Kingston, James Wallace Bruce

Bruce, as he is known to his mates, was born on the 26th February 1922 in Rose Bay, New Soth Wales. While he was at school, he expressed interest in joining the RAAF and was called up on the 5th August 1942.

The first stop for Bruce was the barracks at Bradfield Park, NSW, near Lindfield, to be a Rookie. After just three days, he was posted to Ultimo for more training at the college where he started and he completed the three courses required to be in the Wireless Section of an RAAF Squadron. The first course was a smattering of engineering, (tools etc), the second was electrical (electrical motors and much more) and the third was on wireless.

After completing his courses, he found he was shunted off to Tocumwal, by the Murray Riverin NSW, in the depth of winter, where he froze his butt off before he was sent back to Bradfield Park, from where they were to be sent off to war. However, the ways of the armed forces are not always clear or straight forward, least of all for a Leading Aircraftman like Bruce and his buddies. The movements of Australian servicemen during wartime were of course classified and secret, and one can only imagine how these young men felt. Would they be excited, apprehensive or just feeling helpless, as if they were flotsam on the surface of a vast ocean. Most probably, Bruce felt all of these emotions. However, there is no doubt how they felt as they climbed aboard a bus for Central Station and after a journey of over three days they arrived in Townsville, Queensland; it was warmer than Tocumwal. Bruce Kingston - Right - 79 Sqdn

But the trip did not end there because they were then all sent by truck to the aerodrome. There, they climbed on board a DC3 for an unknown destination, which they eventually found out to be Milne Bay on the south-eastern tip of Papua New Guinea. However, their journey was not to end there, and in no time they were all moved on again to an unknown destination, which they eventually were to learn was the island of Kiriwina, north-east of  Milne Bay in the Trobriand islands, still in Papua New Guinea. There they joined up with 79 Squadron Spitfires. Now as Bruce said, nobody told him or his mates anything. They just went where they were told and were as surprised as anyone to arrive where they did. All this drawn out process was very new to a young fellow straight out of school, and the new discipline of the RAAF was a real shock.

On settling in to his duties on Kiriwina, Bruce and 12 of his mates settled down to their duties in the Wireless Section. His job was to basically service the radios in the cockpits of the Spitfires. He ran daily tests on the radios and all relative equipment, and would need to check regularly with all the pilots to make sure everything was working and in order. After all, communications in the air were vital to the safety of the pilot, the Wing and the success of their mission.

One day there was a shock to young Bruce’s routine when Japanese aircraft flew over and bombed Kiriwina as they seemed to be after the communication section. Luckily for Bruce, when the dust had settled he had escaped any damage.

As the war progressed, the Japanese were being steadily pushed northwards. Bruce and his fellow Wireless Section also had to follow, and they moved on to the next island called Los Negros, which was on the eastern end of Manus Island, still again in Papua New Guinea. They were to travel by ship, however, they were diverted to Milne Bay far to the South. After waiting at Milne Bay, they had various supplies loaded on board and after a another bit of a wait, they met up with their warship escort and sailed north again to Los Negros Island.

The photo is of Bruce and his Wireless Section. The caption on the original photo referred to the W/T Section, the Wireless/Telegraphy Section. Bruce is in the front row, extreme right.

When Bruce landed, he was a little perplexed to learn that the Yanks were chasing the remnants of the Japanese forces at the other end of the island. However, he was pleased that the enemy did not venture back to give him a visit. During the War, he saw no Japanese soldiers himself, but was aware that the Americans were interrogating a few Jap prisoners.

At this stage of the War, 79 Squadron was to have all their Spitfire Mk Vs replaced with Mark VIIIs and subsequently they all had to move back to Oakey to check over the new aircraft. After this was completed, they all then made their way back further north, bypassing Los Negros to an island called Morotai, again chasing the retreating forces of the Japanese. On Moratai, Bruce was to swelter away in the tropical heat, no doubt wishing to feel the cold of his now beloved Tocumwal.

After doing his bit, eventually peace was declared and Bruce ended his days in the RAAF and was discharged on the 11th February 1946.

As a close to this short story on Bruce, we note that after the War he served for 46 years as a volunteer in the NSW Fire Brigade, attaining the rank of Captain. A magnificent effort and all the community were most grateful to a dour laddie, Bruce Kingston. Bruce Kingston

Steve McGregor
The Spitfire Association