Major William Cavendish

Major William Cavendish

The ‘WIJZERPLAAT’ (since 2016 ‘ZEST’, red.) gets a face.

Who was the Englishman who got killed at our backdoor during the fights in and around HEPPEN?

Major William CAVENDISH was born in London on December 17, 1917 as the oldest son of Edward CAVENDISH, 10th duke of DEVONSHIRE and Lady Mary Cécil, marchioness of SALISBURY.

William grew up in the CHATSWORTH HOUSE, the estate of the family CAVENDISH in the county of DERBYSHIRE.

In 1937, after training in the military school of SANDHURST, William found his way to the regiment of the COLDSTREAM GUARDS and the barracks of WELLINGTON in London became his garrison.

William (Billy) and Kathleen (Kick) met each other for the first time on a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 1938.

On May 06, 1944, William married Kathleen-Agnes, the eldest daughter of Joseph and Rose KENNEDY, the former ambassador of de US in England.

The marriage of a son of one of the most leading, British, protestant, noble families with a daughter, with Irish background, not raised to the peerage and belonging to one of the most prominent catholic families of the US, raised a good deal of dust in the nobility and people were talking of a real disgrace.

Edward CAVENDISH, father of the broom, was minister in the cabinet of war of Winston CHURCHILL. As well in Buckingham Palace as in the ‘House of Lords’, the British senate, the name of William was mentioned as, future partner of Princes Elisabeth, eldest daughter of King Georges VI, the present Queen Elisabeth II.

Wedding photo of Major Cavendish

The wedding, which took place in London, was limited to the civil ceremony in the city hall of the Chelsea-district. At the brides side only her oldest brother, Joe Jr., was present. He was her witness. At the brooms side only his mother and younger brother Andrew, who’s the present 11th duke of DEVONSHIRE, were present. Andrew was his best man. The rest of both families didn’t come; there was no church wedding, no wedding banquet and no wedding party. While leaving the city hall, white roses were thrown in stead of the traditional rice, but this was due the rationing and the cost of this grain, (it was May 1944) and in England almost everything was on the ration card.

William John Robert CAVENDISH

11th Duke of Devonshire
Marques of Hartington


Major, Commanding Officer
N° 3 Company, 5th battalion COLDSTREAM GUARDS
Killed in action at HEPPEN (BELGIUM)
On Saturday September 09, 1944.

That’s how William became the brother in law of John F. KENNEDY, later to become the president of de U.S.

Their wedded happiness didn’t last long, because on June 06, 1944, (on the day one month after the wedding) Major CAVENDISH disembarks on the beaches of NORMANDY. They will never see each other.

On Saturday September 09, 1944, during the liberation fights in and HEPPEN, he was deadly hit by a shower of bullets, shot out of a stable, on the moment he wanted to open the backdoor of farmstead MANGELSHOTS to enter it.
Major CAVENDISH died with a grenade in his right hand, of which he had already removed the safety pin.

Farmstead MANGELSCHOTS is now tavern ‘De WIJZERPLAAT’ (since 2016 ‘ZEST’, red.).

Major CAVENDISH was only 26-years-old when he lost his life in such cruel way. He has found his final resting-place on the British military graveyard in LEOPOLDSBURG.

Kathleen as well died in a tragically way, she found her death in a plane crash on May 13, 1948 in Ste-BAUZILLE near PRIVAS, department of the Ardeche in FRANCE.

She was buried on May 20, 1948 on the graveyard of Edensor Church, on the estate of the CAVENDISH family.

Father Edward CAVENDISH died in 1950, aged 55.
Mother Mary Cécil CAVENDISH died in 1988, aged 93.
Father Joseph KENNEDY died in 1969, aged 81.
Mother Rose KENNEDY died in 1995, aged 105.

(translation by Patrick Marquenie)

This article is also available in Nederlands