in centre of photograph,
96 Sgt. Harold Joseph Barry 2nd Lighthorse. KIA 07/08/15 at
- other soldier unknown.
Photos provided by the Kenny family collection
on Mum, keep up a brave face, they say it will be over by
Christmas,” Kenny said. She
couldn’t speak, all she could do was nod while she fought to hold
back the tears.
new arrivals scanned the hillside – suddenly the scream of an
incoming shell sent them flat against the rickety pier.
blast had scarcely subsided when a cool, calm voice came out of the
darkness – “Come on lads, move on to the beach – the war’s
waiting for you”. With that the NCOs took charge and followed the
direction of the military policeman as he waved them on.
Kenny was born in the northern NSW town of Guyra on August 20, 1887.
Descended from stout Irish stock with a strong Roman Catholic
background, Kenny soon developed into a fine young boy.
paddocks surrounding the family farm were his kingdom. He did his bit
around the farm, feeding the chooks, collecting the eggs and gathering
the wood. The shearing shed though, was an adventure all its own. He
would spend hours watching the shearers shear the sheep with smooth
simplicity. He would often sit alongside them as they enjoyed their
smoko and liked them ruffling his hair as they went back to work. It
was a big day for the boy when his father told him that he was old
enough to start carrying the tar bucket for the men.
Kenny family, with eight children, enjoyed a strong bond.
Unfortunately, two of the children, a girl and a boy, died at an early
age. Billy was especially close to his mother, Mary. She idolised the
boy and although she would never admit it to the others, he was her
a huge affair as the family ushered in the new century. The boys were
allowed the distinct privilege of toasting in the event with a small
glass of beer. Young
Billy scoured the newspapers. He read of the colonial horsemen’s
fight against the infamous Boer commandos. Sword fights and attacks
against the imaginary enemy filled every spare minute of his day.
1908, he was a strapping six-feet, one and a quarter inches tall when
he presented himself for enlistment in the local militia unit, the
14th Light Horse Regiment. He was soon recognised as a good, solid
soldier with a zest for learning the art of a light horsemen. He rose
steadily through to the rank of Sergeant.
1913, he sought his discharge. “Don’t like losing blokes like you,
Kenny,” his squadron commander said, “What do you intend to do?”
don’t like leaving either sir, but we’re off to Queensland. The
farm’s not doing too good and I’ve got to go where the work is.”
worked where he could find it. A competent farmer and bushman, he was
able to turn his hand to almost anything. He
developed a firm friendship with the local police constable, John
Davidson. The pair had meet when Kenny’s brother joined the force,
some years before.
would I go about joining?” Bill asked. “Just
write a letter. I’ll give you a reference and having a brother in
the force will go a long way,” the officer replied.
grinned as he completed the questionnaire.
- Do you belong to a secret
- Can you ride a horse?
- Can you ride a bicycle?
Can you swim?
- Are you in debt?
- Have you any illicit
entanglements with females?
- Are you the parent of any illegitimate
entered the Roma St Police Barracks as a trainee, on February 20,
graduation nine weeks later, he was stationed next door at the Roma St
been on the job a scant four months, when war erupted. He loved the
force but he also knew that he was a trained soldier. His mind made
up; he sought leave and presented himself for enlistment in the AIF.
allocated to A Sqn, 2nd Light Horse Regiment, which was to undergo
initial training at the Enoggera Training Camp. The men
were no sooner fitted with their uniforms and issued their mounts than
they were ordered to prepare to sail as part of the first troop
convoy, bound for Europe.
mother and sisters travelled to Brisbane to see him off.
on Mum, keep up a brave face, they say it will be over by
Christmas,” he said. She couldn’t speak, all she could do was nod
while she fought to hold back the tears. On the inside, Kenny was just
convoy sailed across the vastness of the Indian Ocean, Bill and his
mates continued their training. Map reading, physical training,
weapons, lectures and first aid filled their days. The horses also
need their constant attention, as they were the lifeblood of the
regiment. A brief
stop in South Africa and an even briefer stop in Colombo broke some of
the boredom, so did the leisure hours.
troopers honed their skills on the sands of Egypt, instead of the
plains of England. Cairo held a brief interest for Bill but the filth,
smell and incessant badgering of the local merchants was not to his
was summoned to his OC. “Yes, Kenny, we’re going to put some of
that police training to use,” the major said. “The
Military Mounted Police are a bit short-handed and with your
background and experience you’d be a great help to them.” In
April 1915, things began to stir. The infantry units of 1st Div took
on a more intensive training program.
