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15-25 August 1917
Home>> Battle of Hill 70 >> Our Stories >> 2nd Lieutenant William Kenneth Rooney

2nd Lieutenant William Kenneth Rooney

Mr. Richard Rooney has provided us with the story of his grandfather, 2nd Lieutenant William Kenneth Rooney, who served in WWI.  Lieutenant Rooney maintained a diary relating his experiences during the war and the excerpts for the month of August 1917 are included in this story from Richard Rooney:
 
"My grandfather, William Rooney, was born near Enniskillen in northern Ireland, on July 9th, 1893. As a teenager, he served in the local militia before coming to Canada as a seventeen year old in 1911.  He joined the 18th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914.  He was made a sergeant almost immediately, and received his officer's commission in March 1917.
 
By the time of the attack on Hill 70, he had been wounded three times, at St. Eloi Crater, Courcelette and Vimy. The Hill 70 entries in his diary are the last ones for 1917, ending with a horrific artillery direct hit on his company and the death of his close friend, the heroic 19 year old Lieutenant Tommy Dougall, M.C. 
 
After his fourth wound in April 1918, William Rooney was sent to an officer’s convalescent facility in England to recover from severe shell shock. 
 
He was sent back to lead a platoon in the final weeks of the war, 24 years old, walking with a cane due to his three leg wounds, and still suffering from the headaches, tinnitus and insomnia that plagued him for the rest of his life.  He came home with his Welsh war bride, raised prize dahlias and my father and never, ever discussed the war. He worked at the Imperial Oil refinery in Sarnia as he had before the war.
 
On Remembrance Day 1936 he took his own life. I never met him but he has always been my hero."
 
August 1917 diary entries – 2nd Lieut William Rooney, D Company 18th Battalion CEF
 
August 6 – Practicing for attack on Hill 70
 
Shell hits mess huts D Coy. 35 killed 40 odd wounded Horrible sight.
 
August 10 – Line to left of Lievin
 
August 14 – Slightly wounded – narrow escape by gas shell
 
August 15 – Attack on Hill 70 a howling success all kinds of Huns killed
 
August 17 – Relieved Bully Grenay
 
August 18 – out for rest to Bouvigny Woods tomorrow.  Going to Barlin to bury my chum 2 Lieut Tommy Dougall 21 badly cut up and crying.
 
Under August 20, but perhaps referring to Aug 6-7 entry – bad business.  Shell lands in mess hut D Company.  83 casualties mostly killed.  I have burial party (illegible) in afternoon.  Awful mess trying to sort out the pieces (illegible) unrecognizable.         Last Entry for 1917
 
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