b. 01/09/1910 Ballybeggan, Ireland. d. 28/01/1963 Melbourne, Australia.
He was born in Ballybeggan, Tralee, County Kerry and emigrated to Queensland, Australia in 1929 with his sister Norah. Due to lack of work during the Great Depression his sister moved to Sydney while Kelliher became a swagman, working a variety of jobs. Kelliher enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 21 February 1941, and was sent to the Middle East. He was assigned to the 2/25th Battalion, (Queensland) which was on garrison duty in Syria. The battalion returned to Australia in March 1942 and was sent to New Guinea, where it took part in the Battle of Buna-Gona, later that year. During this battle Kelliher was arrested after allegedly running from the front. He was later court martialled for cowardice in the face of the enemy where he claimed his platoon commander had sent him back for information. The commander had been killed in the battle and Kelliher had no witnesses to his version. He was acquitted and after rejoining his unit stated he would prove he was no coward.
On 13 September 1943, during the Battle of Lae, the platoon to which Private Kelliher was attached came under very heavy fire from a concealed Japanese machine gun, at Heath's Plantation. The machine gun inflicted severe casualties and prevented the platoon's advance. Private Kelliher suddenly, on his own initiative, dashed towards the post and hurled two grenades at it, which killed some of the enemy. He returned to his section, seized a Bren gun, dashed back to the enemy post and silenced it. He then asked permission to go out again to rescue his wounded section leader, which he accomplished successfully under heavy fire from another enemy position.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA.
BURIAL PLACE: SPRINGVALE CEMETERY, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA. (ASHES INTERRED).
Medals at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. - Memorials to Valour
Kelliher VC Memorial Park, Campbell, ACT
Anzac Park, Townsville, Queensland
(Photo: Jason Daniels)
Kokoda Memorial Walkway, Concord, New South Wales