Edward "Ted" Kenna was born on July 6, 1919 in Hamilton, Victoria. Nickanmed "Ted". He was home schooled until age 14 then began working as a plumber until the start of World War II when he enlisted in the . On August 9, 1940 enlisted in the Citizen Military Forces with serial number VX102142 (later changed to V55955 and finally VX700330). He was assigned to the 23rd/21st Battalion and was stationed in Victoria, Darwin and Queensland.
In May 1942 assigned to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), 6th Division, 19th Brigade, 2/4th Battalion, Company A. During October 1944 departed for New Guinea and in April 1945 participated in the Wewak Campaign at Wewak.
Combat at Mission Hill, Wiruri Mission
On May 15, 1945 when the Australian Army was advanced to Mission Hill inland from Wewak Airfield (Wiruri), Japanese weapons pits defended by .30 caliber machine guns plus riflemen pinned down two sections of No. 8 platoon of the 2/4 Infantry Battalion and halted the entire Australian Army advance. Kenna's brother, John Joseph Kenna was a member of No. 5 section, No. 8 platoon.
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. He ordered his section to move closer to the enemy and waited to attack from the flank. Less that 50 meters from the position, Kenna stood up and fired his Bren from the hip until the magazine was empty and called for a .303 Lee–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 gunfire from his Bren gun and rifle put two of the enemy posts out of action. A third post was destroyed by a supporting tank. Afterwards, the position was able to resume their advance and the area was captured without further Australian casaulties. Later, he earned the Victoria Cross for this action. During 2007, Edward Kenna remarked: "It was just being in the right place at the right time".
|Victoria Cross Citation
2/4th Australian Infantry Battalion, A.I.F. 15th May 1945, near Wewak, New Guinea
"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 at Wewak, he was wounded in action in the face and chest. A bullet hit his face causing entry holes in his cheek and ricocheted off his teeth, revsd then entered his chest. Injured, he was evacuated to the 115th Military Hospital at Heidelberg, Australia.
During June 1945 while in hospital, he met Marjorie Rushberry 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."
On February 22, 1946 Kenna was discharged from
the Australian Army. 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 passed away on July 8, 2009 at age 90 in Geelong, Victoria. He was the last of twenty Australians who earned the Victoria Cross during World War II. He is buried at Hamilton Lawn Cemetery in Hamilton, Victoria.
In Wewak, a
street is named in his honor. Atop Mission Hill (Boy's Town) is a memorial plaque honoring Private Edward Kenna, VC.
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.
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
Nominal Roll - Edward Kenna
FindAGrave - Edward “Ted” Kenna (photos)