28 July 2011

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Private Edward Kenna,
2 / 4th Bn, Australian Imperial Force

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1939-45 Star
  • Pacific Star
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • Australian Service Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal ( 1977 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal ( 2002 )
  • Australian Centenary Medal ( 2001 )

The Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Private Edward Kenna, 2 / 4th Bn, Australian Imperial Force, have been sold at auction by Noble Numismatics of Melbourne. The Victoria Cross had previously been on loan to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The Edward Kenna Victoria Cross group realised a sale hammer price of AUS $1,002,000 ( £678,000 ). The identity of the purchaser has not been revealed.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 6 September 1945 ], Wewak, New Guinea, 15 May 1945, Private Edward Kenna, 2 / 4th Bn, Australian Imperial Force.

In the South West Pacific at Wewak on 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 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.

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 immediately stood up in full view of the enemy less than fifty yards away and engaged the bunker, firing his Bren gun from the hip. The enemy machine gun immediately returned Private Kenna's fire and with such accuracy that bullets actually passed between his arms and his 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.

Edward Kenna was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Governor General of Australia, The Duke of Gloucester, in Melbourne, on the 6th January 1947.

Edward Kenna died on the 8th July 2009 at a nursing home in Geelong, Victoria. He was the last surviving Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross of the Second World War.

A state funeral was held in St Patrick's Cathedral, East Melbourne, on Thursday, 16th July 2009, followed by a burial service at St Mary's Catholic Church, Lonsdale Street, Hamilton, on Friday, 17th July. Edward Kenna was then buried in the Hamilton Lawn Cemetery, Victoria.


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Iain Stewart, 28 July 2011