Robert Kerr

Co. Fermanagh

Family Background

Corporal Kerr was the son of James and Matilda Kerr. He was born in September 1896 in a small village in County Fermanagh called Tempo. His father was a farmer and the family grew up in a farmhouse just outside of the village in the townland of Lettan.  Since the time of the Kerrs, the farmhouse at Lettan has been sold and renovated.

Family Life

Robert had five brothers: Henry, James, William John, Thomas and Edwin and two sisters: Alice and Annie. There was a total of 10 in the family.  Henry, Robert's older brother served in the  Enniskillen Horse 91550 and in the Tempo troop of the Ulster Volunteer Force. He also served in the 12th (Reserve) Inniskillings.  His younger brother, William was a Lieutenant Corporal in the 9th Battalion. He was killed in action at Ypres on 7th June 1917, aged 18. When each of the soldiers were given a bronze tin at Christmas 1914, William wrote to Copeland Trimble of the Impartial Reporter in April 1917, saying:

"I received the box of cigarettes alright which you sent me. They are always very welcome, as you know. I wish to thank you and all the subscribers to the fund for them. This leaves me quite well. Wishing you and your paper all the best of luck."

Robert's grandfather, also William John Kerr, enlisted in the Inniskillings on 30th December 1888 (Private 2790), therefore being in the Inniskillings was somewhat of a family tradition for the Kerrs.

Robert attended Tempo National School

His family were regular attenders of Tempo Church of Ireland

Adult life

As Robert was only 19 when he joined the army, he had very little adult life. He was yet to marry and have children.

Military Experience

Robert joined the 11th Inniskillings , 36th Ulster Division in Enniskillen in  July 1915. The division left Northern Ireland for England, spending three months training in Sussex before departing for France in the first week of October 1915. Robert was killed in action on the 1st July 1916 aged 20 during the Battle of Albert. He was hit by a shell while he was advancing with his mortar. The 1st July 1916 was a tragic day for the British army with 20,000 other British soldiers being killed. Robert is buried in Mill Road Cemetery, Thiepval. It has been passed down the family that when the telegram boy came to the Kerr household to share the bad news, Matilda, Robert's mother only said, "Which one is it?"  Matilda never recovered from the loss of her two sons and died aged 59.

Robert’s platoon commander, 2nd Lt. C.D. Waddell wrote to the Rev. J. Wilson in Tempo, saying:

“He was a fine non-commissioned officer and his death was very much regretted. He was one of many heroes who died that day carrying out their duty bravely and faithfully”.

Records of CPl Kerr

Robert is remembered in the Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour

Robert's death penny

Robert's bronze tin he received at Christmas 1914

Robert is commemorated in Tempo Parish Church along with his brother William. 

Robert won the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal

Robert's name in the Grave Registration Documents

Meeting Corporal Kerr's late nephew's wife 

Robert's parents' grave in Tempo Church of Ireland 

My Story

My name is Alison Glass and I am a Year 14 student at the Collegiate Grammar School, Enniskillen. When my History teacher first mentioned the My Adopted Soldier project, I knew it was exactly the programme for me. I loved the thought of bringing history into the modern era as well as meeting new friends from across the island of Ireland.

A number of girls in my class expressed interest and we each wrote a short essay on why we thought we should be chosen for the project and what talents we could bring to make it a huge success. 

When my teacher came to me a few months later and said my application was successful, I was delighted to be representing County Fermanagh. The project thus far has been an excellent experience and I cannot wait to travel to France when the other participants!

Corporal Robert Kerr is the soldier I was given to research. I began by searching his name on the internet until I had exhausted all possible websites. Through this I was able to find the Kerr family on the 1911 Census as well as Grave Registration Documents. 

My research

I then got my hands on the 'Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921'. This fantastic book is an Inniskillings Museum Publication which gave me an excellent insight into the life of Corporal Kerr and his brother, Robert who also had a page in the book.

In the 'Fermanagh War Memorial Book' I was able to find out that Corporal Kerr's medals are stored in the Inniskillings museum in Enniskillen and that he had gone to Tempo Church of Ireland where there is a plaque commemorating him. This immediately grabbed my attention as I myself am I Church of Ireland parishioner. It seemed to me, the next natural step in my research was to contact the Inniskillings museum and arrange a visit to the church.

The museum was able to show me Corporal Kerr's medals: the 1914-1917 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. They also gave me some useful background information about the 11th Inniskillings, 36th Ulster Division.

I was invited into the church by a parishioner who happened to know a lot of the history surrounding the other members of the congregation in the church. The lady not only showed me the grave of Corporal Kerr's mother and father, but also was able to point me in the direction of a family member and to the farmhouse at Lettan where Corporal Kerr was raised. My visit to the church was really the spark which set off my research!

meeting the relative

It was a fantastic coincidence that Corporal Kerr's late nephew's wife is a member of the congregation of my church, St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen. Therefore, I could get into contact with Mrs Hope Kerr with ease and gave her a call to see if she had any information about my soldier.

Hope kindly invited me to her house and when I arrived we talked about Corporal Kerr and she willingly told me all the information she knew.

Hope was able to show me Corporal Kerr's death penny and his bronze tin he received during Christmas,1914.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped me along the way with my research of Corporal Kerr, thus making it an extremely rewarding experience.

The Trip

Day 1

At 5.30am on the 26th June 2015, it was time to leave my small village in County Fermanagh and head up the motorway to Phoenix Park, Dublin. The group met at Ratra House where we prepared to make the exciting trip to Áras an Uachtaráin in order to meet President Higgins. 

A quick 'selfie' on the bus to Áras an Uachtaráin

Outside Áras an Uachtaráin

Another 'selfie' from outside Áras an Uachtaráin

After meeting the President, we headed straight to the airport and flew to Brussels, Belgium. Once we hit the ground again, we had a long bus journey to Albert, France where we had a rather interesting meal which was shortly followed by some much needed rest at the Ibis Hotel.

day 2

After an early start, we got back on the bus and travelled to the Lochnagar Crater, the largest crater from the war at almost 300ft (91m) in diameter and 70ft (21m) deep.

The Lochnagar Crater.

A poppy outside the crater.

After the crater, we began to fulfill our research by beginning to visit the graves of our adopted soldiers. 

As we visited our soldiers, we stopped off at a German graveyard. I found this a particularly emotional experience as it was shocking how poorly these graves were maintained in comparison to the Allied graves.

Later, we visited the Ulster tower and had a guided tour of some remaining trenches. Nathan, Kyle and Emily got the chance to dress up as a WW1 soldier, a modern day soldier and a WW1 nurse respectively.

The Ulster group at the Ulster tower!

Dressing up.

After the tour, it was time for me to visit Corporal Robert Kerr's grave. I made my way up to Mill Road Cemetary with the RTE crew, excited yet slightly nervous.

Mill Road Cemetery 

Corporal Kerr's grave

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I placed an Inniskillings poppy cross and some Fermanagh soil on Corporal Kerr's grave.

The students then held a poignant memorial ceremony at Theipval where we remembered all of the soldiers from our counties who fought in the Great War, including those who are without a grave.