In New Guinea,
the Battalion to which Private Kingsbury belonged had been holding a
position in the Isurava area for two days against continuous and fierce
enemy attacks. On 29 August, 1942, the enemy attacked in such force that
they succeeded in breaking through the Battalion 's right flank,
creating serious threats both to the rest of the Battalion and to its
Headquarters. To avoid the situation becoming more desperate it was
essential to regain immediately lost ground on the right flank.
Private Kingsbury, who was one of the
few survivors of a Platoon which had been overrun and severely cut about
by the enemy, immediately volunteered to join a different platoon which
had been ordered to counterattack. He rushed forward firing the Bren gun
from his hip through terrific machine-gun fire and succeeded in clearing
a path through the enemy. Continuing to sweep enemy positions with his
fire and inflicting an extremely high number of casualties on them,
Private Kingsbury was then seen to fall to the ground shot dead by the
bullet from a sniper hiding in the wood. Private Kingsbury displayed a
complete disregard for his own safety. His initiative and superb courage
made possible the recapture of a position, which undoubtedly saved
Battalion Headquarters, as well as causing heavy casualties amongst the
enemy. His coolness, determination and devotion to duty in the face of
great odds were an inspiration to his comrades.
(London Gazette: 9 February 1943.)
|ANZAC DAY 2002- Bomana War Cemetery:
Australian Army Warrant Officer (WO2), Ian Risk reflects on the
heroic actions of Australian Victoria Cross recipient Private Bruce
Kingsbury at an ANZAC Day service held at Bomana War Cemetery, Port
Bruce Kingsbury, son of
Philip Blencowe and Florence Annie Kingsbury was born near Melbourne,
Victoria on 8 January 1918. At the conclusion of his Schooling he was
awarded a scholarship to the Melbourne Technical College for two years, he
emerged qualified to work in the printing industry, instead he chose to
work in his fathers real estate business in Preston a Melbourne suburb.
Not happy in this work and
missing the company of his mate, Alan Avery, he obtained a position as a
caretaker for three months on a property at Natya in the Mallee District
of Victoria, near where Alan was working on a sheep and wheat farm.
At the conclusion of his
contract in February 1936, Bruce and Alan looking for a bit of adventure
set off to walk to Sydney 560 ml,(900kl) on a working holiday. Picking
fruit at Piangil in Victoria before crossing the border and working at
Goodnight, Leeton, and Wagga Wagga in Southern New South Wales, before
making their way to Sydney where tired and homesick they immediately
boarded a train for the return journey to Melbourne.
Bruce once again entered
his father's real estate business this time in the Melbourne suburb of
Northcote, where he worked until the 29 May 1940. When against his parents
wishes he enlisted in the AIF, at the Preston recruiting centre,
completely unaware that his mate Alan Avery had enlisted on the same day.
Three days after
enlistment, Kingsbury was posted to the independent unit the 2/2nd
Pioneers, but on 7 June after meeting Alan Avery at the Puckapunyal
training camp, he gained permission to transfer to the 2/14th Battalion.
With whom he embarked from Sydney on board the ‘HMT Aquitania’
on 19 October.1940.
After receiving further
training in Palestine, the 2/14th moved to Mersa Matruh, 186ml, (300kl)
from Tobruk, where defensive positions were prepared and they immediately
experienced their first Air Raids.
Early in June 1941, the
2/14th began its first campaign, the invasion of Lebanon. Fighting their
first battle not against the Germans as they had expected but against the
French Foreign Legion.
Following their defeat of
the French, the 2/14th was given leave in Beirut, before they took up
their new position 16kl inland from Tripoli where they set up a training
camp at Hill 69.
