My wife was only a little girl but she remembers him well. He was with them for several months until they realised they couldn't cope with his behaviour and he was taken into care. He died in a Manchester mental hospital in 1960.
It was sad end for a genuine war hero.
Henry Kelly enlisted as private at the outbreak of the First World War, was promoted from the ranks to become an officer in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, fought at the Somme, Ypres and the Menin Road, and in the Italian campaign, and won the Victoria Cross, the Military Cross and Bar, the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the French Medaille Militaire.
He ended the war Major Kelly and in the 1920s went to Ireland to help train the new Irish National Army. In 1936 he joined the International Brigade to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. His rank was Commandente Generale and he was awarded the Grand Laurelled Cross of San Fernando.
The citation for his VC in part reads: "For most conspicuous bravery in an attack …he then carried his Company Sergeant Major, who had been wounded, back to our trenches, a distance of 70 yards, and subsequently three other soldiers. He set a fine example of gallantry and endurance."
His VC is displayed in The Duke of Wellington's Regimental Museum in Halifax.
Uncle Henry's bravery is well recorded but no less a hero was my Uncle Ernie. He served in the Second World War and was on the beaches at Dunkirk. Because he was a big fit man he stayed in the water for hours helping smaller men into the armada of little boats who rescued the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches under the bombardment of the Germans.
Uncle Ernie escaped, returned to Europe to fight again, but got no medals – he got cancer. I remember him, cheerful as ever although bed-ridden, as he slowly succumbed to the one battle he couldn't survive.
Every family will have someone who was involved in those world wars and subsequent conflicts around the globe. Ordinary men and women who served their country with pride and honour and comradeship. They did not ask to fight; they could not debate the morality of issues: they served, they died, they came home wounded and, sometimes, traumatised.
The wars have come and gone since then, big and small. Korea, Vietnam, Falklands, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan Sometimes the reasons have been valid, sometimes dubious. But in each case one element has been constant: the bravery, professionalism and commitment of our servicemen and women. Which is why I wear a poppy with pride, not for the death and awfulness of war, but for the sacrifice and humanity of our troops.
On Remembrance Sunday, I shall remember them: Uncle Henry and Uncle Ernie and all the young men and women now serving at home and in foreign fields.