Private Edward McKernan


Edward McKernan (or McKarnon) was born on 8 July 1888 at 50 Osborne Street, Belfast, the fourth of ten children of gardener (later shipyard helper) James McKernan and his wife Eliza (nee Finnigan). By the time of the 1911 Census he was living at 4 Hillfoot Street, Belfast, with his parents and five siblings and working as a ship's caulker.

On 9 July 1913 he married Florence Gardner at the Belmont Presbyterian Church, Belfast. The couple had two children before Florence's death in February 1917.

McKernan enlisted in the North Irish Horse on 17 August 1914 (No.1016). Despite having no prior military experience, he embarked for France with C Squadron just three days later, seeing action on the retreat from Mons and advance to the Aisne.

He was wounded on 30 May 1915 and again in July – on the latter occasion a slight knee wound. Following treatment at No.24 General Hospital, Etaples, he was evacuated to England, where on 11 July he was admitted to the Herne Bay Hospital in Kent.

After recovering from his wound, on 28 September 1915 McKernan was transferred to the Royal Irish Rifles (No.6000) and posted to the 5th (Extra Reserve) Battalion at Holywood. Soon after, however, he was 'temporarily released from military duty for the purpose of working at his trade', reporting for duty at the Workman, Clark & Co. Belfast shipyards on 11 December 1915.

McKernan remained in this role until 13 February 1918, when the War Office requested that he report to the Trade Testing Centre, Old Town Hall, Charlton, Woolwich. His skills were examined and he was found to be 'proficient' as a caulker, and on 21 February 1918 he was transferred to the Royal Engineers (Inland Waterways and Docks) (No. WR/300378) and posted to Richborough in Kent. On 22 May 1918 his skills as a caulker were reclassified as 'superior'.

McKernan remained in this role until the end of the war. On 8 January 1919 he was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve.

After the war McKernan returned to work as a caulker in the Belfast shipyards. On 9 April 1921 he married widow Sarah Geddis (nee Burgess) in the Mountpottinger Unitarian Church, Belfast.