The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (25753) Stoker II Kenneth Francis Killeen, HMAS Kuttabul, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.151
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 31 May 2017
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (25753) Stoker II Kenneth Francis Killeen, HMAS Kuttabul, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

25753 Stoker II Kenneth Francis Killeen, HMAS Kuttabul
KIA 4 June 1942
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 31 May 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Stoker 2nd Class Kenneth Francis Killeen.

Kenneth Killeen was born on 4 October 1921 in Sale, Victoria, to Francis and Vera Killeen. Known as “Ken”, he grew up and attended school in Sunshine.

He served as a member of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, and in November 1941, shortly after turning 20, transferred to the Royal Australian Navy for a 12-year term. He was sent to HMAS Cerberus for his initial training as a stoker. The work was tough, but at the end of his training, he was assessed as having a very good character.

Killeen’s next posting was to HMAS Penguin located at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour. He arrived in May and was billeted aboard the converted ferry HMAS Kuttabul which was moored at Garden Island and used to accommodate sailors working on the island.

On the evening of 31 May 1942, three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour. Shortly after midnight, one of the submarines fired two torpedoes at USS Chicago, an American heavy cruiser moored near Garden Island. Both torpedoes missed the cruiser. One ran aground and failed to explode, the second exploded against the sea wall near Kuttabul. The ferry broke in two in the ensuing explosion, and quickly sank, leaving just the uppermost deck exposed. Nineteen men from the Royal Australian Navy and two from the British Navy were killed as a result.

One of those men killed was Stoker II Ken Killeen. He was initially listed as missing believed killed, but his remains were recovered in the days after the sinking. He was laid to rest with full honours in the Navy section of Rookwood Necropolis in Sydney. He was 20 years old.

The Killeen family was devastated by Kenneth’s death, and further tragedy compounded the sorrow. Soon after receiving news of her son’s death, Vera Killeen, who was heavily pregnant, went into early labour. Due to complications during child-birth, both Vera and her unborn child died.

Kenneth Killeen’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Stoker 2nd Class Kenneth Francis Killeen, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (25753) Stoker II Kenneth Francis Killeen, HMAS Kuttabul, Second World War. (video)