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Private Edward Kenna
Australian Army, 2/4th Infantry Battalion

Background
Edward "Ted" Kenna was born at Hamilton, Victoria on July 6, 1919 and was educated in his home town before becoming a plumber.  Kenna enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in August 9, 1940 and served in Victoria, Darwin and Queensland. Transferred to Company A of the 2/4th Battalion, 19th Brigade, 6th Division and embarked for New Guinea in October 1944 and fought at Wewak during April 1945.

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Combat at Mission Hill, Wiruri
On May 15, 1945, while Australian forces advancing on Mission Hill above Wewak Airfield (Wiruri), Japanese weapons pits with 30 cal machine guns and riflemen that had pinned down two sections of No. 8 platoon of 2/4 Infantry Battalion and halted the entire assault.

Kenna observed where the enemy fire was coming from, but was unable to bring his Bren gun to bear high enough to hit the position. Kenna's section moved close to the enemy, while the rest of the platoon waited to attack from the flank. Less that 50 meters from the position, he stood up and fired his Bren from the hip until the magazine was empty and called for a .303 Enfield rifle. Firing off the shoulder of Pte Thomas Edward Barrett, his first shot killing one of the Japanese gunners. His second shot killed a second gunner attempting to man the same gun.

The position was then captured without further Australian casualties. Edward Kenna remarked in 2007. "It was just being in the right place at the right time". Kenna's brother, John Joseph Kenna was also a member of No. 5 section, No, 8 platoon, 2/4 Infantry Battalion and participated in the same action.

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Victoria Cross Citation
2/4th Australian Infantry Battalion, A.I.F. 15th May 1945, near Wewak, New Guinea
Victoria Cross
"In the South West Pacific at Wewak on 15 May 1945 during the attack near 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 heavy 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. 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 in full view of the enemy less than 50 yards away and engaged the bunker, firing his Bren gun from the hip. He remained completely exposed and continued to fire at the enemy until his magazine was exhausted. Still making a target for 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 Kenna's magnificent bravery in the face of concentrated fire was that the bunker was captured without further loss. The company attack proceeded to a successful conclusion, ...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."

Wounded at Wewak
Three weeks later also at Wewak, he was wounded in the face and chest. His face was hit, with entry and exit holes in his cheek where a bullet ripped through flesh and then ricocheted off his teeth, reversing and entering his chest. He was evacuated to the 115th Military Hospital at Heidelberg, Australia.

While in hospital, he met Marjorie Rushberry during June 1945 and asked her to marry him. According to her in 2007: "Before he got out of the hospital he told me that he was going to marry me, the exact words were 'Do you know where Hamilton is?' I said, 'No, I don't want to know where Hamilton is'. He said, 'You should, because you're going to be living there'. Here I am 60 years on."

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Postwar
Kenna was discharged from the AIF on February 22, 1946. He married Marjorie Rushberry and the couple returned to his home town of Hamilton. Funds were raised to build Kenna and his wife a home which they lived in for the rest of their lives. Kenna died at age 90 in Australia on July 8, 2009. The last of twenty Australians who earned the Victoria Cross during World War II.

Memorials and Displays
After the war, a street in Wewak was named in Ted Kenna's honor. A memorial plaque at Mission Hill (Boy's Town), where he earned the Victoria Cross.

Several relics associated with Kenna are part of the Australian War Memorial (AWM) collection, including a 30 Cal Machine Gun, with a bullet hole in the jacket (RELAWM24834) and Type 38 Arisaka Rifle (RELAWM24833) recovered from the position knocked out by Pte Edward 'Ted' Kenna of 2/4 Battalion at Wiruri Mission on May 15, 1945, and action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

References
The Australian "It was horror at first sight when wounded VC hero crossed her path" April 26, 2007
News AU "Last Victoria Cross Winner" dies July 9, 2009
WW2 Nominal Roll - Edward Kenna

Last Updated
May 18, 2014

 

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