Excerpt from “Retreat From Kokoda” by Raymond Paull

Between the main track and the creek, the mounting violence of the Horie Battalion’s attack also achieved a break-through into Dickenson’s perimeter. The impetus of the enemy’s advance carried them on, to overrun parts of 13 and 15 Platoon areas, as well as that of 9 Platoon, which Key had sent forward in response to Dickenson’s appeal for assistance. The Japanese moved swiftly into the gap, to consolidate and extend their costly gain.

Key and his Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant Stanley Bisset, a brother of 10 Platoon’s commander, going forward to study the situation, had themselves dispersed an enemy patrol. By now, Key possessed few reserves, but he sent the bulk of them, from Headquarters Company, forward in support of C Company, and for an immediate counter-attack. Amongst these troops was a Signals party, led by Sergeant R. N. Thompson, who also took command of the remnants of 9 Platoon, in which Lieutenant Cox had been killed, and all wounded men of non-commissioned rank.

On this part of the flank, the intense fire from both sides had created a wilderness of devastated jungle. The smaller trees and the foliage of the larger timber, cut down in great swathes by the bombardment, lay in a tangled mass amidst the splintered debris. Before the counter-attack, Thompson led a fighting patrol out from the patch of ground held by 9 Platoon, hoping to push the enemy back along the track. Seven men of 9 Platoon and the Headquarters Company joined him, including Pte. Bruce Steel Kingsbury, aged 24, of Preston, Melbourne. Twenty yards away, the Japanese were preparing for a fresh attack when Kingsbury charged into their midst. Armed with a Bren-gun and a plentiful supply of magazines and grenades, Kingsbury scattered and for some moments utterly demoralized the enemy.

Farther back, the Japanese machine-gunners saw him and opened fire, intent on bringing him down. Kingsbury ran on, heedless of danger, sweeping the enemy positions with the fire of his gun. The patrol, close behind, finished what he began. They passed two native huts, and reached the edge of the jungle beyond a small clearing where a tall rock, twelve feet high, protruded on the left-hand side. Kingsbury and the patrol had regained 100 yards of ground, and Thompson resolved there to prepare temporary positions. Kingsbury then was fifteen yards ahead. He had fitted a fresh magazine and was maintaining the attack when a sniper’s bullet killed him.

Thompson and Pte. Alan Avery, who had been Kingsbury’s lifelong friend, saw the Japanese on the top of the tall rock. But before anyone could intervene, the enemy marksman fired one shot, dropped to the ground on the far side of the rock, and escaped into the jungle. In the instant that they saw the Japanese raise his rifle, and heard the shot ring out, Thompson and Avery saw Kingsbury stumble and pitch forward in his stride.

Kingsbury’s initiative and superb courage in removing the enemy’s threat to Battalion Headquarters and helping to restore the Australian line in this sector, won him the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. A composite platoon, representing A, C and Headquarter Companies, held the ground which cost him his life.

VX19139 Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury
2/14th Australian Infantry Battalion AIF

Victoria Cross Citation

29th August, 1942 at Isurava, Papua

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 29th 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 counter-attack. 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 was an inspiration to his comrades.





1 Comment

Filed under Literature, Military, Non-Fiction

One response to “Excerpt from “Retreat From Kokoda” by Raymond Paull

  1. Bruce Steel Kingsbury was born in Armadale, Melbourne on 8th January, 1918. He is buried in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, Papua.

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