cecilia Mann of Chatham, Kent, from where the HMS Aboukir and the two other cruisers were sent out in August 1914.

She said: “I started researching my maternal grandfather in the 1970s and the main thing I wanted to do was to give him the respect he is due as a Royal Marine.

“My grandfather was born in 1881 after his family came from Ireland to live in London and he was a choir boy at Brompton Oratory before working as a clerk in London.

“He then signed up with the Royal Marines Light Infantry when he was 17 and served as a regular for nine years, most of it spent training on ships.

The gravestone for Richard and Ethel Fennessy at Spalding Cemetery.  Photo by Cheryl Arnold, RBL Graves Registration Officer.

The gravestone for Richard and Ethel Fennessy at Spalding Cemetery. Photo by Cheryl Arnold, RBL Graves Registration Officer.

“But my grandfather did see some military action in China where he was wounded and then discharged from the regular Royal Marines.”

Mr Fennessy’s training saw him sign on as a Royal Marines Reservist whilst working as a postman in south London, by which time he had married Miss Mann’s grandmother Ethel Maud Brown and together had four children, including a son.

Miss Mann said: “In 1914, war was declared and the Royal Marine Reservists were the first to be called up.

“When my grandfather left the family home, the last thing he said was ‘look after the boy’.

When my grandfather left his house, the last thing he said was ‘look after the boy’

Cecilia Mann of Kent

“He then boarded the HMS Aboukir which was torpedoed by a German U Boat on September 22, 1914.

“The devastation that one man’s death caused to a widow with four children was something I learned when I was about 12 and stayed with my grandmother on a farm in Pinchbeck where she told me about my grandfather.hen my grandmother died in 1961, my aunt chose to lay her to rest in Spalding and she decided to add an inscription in the cemetery for my grandfather as well.

“I’m very glad she did and so I chose St Valentine’s Day on which to have a small service where former Royal Marine could say the Royal Marine’s prayer.”

Lee Mallott RM of Wisbech, who read the prayer which speaks of “gallantry and honour, loyalty and courage”, said: ”It was an honour and a pleasure to be asked to read the Royal Marines’ Prayer and remember Richard Fennessy.

Spalding Cemetery, Pinchbeck Road, Spalding, grand-daughter of WWI Royal Marine coming from Hants to lay wreath at war graves, Cecilia 01634401189
Vice Chair RBL Frank White, Cecilia Mann, Lee Mallott, Cheryl Arnold, Nicola Gay ANL-160215-102818001

Spalding Cemetery, Pinchbeck Road, Spalding, grand-daughter of WWI Royal Marine coming from Hants to lay wreath at war graves, Cecilia 01634401189 Vice Chair RBL Frank White, Cecilia Mann, Lee Mallott, Cheryl Arnold, Nicola Gay ANL-160215-102818001

“It was a quiet, moving and poignant way to reflect the ethos of the Royal Marines.”

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