arrived at the unit and received his briefing. He found that the MPs
were the epitome of professionalism. Always correctly dressed and
clear and firm in their directions as to what their duties would be
from the outset. They were destined to be put ashore early in the
piece and had to be ready to assume control of the beach area from the
of the campaign was utter chaos. The maps bore no resemblance to the
surrounding countryside. Units were scattered and completely mixed up
and the wounded were soon mounting up on the beach. The MPs
started work immediately to try and sort out some form of organisation
on the beach. They sign- posted the tracks and briefed sub-unit
commanders on the layout when coming ashore. Anything to get them off
shells would slam into the beach area, the MPs would quickly assume
their duties once the immediate threat had passed and keep the
continuous traffic moving. The hours were horrendous but the work
satisfying as the constant build up of stores and men continued
throughout the ensuing months. The MPs
were also tasked with the evacuation of prisoners of war back to the
awaiting cages on Lemnos and Mudros Islands for eventual movement back
was also chosen for a special duty – that of a personal bodyguard to
the Commander of the Australian Forces – Lt-Gen William Birdwood. Kenny
saw to his every need when it came to protection, especially outside
the relative safety of his headquarters dugout.
instrumental in the co-ordination of the close protection party, which
was made up of troops from a number of allied armies. With
the onset of the Aegean summer, the MPs took on a new role. The
cool, clear waters of Anzac Cove provided the soldiers with their only
form of bathing and recreation.
sight of a closely packed group of soldiers frolicking in the sea was
a tempting target for the Turkish guns, so a pass system was
introduced. The troopers would check the passes and give any warnings
as to daily threat that might challenge the bathers.
day, Kenny was going about his normal duties when suddenly he felt as
though a horse had kicked him in the head. The burning sensation in
his scalp was like a red-hot poker. When the medic ran to his aid, he
discovered a sniper’s bullet had creased Kenny’s skull.
was a close one mate,” the medic said as he bandaged the trooper’s
wound was painful but did not warrant Kenny’s evacuation from the
peninsular, not that he would have gone anyway. He had
proven himself to be a strong dependable soldier, who never shied away
from the task.
hangs up his hat
Kenny continued to provide the highest degree of service during the
madcap days of April 1918, when the German counter attack all but
captured Amiens and would have advanced all the way to the Channel,
had it not been for the dogged defence of the Anzac Forces.
having his skull creased by a sniper’s bullet, Kenny stayed on the
peninsula but took some time out to recover and send letters home.
call was always a welcomed time for Bill. As he sat on the ration box
and read the letter, he suddenly looked up.
hell!” he screamed. “What’s
wrong Bill, bad news?” his mate enquired. “Yeah,
me sister’s joined up as a nurse,” Will explained. “What’s
wrong with that, it’s pretty safe for them,” the digger answered. “Yeah,
but it’s me mum, that’s two of us away now. She’ll be worried
1915, a special visitor arrived on Anzac. Lord Kitchener had come to
inspect the situation at Gallipoli. His decision was simple –
plan was developed. The Anzac forces would be extracted over a series
of nights, under the noses of the enemy. Kenny and the other MPs would
play an instrumental part in the plan. They would continue to bring
stores ashore by day to make it look like business as usual to the
Turks, while at night they would man critical junction points, to
ensure the silent, smooth movement of troops to the waiting barges
tied up alongside the piers.
Anzac forces sorted themselves out in Egypt, the strain of the
preceding months took its toll on Bill Kenny. He was hospitalised with
severe sickness and further hospitalised later with a severe case of
his release from hospital, Bill found himself posted to the 2nd Anzac
HQ Police. He and other members of the unit would often patrol the
streets of Cairo, keeping a check on the diggers.
actions at Gallipoli had not gone unnoticed to his superiors either.
He’d learnt that he had been Mentioned in Dispatches and in July
1916, he was informed that he had also been awarded the Distinguished
Conduct Medal and by the French, the Medaille Militaire. Extracts from
the citation said it all.
general good service and devotion to duty – was present at Anzac
throughout the period first landing in April to evacuation in December
and was never absent from duty a day – carrying out various police
duties on piers and beaches frequently under shellfire – always in
was again hospitalised and following his release, he was temporarily
assigned to the 1st Light Horse Training Regt. A few weeks later he
was attached to the 14th Trg Bn. A
dispatch was distributed to all units calling on members to be
selected for the formation of the new Anzac Provost Corps.
dispatch stated that preference would be given to members holding
either the Distinguished Conduct Medal or Military Medal. Bill was one
of the first to apply and was granted selection. Then
came the orders that he had been waiting for – embarkation to France
with a promotion to lance corporal thrown in for good measure. He was
to be attached to the 1st Anzac HQ.
was a whole new ball game. The allied forces had been slugging it out
for nearly two years with the crack German units and the ground gained
could only be measured in yards, not miles. Again
the MPs were up to the task. They controlled the vital supply routes,
to ensure that the ammunition, food and water got through to where it
could do the most good – with the blokes in the trenches.
survived the winter of 1916-17, said by many to be the worst in 50
years. Standing for long hours in knee-deep mud with snow and rain
driving into his face, he manned the vital traffic points. He
still pined for his family at home. In February 1917 he requested
permission to return to Australia to visit his mother but was refused.
