Bruce was born on the 18th January 1921 in Keswick, South Australia, and enlisted in the RAAF in Adelaide on the 17th July 1943. After qualifying as pilot, he was eventually posted to 457 Spitfire Squadron, and served with it from April 1944 to July 1945
At that stage of the War, 457 Squadron was part of No.1 Fighter Wing defending Darwin, and was based at Livingstone. While there, it was re-equipped with an updated version of the Spitfire, imported from Britain, which arrived in a grey and green camouflage scheme. This led to the Squadron nicknaming itself the “Grey Nurse Squadron” and adorning its aircraft with a distinctive shark’s mouth on the nose. On the 13th May 1944, it moved to Sattler, as well as detaching aircraft on several occasions to Milingimbi, Drysdale, Perth and Exmouth.
By early July 1944, the air defence of Darwin was handed over to several Royal Air Force squadrons, and 452 and 457 Squadrons were transferred to the newly formed No.80 Wing RAAF. This Wing had been established to support a planned offensive from Darwin into the Netherlands East Indies. The offensive was cancelled in June, but this was not communicated to the Wing, which continued to train for the operation until August. After the operation was cancelled, the Wing and its Squadrons had no purpose, but continued to conduct training exercises as a means of maintaining morale.
In February 1945, the Wing moved to Morotai Island in the Netherlands East Indies to take part in Allied offensives in Borneo. 457 Squadron flew its first operations from Morotai on the 10th February. Its main roles in this period were to conduct ground attack missions against Japanese camps and shipping, as well as escorting other aircraft engaged in attacking these targets. This involved a heavy workload, and the squadron flew over 293 operational sorties between February and the end of April. From May, 457 Squadron’s Spitfires began using dive bombing tactics as well as strafing targets with their guns.
457 Squadron then participated in the Borneo Campaign as part of No. 81 Wing. On the 17th June 1945, the Spitfires departed Morotai for Labuan Island off the north-west coast of Borneo and commenced operations two days later alongside 76 Squadron RAAF. Their primary roles were to provide air support to Allied troops in the area and air defence for the island. On the 20th June, two 457 Squadron fighters shot down a Dinah; this was the Squadron’s first “kill” since 12 November 1943. Operations against the Japanese continued until it mounted its last operational sorties on 13 August, two days before the Japanese surrender, and just after Bruce had ended his tour with the Squadron.
Bruce was involved in an incident while he was at Morotai. The following is an edited report from ADF Serials:
Accident 19th April 1945 when the aircraft (Bruce) landed from a patrol at North Strip at Pitoe, Morotai, when taxiing back to the Squadron bays. A port main blowout occurred at 10-15 miles per hour and the aircraft collided with a RAAF B-24 (A72-78) despite selecting wheels up to halt his speed. Damage to both aircraft. The pilot, Sergeant B. Miels was not injured. (Web Master: A B-24 is a Consolidated Liberator, a US heavy bomber. The photos are of Bruce’s Spitfire, A58-611, and a US B-24.)
He also had another one while he was at Labuan. The following is another edited report from ADF Serials:
An aircraft crash landed at Labaun Strip at 1120 hrs on the 18th June 1945 during heavy rain. The pilot (Bruce) tried to land on the servicable section of strip, which was 650 yards long, but in an attempt to go around, his undercarriage sunk into the mud and the airscew dug in causing the aircraft to crash and break in half. Luckily, Bruce was not injured.
Bruce was discharged from 457 Squadron on the 15th January 1946.
With thanks to Wikipedia
David Hamilton and Phil Listemann
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association