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Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury (Posthumous)

Friday 9 August, 2019

Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury (Posthumous)

2/14th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force

29 August 1942, Isurava, Papua


Bruce Steel Kingsbury was born in North Melbourne on 8 January 1918.  He attended Melbourne Technical College on a scholarship and then worked in his father’s real estate business before deciding to work on the land.  After a couple of years, Kingsbury decided that working the land was not for him and moved back to the city to again work in real estate.  Shortly after, he met Leila Bradbury, who would become his fiancée.

Kingsbury enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 16 May 1940, against his parents’ wishes.  His mother’s reaction to the announcement of his Victoria Cross was unexpected.  She believed ‘no VCs should be given’, and that Kingsbury would have considered the distinction unfair to the other ‘brave boys’.

Kingsbury was the first Australian soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for actions in the South Pacific and the first on Australian territory.



His citation reads:

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 the 29th August, 1942, the enemy attacked in such force that they succeeded in breaking through the Battalion’s right flank, creating a serious threat to both the rest of the Battalion and to its Headquarters.  To avoid the situation becoming more desperate, it was essential to regain immediately the lost ground on the right flank.  Private Kingsbury, who was one of the few survivors of a Platoon which had been over-run and severely cut about by the enemy, immediately volunteered to join a different platoon which had been ordered to counter-attack.  He rushed forward firing the Bren gun from the hip through terrific machine-gun fire and succeeded in clearing a path through the enemy.  Continuing to sweep the 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 courage made possible the recapture of the 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 was an inspiration to his comrades.

The London Gazette

5 February 1943


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