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Kennedy, Thomas (1876–1943)

by R. Sutton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Thomas Kennedy (1876-1943), soldier and labourer, was born on 5 July 1876 at Rossmore, near Liverpool, New South Wales, son of James Kennedy, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Kennedy. He served for three years in India with the Devonshire Regiment, and for nine years in the Garrison Artillery in Australia. Describing himself as a labourer, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 17 August 1914 and was allocated to the machine-gun section of the 1st Battalion. On 18 October he embarked for Egypt and from 8 December his battalion trained at Mena Camp.

On 10 April 1915 the unit embarked for Mudros and on the morning of 25 April landed on Gallipoli, and took part in the operations that day on Baby 700, the 400 Plateau and MacLaurin's Hill. During the first days of fighting Kennedy was wounded but had displayed great coolness and courage while collecting stragglers, regrouping them and leading them back into the firing line. For his conspicuous gallantry he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and was mentioned in dispatches. After hospitalization Kennedy returned to his unit on 15 August. On 22 October he was promoted lance corporal and on 7 November temporary corporal. After the evacuation from Gallipoli on 20 December the 1st Battalion returned to Egypt and on 9 January 1916 at Tel-el-Kebir he was promoted sergeant.

With the expansion of the A.I.F. Kennedy, after attending a school of instruction, was transferred to the newly established 1st Machine-Gun Company on 12 March. On 22 March the company embarked for France and entrained at Marseilles for Steenbecque, the 1st Anzac Corps concentration area in Flanders. In April the company experienced its first shelling by the Germans. During the 1st Australian Division assault on Pozières in July-August, when the 1st Brigade suffered very heavy casualties, Kennedy's outstanding performance earned a mention in dispatches. On 18 November he was promoted warrant officer, class 2, and was appointed company sergeant major. In January 1917 he was mentioned in dispatches again.

In the second attempt to capture Bullecourt in April-May 1917 Kennedy was wounded. During the operations in the Ypres sector from September to November, regardless of enemy shelling and despite being wounded again on 5 October, he worked day and night to supervise the movement forward by work-parties of ammunition, rations and other supplies. His men suffered no casualties and for his excellent work he was awarded a Bar to his D.C.M.

From January to July 1918 Kennedy attended the Machine-Gun Training Depot at Grantham, England. He returned to his unit on 9 July and on 29 August, in the operations preceding the attack on Mont St Quentin, was wounded for the fourth time. On 8 October he embarked at Taranto, Italy, for Australia and on 3 February 1919 was discharged from the A.I.F. in Sydney.

Giving his occupation as wireman, on 24 September 1925 at St Joseph's Catholic Church, Woollahra, Kennedy married Kathleen Floyd (d.1936). In the post-war years he engaged in a range of labouring jobs; as a result of his wounds, and his having been gassed several times, this period was marred by bad health. Kennedy died at Paddington, Sydney, on 25 September 1943 and was buried in the Catholic section of Botany cemetery. The epitaph on his headstone reads: 'His duty nobly done'.

Select Bibliography

  • B. V. Stacy et al, The History of the 1st Battalion, A.I.F. (1914-1919) (Syd, 1931)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921, 1924) and The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 2 July, 3 Aug 1915, 2 Jan, 16 Nov, 25 Dec 1917
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Sept 1943
  • war diaries, 1st Battalion and 1st Machine-Gun Company AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • records, Dept of Veterans' Affairs, Sydney, and Australian War Memorial.

Citation details

R. Sutton, 'Kennedy, Thomas (1876–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kennedy-thomas-6930/text12023, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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