Over the weekend, Australia lost our last living World War 2 VC — at the ripe old age of 90. His name was Edward ‘Ted’ Kenna, and I met him a couple of times.
It would have been 1995, possibly 1996. I was 11, and we were living in Puckapunyal, the Army base smack-dab in the middle of Victoria. Primarily used as a training facility, Pucka is little more than a massive artillery range with an Army base and a married patch attached. It’s surrounded by electric fences — not for security, but to keep the ‘roos from jumping out of the range into nearby farmlands.
Dad was running 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Echo Company in Pucka. A big intake had meant that Kapooka didn’t have enough room, so E Company was detached to Puckapunyal. The first march-out called for a bit of pomp and ceremony, and it turned out that E Company was Ted Kenna’s unit way back when (or so I’m recalling — it’s been a while).
He came over to our place for dinner, with his wife. They were both genuinely lovely people — just nice, real nice. Ted was happy to talk to me and my brother, and he was even okay with telling the story of how he got his Victoria Cross — though he cautioned us not to call him a hero, because he was just a bloke who was under pressure and lost his cool when he’d had enough. In fact, I seem to recall he called his actions ‘reckless’ and ‘a little crazy’.