Thomas Joseph MCKENNA

MCKENNA, Thomas Joseph

Service Number: 1541
Enlisted: 12 July 1915, at Keswick
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, July 1884
Home Town: North Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Broken Hill
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Tuberculosis, Keswick, South Australia, Australia, 18 June 1937
Cemetery: AIF Cemetery, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, South Australia
Section: Light Oval; Row 7S; C/E/W: E; Grave 28
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World War 1 Service

12 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, 32nd Infantry Battalion, at Keswick
18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
31 Jan 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 1st Australian Stationary Hospital, Hernia
2 Feb 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 2nd Australian General Hospital: AIF
3 Mar 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 32nd Infantry Battalion
14 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, Convalescent Depots
21 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, Convalescent Depots
2 Apr 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 32nd Infantry Battalion
12 May 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 15th Field Ambulance
14 May 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 32nd Infantry Battalion
19 Jul 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix), Shell Shock
22 Jul 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HS Cambria
23 Jul 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, Miscellaneous Hospitals, Admiralty Military Hospital, Chatham. Shrapnel Wound, Left Arm
29 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, Convalescent Depots
21 Oct 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, Proceeding overseas
7 Nov 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 32nd Infantry Battalion
27 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, Miscellaneous Hospitals
30 Dec 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, HS Carisbrook Castle - 'Rheumatism'
31 Dec 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, Miscellaneous Hospitals, Admiralty Military Hospital, Edmonton - 'Rheumatism'
13 Jan 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, Miscellaneous Hospitals
2 Apr 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 70th Infantry Battalion
29 May 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 1st Australian Convalescent Depot
19 Sep 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 69th Infantry Battalion
14 Oct 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, 69th Infantry Battalion, ex Southampton
26 Oct 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 32nd Infantry Battalion
2 Nov 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, Miscellaneous Hospitals
11 Mar 1918: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, 'Newhaven' to England
23 May 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private
30 Oct 1918: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, Transferred back to France
28 Feb 1919: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1541, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Anchises

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Biography contributed by Heathfield High School

Thomas Joseph McKenna was born in June of 1884 in Broken Hill, New South Wales. His occupation was as a labourer, and he was not part of cadets or any other war. The McKenna family all came out from Ireland (Eire) in the 1800s and settled in South Australia.  He had four brothers and two sisters. His father, Bartholomew McKenna married Mary Quirk. After Thomas was born, the family moved to Adelaide and the boys of the family attended Christian Brothers College in Adelaide being all the Catholic faith.  

When Thomas was 16 years old, he played for the newly formed football club West Adelaide. His older brothers, John, and Patrick, also played in the team which in those days played in the west parklands in the city. They were successful in winning state premierships and the championship of Australia by beating Carlton in 1908 at the Adelaide Oval with a crowd of 13,000. A photo of the team hangs proudly on the wall at the West Adelaide Football Clubrooms.  World War One interrupted the player's careers and football was suspended for that period. Thomas played 76 games for West Adelaide.

At the age of 32, Thomas joined up for service in the Army on 12th of July 1915 at Keswick. Thomas was a part of the 32nd Battalion which was raised as a part of the 8th Brigade at Mitcham, South Australia on the 9th of August 1915. The Battalion sailed from Adelaide on the 18th of November 1915.

Thomas had several hernias (or the same hernia failing to heal), which are the protrusion of organs, such as intestines, through a weakened section of the abdominal wall. He was in and out of hospitals and Convalescent Depots from January to April 1916. Finally, he re-joined the 32nd Battalion on the 14th of May 1916. The 32nd Battalion joined the newly raised 5th Australian Division in Egypt and proceeded to France in June 1916. The Battalion fought its first major battle on the 19th of July 1916 at Fromelles, only three days after they had entered the front-line trenches. The attack was a disaster as there were 718 casualties which was almost 75% of the Battalion’s total strength.

Although periods were spent in the front line, the 32nd Battalion played no major offensive role for the rest of the year. Other events that occurred to the 32 Battalion included the German Army withdrawing to the Hindenburg Line in 1917. They also received "quiet time" during 1918. They were involved in operations that continued to press the retreating Germans through August and into September. They fought their last major battle between the 29th of September and the 1st of October when the 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions and two American divisions attacked the Hindenburg Line. Near the end of the war, the remnants of the 32nd Battalion were merged with the 30th Battalion.

Thomas was diagnosed with illness and was in the hospital recovering from January until April 1917. Thomas then spent much time in and out of hospital because of his Shell Shock. He went to court several times for being absent without leave (A.W.L.), and each time was charged with one day of detention and was docked pay. Thomas was then discharged in consequence of cessation of hostilities. His overall service towards completion of engagement was three years and 329 days, and his service abroad was three years and 144 days. He was discharged at Keswick on the 5th of June 1919.

After the war, Thomas eventually relocated to Angorichina Hostel in Parachillna, South Australia which was a Tuberculosis Hostel after the war. It was here that Thomas passed away in 1937. Thomas is buried in the A.I.F. Cemetery in the West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, South Australia.

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