The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX19139) Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury VC, 2/14th Battalion, AIF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.306
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 02 November 2017
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

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 (VX19139) Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury VC, 2/14th Battalion, AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VX19139 Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury VC, 2/14th Battalion, AIF
KIA 29 August 1942
Photograph: 100112

Story delivered 2 November 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury VC.

Bruce Kingsbury was born on 8 January 1918 in North Melbourne to Phillip and Florence Kingsbury.

Growing up in Prahran, he met Alan Avery, and the two became life-long friends. Kingsbury attended Windsor and West Preston State Schools and later won a scholarship to attend Melbourne Technical College before going on to work in his father’s real estate business.

Not cut out for office work, Kingsbury went to work on the land, obtaining a job as a caretaker on a property at Boundary Bend on the Murray River. Avery was working on a nearby property at the time.

In 1936 Kingsbury and Avery gave up their jobs to roam western Victoria and New South Wales, picking up work as they went. The pair eventually made their way back to Melbourne where Kingsbury returned to his old real estate job and Avery found work as a nurseryman. It was around this time that Kingsbury met Leila Bradbury and the pair began a relationship.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Kingsbury enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force – against his parents’ wishes – on 16 May 1940. He was initially posted to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, but transferred to the 2/14th Battalion two weeks later to join Avery, who, unbeknownst to Kingsbury, had enlisted on the same day.

Before embarking for service abroad, Kingsbury proposed to Leila, who accepted. As there was no time to organise a ring, he gave her a wristwatch as an engagement present.

The 2/14th Battalion embarked for the Middle East in October 1940 and went on to train in Palestine before moving to Mersa Matruh in Egypt.

In June 1941 the battalion took part in the Allied invasion of Lebanon and Syria. At Jezzine on 24 June, Kingsbury’s platoon attacked Vichy French troops who were holding a rocky outcrop known as Feature 1284. The attack was a costly failure, and the platoon suffered one man killed and another 11 wounded. Avery, who would be awarded a Military Medal for his actions at Jezzine, was amongst the wounded.

In January 1942 the battalion embarked for Australia for some home leave before training in Queensland in preparation for joining the fighting in the Pacific.

Arriving in Port Moresby in August, the battalion was sent up the Kokoda Trail to halt the Japanese invasion force that was advancing over the Owen-Stanley Ranges. Arriving at Isurava on 26 August, the 2/14th Battalion joined the exhausted 39th Battalion, which had borne the brunt of the initial Japanese attacks.

Two days later the Japanese began attacking the Australian positions at Isurava, and the following day the Japanese broke through the Australians’ flank. Kingsbury volunteered to join in the counter-attack.

His citation for the Victoria Cross paints a vivid picture of his final moments:
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 superb 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.

Avery was behind his best mate as he was killed, and later carried Kingsbury’s body to a nearby aid post.

Kingsbury was initially laid to rest in the Kokoda War Cemetery, but his remains were later re-interred in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery.
In a letter to Kingsbury’s parents, Avery wrote of his feelings of loss stating: “Bruce was a soldier second to none, admired by all. Personally I am lost without him here, as we had been together for so long.”

After the announcement of the award of the Victoria Cross to Kingsbury in early 1943, his father Phillip stated: “We feel a natural pride for his bravery, but find it hard to bear the loss.”
Bruce Kingsbury was 24 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 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 Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury VC, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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