War veteran Les Kennedy dies, aged 89

Bill Bahr, Les Kennedy and Jeanette Neville during a service at the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in 2012. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

Bill Bahr, Les Kennedy and Jeanette Neville during a service at the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in 2012. PICTURE: JEREMY BANNISTER

LES KENNEDY was a driving force behind honouring Australia’s ex-prisoners of war.

Now it is Mr Kennedy’s turn to be honoured following his death on Tuesday.

Mr Kennedy passed away this week, aged of 89, following a stroke in May.

He will be remembered as a hard-working servant of the Ballarat community, particularly for his role in the establishment of Ballarat’s Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial. 

Mr Kennedy was the project co-ordinator on the committee which worked towards the establishment of a memorial specifically to acknowledge and honour the 35,000 Australian servicemen and women who have been prisoners of war. 

Following the memorial’s formal unveiling in February 2004 by Major General (now Governor General) Peter Cosgrove, he became a trustee along with Bill Bahr, David Stewart and, in 2009, Ray Mende.

Mr Bahr said Mr Kennedy was rightly proud of his role in the establishment of the national memorial in Ballarat.

“Since 1997, he worked towards this, getting local people involved. He served on one of the ships that went to Japan to bring back the prisoners of war and it was something that touched him deeply,” Mr Bahr said. 

“Les has been a driving force of the memorial committee. There is no doubt about that. He will be remembered for his doggedness to make sure everything was right.

“I have a great amount of respect for Les and his achievements and this is a sad loss for the Ballarat community. “The memorial was something he was enormously proud of. We had a great committee with a lot of fantastic people.”

Mr Kennedy was born in Ararat in 1925 and joined the Royal Australian Navy in October 1942 as a 17-year-old. 

While never a prisoner of war himself, Mr Kennedy served on the armed merchant cruiser HMAS Manoora which, at the end of the war, transported Australian prisoners of war held captive in Japan and Singapore back home. During that period he saw for himself the horrors the POWs suffered.

Mr Kennedy was discharged from the Royal Australian Navy in 1946 just before his 21st birthday.

He owned and operated Inland Motor Body Works for 50 years. 

He was elected mayor of the City of Ballarat in 1966 and served as a councillor for seven years.

A passionate supporter of returned servicemen and women, Mr Kennedy was past president of Ballarat Legacy, former president of the Navy Association of Australia, past president of the HMAS Manoora Association and past president of the Naval Commemorations Committee. 

He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2005 and was proud to see Ballarat’s ex-POW memorial formally recognised in federal legislation as Australia’s first military memorial of national significance, in 2008.

Mr Kennedy is survived by his wife Flora. His funeral is Friday at 3pm at Pat Cashin Funerals on Doveton Street North.

gavin.mcgrath@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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