Bruce Kingsbury

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Bruce Steel Kingsbury was an Australian soldier who received the Victoria Cross (VC) for his bravery during the Second World War’s ‘Battle of Isurava.’ He was the first serviceman to be awarded the Victoria Cross for deeds on Australian soil. The war in Europe had forced him and his childhood buddy Allan Avery to serve in the “Australian Imperial Force.” He first served in the Middle East before joining Australian troops battling the Japanese in Papua New Guinea, where he played a key role in demonstrating that the Japanese could be beaten. His gallantry served as an example to his fellow men, who followed in his footsteps and continued to fight the Japanese. His participation in various campaigns as a member of the 2/14th Infantry Battalion included the ‘North African Campaign,’ the ‘Syria-Lebanon Campaign,’ the ‘Battle of Jezzine,’ the ‘South West Pacific Theatre,’ and his final battle at Isurava. His dying, in the arms of a friend, was nothing short of poetic. The story of a young guy of 24 displaying such incredible bravery in the face of the enemy will live on forever.

Childhood and Adolescence

Bruce Kingsbury was born in Melbourne, Australia, on January 8, 1918, to Philip Blencowe Kingsbury and Florence Annie Steel. Before the end of World War I, his parents had emigrated from the United Kingdom. He met Allen Avery, who would become a longtime friend and fellow serviceman, when he was five years old. He received his early schooling at Windsor State School, where he was a decent student. He was awarded a scholarship to Melbourne Technical College for his academic performance at Windsor.

Career of Bruce Kingsbury

Bruce Kingsbury was a qualified printer in the printing industry before deciding to help his father in the real estate business. He despised his job, preferring instead to live in the bush. He left the city and went to work as a caretaker on a farm near the Murray River in Boundary Bend. Avery worked on a sheep property nearby, and the two planned to go through western Victoria and New South Wales three months later.

Both left their employment in February 1936, when they were 18 years old, and traveled north. They worked odd jobs on numerous farms and estates over the 900-kilometer journey. Before arriving in Sydney, they traveled through Piangil, Leeton, and Wagga Wagga. They had succumbed to homesickness and boarded the first train back to Melbourne.

Kingsbury returned to his father’s real estate firm in Northcote in Melbourne and worked there until 1940. Avery, on the other hand, was able to secure employment as a nurseryman. Despite his parents’ opposition, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on May 29, 1940, because the war in Europe was calling to him.

Initially assigned to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, Bruce Kingsbury requested a transfer after learning that Avery was in the 2/14th Infantry Battalion. They attended basic training at Puckapunyal, as part of the Seventh Section of 9 Platoon, which included drill instruction, rifle drill, and mock warfare training.

The entire 7th Division was dispatched to the Middle East in October 1940 and embarked on the ‘HMT Aquitania.’ He spent time in Tel Aviv training till they received new orders. On April 9, 1941, the unit was stationed at Mersa Matruh, Egypt, 300 kilometers from Tobruk. They were deployed to assist the Commonwealth’s forces in their defenses, and they were exposed to air raids for the first time. On May 23, 1941, they were redirected to Palestine for further training.

On June 7, 1941, he launched his first war, a 5-week invasion of Syria and Lebanon against the Vichy French. He fought many engagements in various towns during this war, the most famous of which was the ‘Battle of Jezzine.’

As the campaign drew to a close, Kingsbury and Avery were tasked with gathering and burying the dead. After defeating the Vichy French, the 2/14th established a training camp at ‘Hill 69,’ just outside Jerusalem. The 7th Division, along with Kingsbury, sailed from Egypt to India on the ‘Ile de France’ on January 30, 1942. They landed in Adelaide after boarding the ‘The City of Paris’ in Bombay.

On March 16, 1942, he was given a week’s leave, and he returned to train with his battalion in Glen Innes for 14 days before camping with Avery and their Commander at Yandina, Queensland. At Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast, further physical training and coast watching were done.

On August 5, 1942, he boarded the ‘James Fennimore Cooper’ in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, to block the Japanese from advancing on the Kokoda Track. The village of Kokoda had been taken by the Japanese twice before, the second time on August 9.

Battle of His Life

When Kingsbury and the rest of the 2/14th arrived at Isurava on August 26, 1942, the Japanese were fighting the 39th and 53rd Infantry Battalions. Major General Tomitar Horii of the Japanese launched an attack on the Australians on August 28, culminating in serious hand-to-hand combat.

The next day, Japanese forces pushed through the right flank, threatening to seize the 2/14th battalion’s headquarters. Despite their devastating losses, the Australians prepared a counter-offensive with a large number of volunteers, including Kingsbury.

Kingsbury had grabbed Corporal Lindsay “Teddy” Bear’s Bren Gun earlier that day. He took the initiative and charged at the Japanese, shooting from his hip. He killed a lot of people and caused a lot of people to hide.
Encouraged by his deeds, the Australians forced the Japanese to flee to the bush. He continued to move forward and fire, waiting for his teammates to come up while encouraging them. He was injured by a bullet fired by a Japanese sniper, who then vanished. He was brought to the Regimental Aid Post by Avery, but he had already died when they arrived.

Achievements & Awards

He was posthumously awarded the ‘Victoria Cross,’ Australia’s highest military honour, for his gallantry in the face of danger and disregard for his personal safety. His bravery and dedication to duty demonstrated that even a formidable foe like the Japanese could be vanquished. His Victoria Cross is on display at Canberra’s ‘War Memorial.’
“Kingsbury,” a Melbourne suburb, is named for him. Every year, a commemorative ceremony is held in his honor.

Personal History and Legacy

Kingsbury met Leila Bradbury and fell in love with her while in Sydney. He chose to propose to her with a wristwatch as his engagement gift after finding that he would be stationed overseas. They were unable to obtain a marriage license before he left, therefore their love tale would not end in marriage.

His battalion would have been destroyed if he hadn’t engaged the Japanese troops at Isurava and demoralized them. Despite the fact that the Australians ultimately lost the battle, his valor prevented the Japanese from bursting through the Australian lines and capturing their headquarters.

During the Battle of Isurava, Bruce Kingsbury was shot by a Japanese sniper and died on August 29, 1942. He died in the arms of his buddy Allen Avery when he was only 24 years old. He was laid to rest in Port Moresby’s Bomana war cemetery.

Estimated Net Worth

The estimated net worth of Bruce Kingsbury is not available