- Feb 8, 2007
- Land of Swine and Maple Syrup
I certainly believe that LCol Russ Kennedy deserves a place of remembrance here, his story is one from the history books.
War hero saved 2,500 soldiers
Posted By IAN ELLIOT, THE WHIG-STANDARD
Posted 5 hours ago
A Queen's University engineering professor who played a key role in the Battle of Arnhem has died.
Flags at the university will be flying at half staff until Monday in memory of Russ Kennedy, who won a Military Cross for bravery under fire and whose daring night rescue of stranded paratroopers was featured in the book and movieA Bridge Too Far.
Arnhem could have been a slaughter had not Kennedy and his fellow Canadian engineers evacuated the trapped paratroopers.
Kennedy, who was a lieutenant and the reconnaissance officer for the 23rd Field Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers, was ordered to scout ahead to where tens of thousands of paratroops were on the north side of the Lower Rhine River under heavy attack and find out how to get them back to safety.
A boatlift was organized under cover of darkness, and in a self-published book 50 years later, Kennedy remembers hauling 500-pound wooden stormboats into the river in the darkness and having them come back overloaded with troops rowing with rifle butts and paddles when the temperamental outboards broke down.
Many boats didn't come back at all as the Germans raked the area with heavy fire.
"The machine-guns were still firing, the bullets making interesting patterns on the water around us, but they never actually got onto us," he recalled of one of the treacherous crossings, years later.
"A single projectile hit the man who was jammed under my right elbow, with a sound like the blow of a club. He jerked once and never moved again."
The after-action report credits Kennedy with pulling off the difficult operation that saved 2,500 men and he was the last person to come off the river as the sun rose in the morning.
Kennedy was decorated for bravery and returned to Queen's in 1946 where he helped establish the school's coastal engineering laboratory.
He also serve with the school's officer corps, which he commanded from 1951 to 1958, retiring as a lieutenant-colonel.
"He was a war hero of some significance, but he never talked about it," said city lawyer Dave Bonham, who knew Kennedy for more than 30 years.
"He was a very soft-spoken man, but he knew how to get attention when the situation required it."
Bonham was a vice-principal of finance at Queen's at the time Kennedy served in several challenging positions, including associate dean of graduate studies and vice-principal of administration.
"Those were very demanding jobs, but he handled them well," Bonham recalled.
"He was a hard worker in everything he did and a very capable leader. Everyone liked him and I have nothing but fond memories of Russ."
Kennedy and his wife, Marjorie, had four children, and Dorrance remembers summers on the Rideau Canal in a houseboat her father and brothers built themselves.
"They built it in the evenings and it wasn't much too look at, just a big wooden box on pontoons, really, but it was well-built and we'd take it to Ottawa and all over."
Kennedy, born in Dunrobin, northwest of Ottawa, studied civil engineering at Queen's and joined the part-time Canadian Officers Training Corps before enlisting in the regular force in 1941, a short time after he earned his degree.
Last year, he donated a 58-hectare tree farm northwest of Kingston for use by engineering students as a field station where they can practise the theoretical principles they learn in the classroom.
Kennedy, who retired in 1983, is honoured with a plaque mounted on the second floor of Ellis Hall recognizing his achievements and 40 years of service to the school.
Article ID# 2616418