AN UNKNOWN AUSTRALIAN SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR IDENTIFIED
The body of a Victorian soldier, killed in action during the First World War, has been identified in an unnamed grave in France, more than a century after his death.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Andrew Gee today confirmed the identification of Lieutenant James Mark Kennedy, 26th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force born 16 April 1879.
“Thanks to painstaking research over a number of years, Lieutenant Kennedy’s family now know his final resting place and he can be given the memorial he deserves,” Minister Gee said.
“It is pleasing that, as we commemorate Remembrance Day, we have been able to bring some closure to another Australian family whose loved one lost their life fighting for our nation.
“Born in Clarendon, Victoria and recruited in Queensland, Lieutenant Kennedy dedicated the majority of his life to service, including fighting in both the Boer War and the First World War.
“He was 37 when he was tragically killed near Flers on 5 November 1916, after his unit attacked German trenches near a defensive position known as ‘The Maze’.
“Due to the dangerous conditions from heavy bombardment and thick mud, Lieutenant Kennedy’s remains could not be recovered following the battle and he was commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.
“It is remarkable that after 105 years, his final resting place has now been identified. It says much about Australia that after more than a century we are still honouring our sacred national commitment to never forget those who gave everything for our nation.
“I want to thank Fallen Diggers Incorporated, the Office of Australian War Graves, the Australian Army, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, whose detailed research and support made this identification possible and has given some closure to Lieutenant Kennedy’s family.”
In consultation with Lieutenant Kennedy’s grandchildren, arrangements will be made to replace the previously unmarked headstone with one bearing his name and service details.
Lieutenant Kennedy’s grandson Mark Kennedy said learning of his grandfather’s burial location was a small miracle.
“Since 1987 I’ve tried here and there to search for information regarding my grandfather’s whereabouts. But like thousands of others like him, he vanished in the trenches,” Mr Kennedy said.
“I’d grown up with many stories of him from my father, so I think it’s fair to say he was lost but not forgotten.
“The love story between my grandfather and grandmother was a great wartime romance. It’s a great shame they weren’t able to be together very long, having only been married nine months.”
Margaret White, Mark’s sister and the granddaughter of Lieutenant Kennedy, said she was grateful and surprised by the news.
“I find it amazing they were able to discover my grandfather’s final resting place after so many years. I’ve got my grandfather’s medals, bugle, and other memorabilia at home and it’s quite incredible how much information is still available more than one hundred years later,” Mrs White said.
“I am hopeful I am one day able to visit my grandfather’s grave and pay my respects and continue to share these memories with my own children and grandchildren.”
The First World War remains the costliest conflict for Australian lives and casualties. With a country fewer than five million people, 416,809 men enlisted of which more than 60,000 were killed.