- Name: Thomas James Bede KENNY
- D.O.B: 29th September, 1896
- D.O.A: 9th April, 1917
- D.O.D: 15th April, 1953
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Private, 2nd Battalion (NSW), 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Australian Imperial Force
Boursies, Hermies, and Lagnicourt, France 9-15 April 1917
9-15 April 1917
The First World War 1917
The Battle of Arras (9 April-16 May 1917) was planned to coincide with, and distract, German resistance to a massive French offensive, the Second Battle of the Aisne, planned by General Robert Nivelle, fifty miles to the south. In its first phase Canadian troops succeeded where others had failed, and in the Battle of Vimy Ridge 9-12 April succeeded in driving the Germans from this nearly impregnable position between Arras and Lens to the north. To the south, British and Australian troops made less spectacular advances and at a heavy cost. As part of the advance on the Hindenburg Line, 1st Australian Division was detailed to capture three villages close to the Line, Boursies about half way along the Bapaume- Cambrai road, and Demicourt and Hermies, just to the south. On 7 April 1917 the Australians began to advance towards Boursies from the north. In the fighting that followed Captain J E Newland, assisted by Sergeant J W Whittle, led an attack on a ruined mill. They then entered the village. Meanwhile, a platoon of 2nd Battalion took up a position in a chalk pit so as to engage German troops retreating north from Hermies to Demicourt. Here they themselves came under fire from a German machine-gun position. Private T J B Kenny single-handedly attacked and captured the enemy post. In the German counter-attack, the enemy succeeded in entering the trench at Boursies which Whittle and his men were holding, but Whittle managed to retrieve the position and then worked with Newland to hold the line. Their Battalion, the 12th, was relieved by the 11th on 10 April. On 14 April they relieved the 9th Battalion north-west of Lagnicourt, itself north-west of Boursies and the site of Captain P H Cherry’s VC action on 26-27 March (see above). Early on 15 April they came under very heavy enemy attack (see Lieutenant C Pope VC below) and the Germans succeeded in almost surrounding Newland’s company. Newland and his men retreated and took up a defensive position in a sunken road. Whittle, seeing the Germans setting up a machine-gun which would threaten them, charged and captured the gun. 12th Battalion was then reinforced by the 9th. Together, they counter-attacked, regaining the ground they had lost. This outcome was largely due to the gallantry shown by Newland and Whittle.
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty, when his platoon was held up by an enemy strong point, and severe casualties prevented progress. Pte. Kenny, under very heavy fire at close range, dashed alone towards the enemy’s position, killed one man in advance of the strong point who endeavoured to bar his way. He then bombed the position, captured the gun crew, all of whom he had wounded, killed an officer who showed fight, and seized the gun. Pte. Kenny’s gallant action enabled his platoon to occupy the position, which was of great local importance.