Serra Council of Australia New Zealand and the South Pacific

WW1 Chaplains - Kennedy

WW1 Chaplains Overview Honour Roll Profiles References


Born on 28 October 1881 in Kerry, Ireland, John Joseph Kennedy was ordained on the 24th June 1904 and volunteered for the Australian mission. First employed as assistant priest in Wangaratta, Victoria, he was later moved to several regional Victorian towns, including Heathcote, Shepparton, and Yarrawonga. He joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 1st December 1915 as Chaplain 4th Class (Captain), and sailed from Melbourne a few weeks later on the 29th December.

Posted to the 14th Infantry Brigade headquarters in Egypt, he was attached to the 53rd Battalion and quickly developed a close identification with the men of his battalion, though his duties extended to the whole brigade. He departed for France with his battalion in June 1916 and was shocked at the brutality of the Western Front, writing home of “scenes of carnage”. The first engagement of his men was the hard-fought battle of Fromelles (19th-20th July 1916). Working with the medical staff in an aid-post during the battle, he was astonished by the bravery and generosity of the wounded men. His work earned him the Distinguished Service Order for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’ and provided a heroic narrative. He is reported to have carried wounded men from the front trenches to the dressing station under heavy shell-fire for the entirety of the battle, returning repeatedly to the firing line. His wartime experience left him with an aversion to sectarianism and – along with his battalion – a disillusionment with the consequence of that experience, reporting that he “failed to see the meaning of the task allotted to us at Fromelles. It was hopeless from the very outset”.

Falling ill in December 1917, he left the 53rd Battalion for the 3rd Training Brigade, returning to Australia in April 1918. His appointment with the AIF was terminated on the 31st of May 1918, upon which he continued to work in regional Victorian parishes until 1936, when he migrated to the United States of America. He died in Augusta, Georgia on 18th February 1957.

WW1 Chaplains Overview Honour Roll Profiles References

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