given a choice a spot of blighty leave or a trip to Paris. Although he
had his heart set on home, he settled for England. The
rest was like a tonic. He was able to write home and tell of the
sights and sounds of London and the surrounding countryside but all
the time he continued to tell his mother of his heartache at missing
her and his sisters.
unaware that his family feared for his wellbeing. His sisters had
written to Army HQ pleading for him to be sent home. They felt that
his service at Gallipoli must count for something. They were genuinely
concerned for their brother’s welfare.
the Army was sympathetic to their concerns, they felt that they could
not just send a man home because he was homesick. They were assured
that he would be looked after and if their relative unit headquarters
were at all concerned they would take care of the matter. So with
that, LCpl Kenny soldiered on.
picked up his second stripe at the end of March 1917. He was attached
to the second Army Provost School jumping straight to staff sergeant.
His promotion to warrant officer class two followed a scant three
weeks later. Bill
was now trained in the higher echelons of police work. He saw duty in
Corps Headquarters where security was everything.
continued to provide the highest degree of service during the madcap
days of April 1918, when the German counter attack all but captured
Amiens and would have advanced all the way to the Channel, had it not
been for the dogged defence of the Anzac Forces.
another two-week break in London in July of that year. He was able to
meet up with his sister and they had a grand time of it. As all good
things must come to an end, he returned to France, just in time for
the drive for the Rhine.
September he heard those with 1914 service were being offered
furloughs home. He was
shipped by train to Taranto and in a matter of days he was on a
troopship bound for home. When the ship docked he ran down the gangway
to the waiting arms of his family.
of the armistice and enjoyed his leave. He was finally discharged from
the AIF on January 24, 1919, and resumed duty with the police force a
month later. Kenny
married his sweetheart Christina at St Stephen’s Cathedral on
October 27, 1919. The following year, the pair was posted to the
Gilbert River Station about 400km west of Tully.
became a trusted member of the town community, displaying the fair and
firm attitude to the town’s people that had carried him so well
throughout the war years. He
received another Mentioned in Dispatches for his work in France. This
was gazetted in August 1921. “Better late than never,” he thought
1927, Kenny again received a favourable comment on his record, when he
was instrumental in recovering a number of calves that had been stolen
from the nearby Oakland Park Station. In
1932, Kenny was transferred to the Tewantin Station, this time as the
Station Officer. A further transfer to a larger station at Cloncurry
followed in 1934, where he sat his exams to become a first class
sergeant of Police. A cream posting at Toowoomba followed in 1936.
November 1942, Kenny tried to effect the arrest of one, Percy
Richards. In the ensuing struggle Kenny sustained a severe injury to
his ankle in which a bone was fractured. Kenny
was placed on sick leave but his condition didn’t improve. He was
sent to Brisbane to front a Police Medical Board, which deemed him as
unfit for further service. Bill Kenny retired from the police force
after 29 years of service.
presented himself for enlistment in the Army’s Volunteer Defence
Corps on May 10, 1943 – he was nearly 56 years old at the time.
Given the rank of sergeant, he attended an Infantry Section Leaders
Course in July of that year.
48 per cent on his written exam, 52 per cent on his practical and 53
per cent on his oral. He was promoted to WO2 on November 8, 1943 and
WO1 on March 17, 1944. As the
war moved further away from Australia’s shores, the need for the VDC
grew less. Bill Kenny was placed on the reserve list on August 1,
returned to his occupation as a market gardener and later became
involved in the Boy Scout movement, rising to the position as District
problems began to trouble Kenny soon after his release from the VDC.
He visited the local doctor who conducted a series of tests. He was
hospitalised and underwent some exploratory surgery.
came out of the anaesthetic, he saw his wife sitting by his bedside.
She displayed a cheerful attitude but the old soldier knew something
doctor entered the room he said, “G’day Bill, how are you
cut the small talk, Doc, and get to the point,” Bill said. The
doctor laid it on the line. “The news is not good Bill.” “What
is it Doc, give it to me straight?”
a tumour in the stomach – it’s as big as your fist.” “How
long have I got?” “God
knows,” the doctor replied. Bill
fought on with the same dogged determination that had carried through
his military service. He and Christina lived every day as if it were
health took a turn for the worst in early 1949. His sister Elizabeth,
who had served as the AIF nurse in WW1 and was now a leading figure in
the fight against polio, rushed to his bedside from the US.
joked about the good old days on leave in London.He said
how proud he was of her medical achievements and what she was doing
for the polio victims. He
fought on but the end was inevitable. The old copper fought his last
fight on May 15, 1949. He lost.
RACMP will name the new building complex of 1 MP Coy at Lavarack
Barracks, after a prominent military policeman. The name they have
chosen is William Kenny DCM, Medaille Militaire, MID.