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Ted Kenna VC, Australian Wewak hero, dies at 90

Kenna VC Edward (Ted) Kenna VC, who has died today three days after his 90th birthday, enlisted in the AIF in August 1940 and served in the 23/21st Battalion in Victoria and later in the Darwin area.

Later the unit was disbanded and its members sent as reinforcements to other units. Kenna was assigned to the 2/4th Battalion and embarked for New Guinea in October 1944.

On 15 May 1945, Kenna was involved in an action near Wewak, during which he exposed himself to heavy fire, killed a Japanese machine gun crew and made it possible for his company's attack to succeed. For this he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The citation reads:

In the South West Pacific at Wewak on the 15th May, 1945, during the attack on the Wirui Mission features, Private KENNA’s company had the task of capturing certain enemy positions.

The only position from which observation for supporting fire could be obtained was continuously swept by enemy machine gun fire and it was not possible to bring Artillery or Mortars into action.

Private KENNA's platoon was ordered forward to deal with the enemy machine gun post, so that the company operation could proceed. His section moved as close as possible to the bunker in order to harass any enemy seen, so that the remainder of the platoon could attack from the flank. When the attacking sections came into view of the enemy they were immediately engaged at very close range by heavy automatic fire from a position not previously disclosed.

Casualties were suffered and the attackers could not move further forward. Private KENNA endeavoured to put his Bren gun into a position where he could engage the bunker, but was unable to do so because of the nature of the ground.

On his own initiative and without orders Private KENNA stood up immediately in full view of the enemy less than fifty yards away and engaged the bunker, firing his Bren gun from his hip. The enemy machine gun immediately returned Private KENNA's fire with such accuracy that bullets actually passed between his arms and body. Undeterred, he remained completely exposed and continued to fire at the enemy until his magazine was exhausted. Still making a target of himself, Private KENNA discarded his Bren gun and called for a rifle. Despite the intense machine gun fire, he seized the rifle and, with amazing coolness, killed the gunner with his first round. A second automatic opened fire on Private KENNA from a different position and another of the enemy immediately tried to move into position behind the first machine gun, but Private KENNA remained standing and killed him with his next round.

The result of Private KENNA's magnificent bravery in the face of concentrated fire, was that the bunker was captured without further loss, and the company attack proceeded to a successful conclusion, many enemy being killed and numerous automatic weapons captured.

There is no doubt that the success of the company attack would have been seriously endangered and many casualties sustained but for Private KENNA's magnificent courage and complete disregard for his own safety. His action was an outstanding example of the highest degree of bravery.

Three weeks later he was shot in the mouth and spent more than a year in hospital before being discharged in December 1946. The following year he married Marjorie Rushberry, who had nursed him at Heidelberg Military Hospital.

After leaving hospital, Kenna returned to his home town. Proud of their VC winner, the people of the Hamilton district raised funds to build Kenna a house which remains the family home.

After the war he worked with the local council and played Australian Rules football for the local team. For many years Ted Kenna led the annual Anzac Day march in Melbourne.

Sources: Australian War Memorial and


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