Military History

The Highest Honour #26 | Richard Kelliher | Edward Kenna

By The Cove July 12, 2021
AWM 131 28 / AWM 134485A


Private Richard Kelliher VC (1910 - 1963, 53yo)

Richard Kelliher was born on 01 September 1910 in Ireland.  In 1929 he emigrated to Australia and worked in different fields until enlisting in the AIF on 21 February 1941.

Kelliher was assigned to the 2nd/25th Battalion and sailed to the Middle east in October. While in Syria he worked general duties and returned to Australia in March 1942. In September he was back with his unit in Papua and returned to Australia in January 1943 and was hospitalised with malaria. He returned to Papua in August where he was based at Nadzab, New Guinea where to 2nd/15th advance towards Lae.

On 13 September 1943, near Heath's plantation, Kelliher's platoon came under heavy fire from a concealed Japanese machine gun post. Five men were killed and three wounded, among them the section leader Corporal Billy Richards. On his own initiative, Kelliher dashed towards the post, hurled two grenades at the enemy and killed some of them, but was forced back to his own lines. Seizing a Bren Gun, he ran to within 30 yards of the machine gun nest and silenced it with accurate shooting. He then crawled out under enemy rifle-fire and dragged Richards to safety, probably saving his life. For his actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Kelliher returned to Australia and spent numerous times in hospital with malaria. In 1946 he was selected in the Australian contingent for the victory parade in London. King George VI presented him with his V.C. He died of cerebral thrombosis on 28 January 1963 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, and was buried in Springvale cemetery with Catholic rites and military honours.

Private Edward (Ted) Kenna VC (1919 - 2009, 90yo)

Edward Kenna was born on 06 July 1919 in Hamilton, Victoria. At the completion of his schooling he became a plumber and in August 1940 joined the AIF and was assigned the 23rd/21st Battalion. In June 1943 the unit was disbanded and Kenna was reassigned to the 2nd/4th Battalion where they embarked to New Guinea in October 1944.

On 15 May 1945, Kenna was involved in an action near Wewak, New Guinea where, in an engagement with the enemy, two sections attacked but were halted by intense fire after several men were hit. Kenna, in the support section, endeavoured to bring his gun to bear on the bunker, but was unable to because of the nature of the ground. Without orders, and on his own initiative, he immediately stood up in full view of the Japanese and engaged the bunker with a Bren Gun, then a rifle and then a Bren Gun again. The enemy machine gunners were only fifty metres away from him and their fire was so accurate that bullets passed between his arms and body but miraculously did not hit him. The remaining post was then knocked out by a tank and the attack was successfully concluded; many enemy were killed and several automatic weapons were captured. For his actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Three weeks later he was shot in the mouth and spent more than a year in hospital before being discharged from the AIF in December 1946.

On 16 July 2009 Kenna died in his home town of Hamilton with a state funeral held in Melbourne.


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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