Following the outbreak of
the War in the Pacific the 2/14th on the 30 January 1942 embarked onboard ‘Ile
de France’ formerly a 84,000 ton trans-Atlantic liner bound for
Bombay, from here they re-embarked on ‘The City of Paris,’ for
Australia, where they disembarked in Adelaide and entered a training camp
They arrived in Melbourne
on the 16 March for a weeks leave, before travelling by train to Glen
Innes in northern New South Wales for two weeks hard training,
Bruce and Alan were
selected to mark out a training camp, before they drove their new
Commander to Yandina near the Blackall Range in Queensland, 70ml (113km)
north of Brisbane
Mid July saw the training
exercise move to Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, where
in addition to physical training they were instructed in coast watch and
The Battalion moved on the
5 August 1942 aboard the ‘James Fennimore Cooper’ an American
Liberty ship to Port Moresby, which just months before had been the home
of 400 civilians mostly employed by Burns Philp.
The civilians had all been
evacuated and the 49th Australian Militia Battalion had moved in, they
were joined by the 39th and 53rd Battalions these young militia men
welcomed the arrival of the well trained and experienced men of the 2/14th
and 2/16th A.I.F. Battalions.
The Japanese landed 1,500
troops in the Gona-Buna area on the 21 July followed by a further 4,000
with Port Moresby as their target. To take Port Moresby they would have to
use the Kokoda Track, and defeat the men of the 2/14th and 2/16th, who had
moved to a position at McDonald’s Corner in order to spent a few days
preparing for their crossing of the "Track" that traversed the
Owen Stanley Ranges, which at Mt Bellamy reached 2,250mts into the sky.
The 2/14th was ordered to
march to Isurava, and relieve the 39th and retake Kokoda, a village where
the Japanese had twice forced the 39th to withdraw. The average pack
carried by the Australians during this trek over the Kokoda Track was 40
On Wednesday the 26 August
as the 2/14th arrived at Isurava, Major General Tomitaro Horii the
Japanese commander flushed with the successes his troops had, had at Guam,
Rabaul and Salamaua was ready to overrun the 300 remaining men of the 39th
and advance to Port Moresby.
Twelve rifle platoons of
the 2/14th formed a solid defence around Isurava, and waited with the
knowledge that they were out numbered by the Japanese six to one, Horii’s
artillery increased its bombardment which continued throughout the night.
Early on the morning of 28
August, Horii released the full strength of his offensive, the Japanese
attacked in waves, some despite the efforts of the Australians broke
through their lines and engaged in hand to hand fighting.
On the 29th due to the
death of their Lieutenant and subsequent serious wounding of Sgt Jock
Lochhead, command fell to Lindsay ‘Teddy’ Bear who was acting as Bren
gunner, following ‘Teddy’s withdrawal due to his multiple wounds.
Bruce Kingsbury who had distinguished himself as a rifleman found himself
with the Bren gun, fighting side by side with his mate Alan Avery who was
armed with a Tommy gun.
As Kingsbury was checking
the Bren gun the Japanese made a further attack, he immediately raced
toward the enemy, shouting, "Follow me! We can turn them back!"
inspired by his action his men followed him, as they succeeded in slowly
forcing the Japanese back to their lines. As the Japanese withdrew to the
shelter of the jungle, Kingsbury stood relieved for the moment that the
fighting was over. A Japanese sniper unnoticed by the Australians from
atop of a 4 metre rock fired a single shot which found its mark in the
chest of Private Bruce Kingsbury. Despite the efforts of Alan Avery who
carried his mate back to the Regimental Aid Post Kingsbury was dead.
His Victoria Cross was the
first gained on territory administered by the Australian Commonwealth. It
was also the first one awarded in the South-West Pacific Area.
Private Kingsbury, was
buried at Kokoda War Cemetery. He was unmarried.
Bruce Kingsbury and Alan
Avery along with Lindsay ‘Teddy’ Bear, Edward Silver, J Whitechurch,
Harry ‘Jarmbe’ Saunders, B. G. Wilson, D O’Connor, F.J. Parsons,
Neil Gordon and E.R. Jobe were members of Section Seven of the 9th
Platoon, in the 2/14th Battalion which in 1945 was described as the
most highly decorated Section in Australian and British military history.
The medals of Private Bruce
Steel Kingsbury, after many years in a private collection were purchased
at auction by the Victorian Branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League
for $158,000 and presented to the Australian War Museum on the 9th