Remembering Leo Kennedy – 100 years on

November 3, 2017

One hundred years ago, on 7 November 1917, Leo Alphonsus Kennedy was killed in action in Palestine. Having survived the horrors of the Gallipoli campaign, he was recuperating in Egypt before continuing on his way back to Australia. However, Leo declined the opportunity to return home, and transferred to the 12th Light Horse Regiment.

Trooper Leo Kennedy participated in the now famous cavalry charge at Beersheba on 31 October, the success of which secured the men and their horses a most desperately needed water supply. It was in the ensuing skirmishes between the Ottoman Turks and the British forces in the following days that Leo Kennedy was shot.

The Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing file collated the eyewitness reports of the death of Trooper Kennedy:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -‘He was about 5ft 6in in height, fair complexion, thick set, was about 21 years of age and was a native of Moonee Ponds Victoria -¦ He was struck by a bullet in the left shoulder and was killed at Sheria -¦’

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -‘-¦ I saw him killed by Machine Guns bullet in left shoulder. About mid-day on 7/11/17 we were dismounting prior to going into action as supports for Infantry at Sheria, Palestine, when he was killed. I do not know where buried -¦’

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -‘I saw him killed at Tel-el-Sheria -¦ He was alongside of me and a bullet struck him on neck near shoulder, he only lived about ten minutes. I saw him buried where he fell and a cross was put over the grave with his name and number’.

Leo Alphonsus Kennedy was reinterred at the Beersheba War Cemetery. He was only 22 years old at his death. His effects were returned to his mother, and they included a leather brief bag containing one photo, two notebooks containing envelopes, letter and post cards, one writing pad, one puzzle, one gold ring, one watch, one tin toilet powder, two sticks shaving soap, one brown wallet, one razor, one fountain pen, one string rosary beads, one prayer book, one machine gun handbook, one devotional book. Leo’s mother Catherine collected this package on 12 July 1918, cold comfort in place of her son.

The connection with St Patrick’s and Leo Kennedy has continued up to the present time. The College was contacted by Liz Ryan, Leo’s great niece, who let us know that uncle Leo’s great, great nephews all attended SPC: brothers Tom Ryan SPC 2000-2005, Josh Ryan 2002-2007, and Matt Ryan SPC 2009-2014.-