Edward Kenna VC, Australia’s last surviving World War II holder of the Victoria Cross, died aged 90 on Wednesday. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in May 1945 for action he took near Wewak in New Guinea. He exposed himself to heavy gunfire when his company was held up by a machine gun post on a ridge. (The original citation is published below.)
Private Kenna stood up in clear view of the enemy, less than 50 metres away, and started firing his Bren gun from the hip. Under a constant hail of bullets from the Japanese, he exhausted all of the ammunition in the magazine of the Bren and then continued firing with a rifle and shooting dead two more machine gunners with two rounds.
Three weeks later he was shot in the mouth and spent more than a year recovering in hospital. He was a father of four, grandfather of 12 and great-grandfather of 15.
Mr Kenna's youngest daughter, Marlene Day said "He was very modest really. If you asked him he'd just say 'I was doing my job'," she said."He didn't talk a lot about it. He talked about the fun times, the mateship, but not much about the actual war."
Victorian RSL president David McLachlan says Mr Kenna was actively involved with the RSL until his death. Australia now has only two living Victoria Cross recipients, Keith Payne VC, who was awarded the VC for valour in Vietnam, and Trooper Mark Donaldson VC. His was awareded for bravery in Afghanistan.. Mr Kenna's family has accepted the Victorian Government's offer of a state funeral.
[ To see the original citation click on 'Read more' below.]
The citation continues:
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 owninitiative 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 gunfrom 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 Kennadiscarded 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, wasthat the bunker was captured without further loss, and the company attack proceeded to a successful conclusion, many enemy being killed and numerous automaticweapons 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 magnificentcourage and complete disregard for his own safety. His action was an outstanding example of the highest degree of bravery.