Arthur Charles Valentine Kennedy, who was born in Yarram, was another of the many young men from the Shire of Alberton who had moved to Queensland before the outbreak of WW1. He enlisted at Oakey – near Toowoomba – on 30 January 1915. At the time of enlistment he gave his address as Jondaryan, about 20K north-west of Oakey, and his occupation as ‘contractor’. He was 25 yo and single. He gave his religion as Roman Catholic.
Arthur Kennedy recorded his brother, Patrick Christopher Albert Kennedy, as his next-of-kin. This brother, who was married, was living and working at Barcaldine, suggesting that the 2 brothers had moved to Queensland together. Both parents were dead, but there were several siblings back in Gippsland. The eldest brother of the family, Alexander Kennedy, lived at Morwell. There were 2 sisters, one of whom – Mrs Felix Donnolly – also lived at Morwell. The other sister, Mrs Maria Baxter, lived at Mack’s Creek via Yarram. It also appears that there was another sister living in Melbourne.
When Patrick Kennedy – the brother nominated as next-of-kin – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, he identified Yarram as the ‘town or district’ with which his brother had been ‘chiefly connected’. There is other evidence to indicate that Arthur Kennedy was still regarded as a local in the district. Most significantly, his name appears on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll. However the entry on this roll does not indicate that he was killed. His name also appears on the honour rolls of 2 local primary schools, Yarram SS and Balook SS. On the Yarram SS roll A C Kennedy is recorded as having been killed, and at the ceremony to unveil the roll at Balook SS, Arthur Kennedy was acknowledged as one of those who had made the ‘supreme sacrifice’. The Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative noted in its edition of 15/11/16 that the Shire Medallion for Arthur Kennedy had been given to his ‘nearest relative’, presumably the sister living at Mack’s Creek. Overall, Arthur Kennedy was definitely regarded as a ‘local’ and his name featured on numerous memorials. However, his death on active service was not universally noted and, as a consequence, his name is not recorded on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial.
The fact that the names of those killed were not added to the Shire of Alberton War Memorial until some 10 years after the War suggests, at least in part, why Arthur Kennedy’s name was omitted. In fact, by the time the names were added to the memorial some 13 years had passed since his death on the Gallipoli Peninsula in November 1915. However, there may have been other factors at work. Obviously his memory could only be represented in the local district by family or friends who were keen to advocate on his behalf; and there is evidence to suggest that, after his death, communication between his siblings, only one of whom was actually living in the immediate district, was poor. It is possible that his memory was compromised not just by time and distance but also by family dynamics. For example, Arthur Kennedy had nominated as his next-of-kin, his brother who was living in Queensland, and so his few personal belongings – Photos, Purse, Religious book – were duly returned to him (Patrick Kennedy of Barcaldine). However when it came to the distribution of the medals there was a problem. The relevant legislation – Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act 1918 – required that in this case – the parents were deceased – the medals went to the eldest brother. Consequently, Base Records in Melbourne wrote on 2 March 1921 to the eldest brother, Alexander Kennedy at Morwell, asking if the younger brother, as next-of-kin, should receive the medals or whether they should go to him.
Will you kindly favour me with advice as to whether you would care to have the late soldier’s war medals etc., as the person entitled to receive them, in keeping with the instructions under the Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act of 1918, or whether you have any objections to these items being handed over to your brother, Mr. Patrick Kennedy, who was nominated as next-of-kin.
The file indicates that, remarkably, Base Records received no response to this explicit request. Consequently, in line with the legislation, the medals were in fact despatched to the eldest brother.
Similarly, in July 1916, nearly 2 years after the death of her brother, the sister in Yarram, Mrs Maria Baxter, wrote to Base Records in Melbourne asking for any personal belongings of her brother. Additionally, claiming that he had told her that he had made a will in her favour, she sought advice on … what course I should take to secure his assets. She was also keen to learn details of his burial. In reply, Base Records noted that ‘certain personal effects’ had already been returned to the next-of-kin – the brother living in Queensland – and that there was no record of any ‘will’. In relation to her brother’s financial affairs she was told to communicate with the Military Paymaster, Victoria Barracks, Brisbane.
It is difficult to interpret this very limited range of written evidence from 100 years ago, but it does at least suggest that there was not much communication between this particular set of siblings and that this could have been a factor that compromised the memory of Arthur Kennedy in the local community.
The official record states that Private Arthur Kennedy ‘died of wounds’ on 27 November 1915. However, the actual details recorded in his service file are, on the face of it, confusing. The file states that Private Arthur Kennedy rejoined his battalion from the 7th Field Ambulance on 3 November 1915 and the next, and only other, entry states that he ‘died of wounds’ on 27 November 1915. Without any additional evidence, interpreting these two details would be fraught. For example, did he die of wounds received sometime before 3 November? Or was there no causal relationship between the two details? Fortunately, the war diary for the 25 Battalion over this period featured a detailed list of those men who were killed or wounded. This list indicates that Private Arthur Kennedy did not die of wounds but was in fact ‘killed in action’ on 27 November.
The 25th Battalion did not reach the Gallipoli Peninsula until early September 1915. In early November it was in the front line at Gallipoli, engaged in reinforcing trenches and mining the Turkish lines. There was a steady flow of casualties and, as indicated, these were recorded in detail in the war diary. There is no record in the war diary of Arthur Kennedy being wounded at this time. This suggests that his stint in the 7th Field Ambulance in early November was not related to any wound received in battle. It was more likely to have been a common field sickness such as diarrhoea.
On 10 November 25 Battalion was withdrawn to the relative safety of Reserve Gulley and started work constructing bomb proof dugouts and quarters for Winter. This work continued until 25 November when the battalion was told to prepare to embark immediately for Mudros. In the end, it did not leave the Peninsula until the complete evacuation of all Anzac forces in mid December.
On the 26 November the weather broke and there was a major storm. Its impact was recorded in the battalion war diary:
Weather broke and storm lasted about 24 hours – first rain – afterwards snow during night 26/27. Snow on ground – mens bivouacs bad – much discomfort experienced by Bn. The first time many men of the Bn. saw snow. [ 25 Battalion had been formed in Queensland]
Despite the atrocious weather – Prior (2009, p.226) claims that in the storm as many as 8,000 Allied troops suffered frostbite and perhaps 500 drowned in their trenches and dugouts – there was little let up in the fighting. An appendix in the war diary of 25 Battalion – List of men killed in action for November – records that on 27 November Private Arthur Kennedy was killed in action. It appears he was the only battle casualty in the battalion that day. The records states: S.W. in dig-out Reserve Gulley. Presumably he was hit by a shell and died from his wounds soon after, before they could get him to a casualty clearing station. It is academic whether his death should have been reported as ‘killed in action’ or ‘died of wounds’ (within a very short time of being hit by shrapnel). He was buried the next day by Chaplain Canon H S Reid at New Zealand Point Cemetery.
Arthur Kennedy died a very long way from Yarram where he was born. He was clearly identified as a ‘local’ but the actual memory the local community had of him was destined to be imperfect.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
Prior, R 2009, Gallipoli: The End of the Myth, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney