Bob was born the 4th October 1914 in Somerton, Victoria, to Ernest and Ada Blanch Bungey of Fullarton. He was educated at Glenelg Primary School and Adelaide High School. After he left school, he went to work at the Ajax Insurance Company, as an insurance clerk. In 1936, he enlisted in the RAAF and went to Point Cook to train as a pilot. After he graduated, he was temporarily transfered to the RAF and he embarked for England on the 22nd July 1937. After further training, he was posted to 226 Squadron (Fairey Battles – see photo) based at Harswell in Berkshire on the 27th November 1937.
The main photo of Bob is when he arrived back in Australia. The photo of the Supermarine Spitfire Mark V, P7973 RH, in the markings of either No. 57 or No. 61 Operational Training Units was originally a Mark IIA, and was flown by a number of pilots, including Bob. She was withdrawn from training duties in 1944, and in February 1945 she was presented to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
As time progressed and the threat of war with Germany increased, Bob’s unit was ordered to France as part of the Brtish Expeditionary Force, and they flew to their base at Rheims. As the war progressed, Bob was executing various missions including attacking the German advance, where the Germans had trapped some French soldiers. Because of Bob’s Squadron’s action, the French were saved from capture. The Squadron was highly praised by the British Commanding officer. Another raid undertaken was the attack on the bridge at Maastricht in Holland, where Bob was lucky to come out of that raid alive as the “Battles” were nearly all shot down by the Me 109 German fighters.
When Bob returned to England, he left 226 Squadron and volunteered to join Fighter Command. He was posted to 145 Squadron (Hurricanes) which was in Group 11. Bob showed that he had leadership qualities and he was promoted up the ranks and noticed by the higher Commanding Officers. There was one event on the 7th November 1940 that comes to mind: He and several of his fellow pilots were patrolling off the Isle of Wight and were jumped by a number of German Me 109s. After a fierce fight a number of Bob’s flight were shot down at Littlestairs Point near Shanklin, including Bob. He managed to put his Hawker Hurricane V6889 down in three feet of water and though injured, to scramble out of his aircraft. He then managed to get to a hospital that was close by, and there, he got a change of clothes and returned to his Squadron at Tangmere. Two days later, he was back in the air, and he and Pyker Offenberg shot down a German Bomber. The only comment that Bob made about his ordeal was that, “the water was frightfully cold.”
On the 9th June, Bob was promoted to Squadron Leader and was posted to 452 Squadron as that Squadron’s Commanding Officer. Squadron 452 was the first Australian Spitfire Unit formed in England. Apart from the two Flight Commanders, the pilots were very inexperienced people and Bob had the great task of moulding them into a viable fighting unit. This he did with the able help of his Flight Commanders, namely “Paddy” Finucane and Dougie Douglas. Under Bob’s leadership, 452 Squadron was so successful against the enemy that for three months they were the highest scoring Squadron for enemy shot down, and equal highest for a fourth month, in all of Fighter Command.
The photo is of Bob’s Graduation at Point Cook. He is the seated on the bottom row, the last pilot on the right.
There was another occasion where Bob showed great concern for his pilots. He was on a mission into France where they were to bomb the rail yards at Lille, and they were jumped by the 109s and they were split up.
After fighting their way out of France and they were out into the channel, “Blue” Truscott was shot down and landed in the sea safely and got into his dingy. Bob stopped above “Blue” with his transmitter on so that the Sea-Rescue boys could get a bearing on him and so rescue him. This duly happened and later, when “Bluey” got back to the Squadron, he went and thanked Bob for saving his life. Also on the same engagement, Bob helped the late David Downs get back to Manston who was very low on fuel. David said that he certainly would not have made it back on that day only for the help that Bob had given him.
Squadron Leader Truscott said of Bob, “Wing Commander Bungey made the Australian Spifire Squadron. Not Finucane or anyone else. Wing Commander Bungey would not take leave so that he could continue to fly at the head of his men. He was such a wonderful leader that we would follow him anywhere. We think he is the best Squadron Leader in the war.”
Another article which gives high accolades to Bob appeared in an RAAF publication, “Kings of the Clouds” in 1943:
“One of the greatest air organisers Australia has ever produced was the late Squadron Leader Bungey, a young man of Glenelg, South Australia. He was a commander of Squadron 452 and showed genius in his job. It was his fine spirit, discretion and care for his men that laid the foundations of success. The Squadron worshipped him and its morale was unbeatable.”
Bob was awarded the DFC and the article from the London Gazette, dated the 7th October 1941 says:
“This officer has been almost continually engaged on operations against the enemy since the war began. During operations in France, he carried out many bombing and reconnaissance missions and later fought in the Battle of Britain. Since July 1941, Squadron Leader Bungey has led the squadron, and occasionally the Wing, on many operational sorties over Northern France. Brilliant successes have been achieved, and during August, the unit shot down 24 hostile aircraft. Throughout, this officer has displayed gallant and efficient leadership.”
Bob was transferred back to Australia on the 25th January 1943. He sailed from England on the 19th February 1943 and arrived in Australia on the 4th May. There he was reunited with Sybil (nee Johnson) who he had married in England, and their son Richard. Having been placed in Reserve because of his transfer, he was immediately called up for duty, promoted to Flying Officer and appointed temporary Squadron Leader, all in the one day. He was stationed with No. 2 OTU in Mildura as acting Wing Commander.
In essence, Bob’s career can be summed up with the following:
July 15th, 1937: Air Cadet
August 27th, 1937: Pilot Officers
May 26th, 1939: Flying Officer
September 3rd, 1940: Flight Lieutenant.
February 1st, 1941: Acting Squadron Leader
December 16th, 1941 Temporary Squadron Leader (Seniority December 1st, 1941)
May 18th, 1942: Squadron Leader (war subs.)
Flight Lieutenant (RAAF)
Temporary Squadron Leader (RAAF)
Acting Wing Commander.
July 15th, 1937: Air cadet, Point Cook
November 27th, 1937: No. 226 Squadron, RAF, Harswell
1939: No. 79 Squadron, RAF
August 19th, 1940: No. 145 Squadron, RAF, Drem
April 13th, 1941: Commanding Officer No. 452 RAAF Squadron, RAF
1942: Commanding Officer RAF Station Hawkings
January 25th, 1942: Commanding Officer RAF Station Shoreham
Acting Wing Commander. Chief Flying Instructor No. 2 OTU, Mildura.
Bob’s death is noted in the records as the 10th June 1943. His name is listed on the Roll of Honour in Glenelg, South Australia.
The Spitfire Association are grateful for the work and photographs submitted by Bob’s son, Ricard Bungey of South Australia.
Richard Bungey and Steve McGregor
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association