Kevin Desmond John (Sport) BRUCE

Badge Number: S27719, Sub Branch: Largs Bay

BRUCE, Kevin Desmond John

Service Numbers: SX27152, S56405
Enlisted: 6 November 1942
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 2nd/1st Machine Gun Battalion
Born: Renmark, South Australia, 5 October 1923
Home Town: Renmark, Renmark Paringa, South Australia
Schooling: St Joseph's Convent School, Renmark, South Australia
Occupation: Wharfie at port Adelaide
Died: Natural causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 22 August 2016, aged 92 years
Cemetery: Enfield Memorial Park, South Australia
Cremated: 26/08/2016, Enfield Memorial Park; his ashes were collected.
Memorials: Victor Harbor WW2 Roll of Honour
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World War 2 Service

6 Nov 1942: Enlisted Private, SX27152, Cowra, New South Wales
6 Nov 1942: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Private, SX27152
7 Nov 1942: Involvement Private, SX27152
7 Nov 1942: Involvement S56405
21 May 1946: Discharged Private, SX27152, 2nd/1st Machine Gun Battalion

KD Bruce recalls his was service

Life story of Kevin Desmond Bruce, ex 7'11 Australian Division machine gunner, ex-wharfie.

The Bruce family lived in Renmark, my father Alex was born and bred in Mildura, Victoria and my mother Catherine Mary was born and raised in Goolwa, South Australia.

There were three children in our family. The eldest was Colin, born in 1918, then yours truly, born in 1923; youngest was my sister Nan, short for Nancy, born in 1925. Colin was five years older than me; I was two years older than Nan, my sister. Then my cousin Madge came to live with us. Her mother had passed away so my family fed, clothed and raised her during the tough times of the Great Depression.

When I was 20 years old, I had a job as a barman which I liked at the Spencer Hotel in Whyalla: the staff and customers were decent people; most of the chaps were employed at the shipyards and liked a beer at the local hotel after work. I enjoyed a game of football and got the odd game in with Centrals, the local team. Bill Footer my boss, used to play for West Adelaide in the SANFL so that sort of started off my football career. We won a premiership, so all the local boys made us very welcome.

I was enjoying living and working in Whyalla very much, but the war was still going on and I was wondering what I wanted to do, that is, to join up and serve in one of the services. My boss Bill told me he could get me an exemption from war service as the chaps employed at the shipyards enjoyed a beer when they knocked off work and I had to serve them. I didn't listen and went down to Adelaide and tried to join the Air Force because I wanted to be aircrew, but they wouldn't take me because I didn't have the necessary educational qualifications. So, I joined the army instead. I was just turned 20, which was to have consequences later.

My first months in the army, we spent in tents on the Larges Bay oval and we trained to be machine gunners. Each night we patrolled the beaches between Larges and Semaphore, we even made machine gun nests on the beaches. It was here that I met the bloke who was to be my best army mate, a West-Aussie lad, born and bred in Kalgoorlie, Wally Darcy (Dare).
Sometimes the CO, a big-hearted army major, would give us a couple of hours off and some of us, who would like a glass of lager, would patronise the Largs Pier Hotel. So my mate Wally and I would adjourn to the Largs Pier front bar, along with Felix and Bob
Kimpton from Pinnaroo. One hot afternoon, sitting at the front bar, enjoying a glass of liquid amber, Dare and I have a difference of opinion. Next minute we're both throwing
punches and it's on. Lasts about half a round and I finish up sitting on and cracking the big mirror they had parked in the bar. So, Dare did me; and I was not happy, so I said "outside Dare", and out the back we went, and it was on again. Fisticuffs and yours truly finished up sitting in a big bush, so I conceded Dare as victor. Six months later I found out the reason why he had managed to give me such a thumping and a boxing lesson. He invited me to go on home leave with him to Kalgoorlie, so we spent 3 days on a troop train to get there. He used to work at the brewery, so one day we went down to see his workmates and they brought out a large enamel bucket full of beer, a champion drop, and the chaps are saying "Welcome home Champ, hope you enjoy home leave Champ". I asked a chap why they all called him Champ. I mean Dare was a sportsman, an ordinary footballer, an ordinary cricketer. This bloke then tells me that Dare is the champion pug of Kalgoorlie! He asked if Dare had not told me of his pugging knowledge. I answered "No, I learnt the
hard way, he done me twice!" We were always great mates and spent our home leaves together. We only got two leaves in five and a half years’ service, the army was a tough boss and there was a war on.

I enjoyed army life very much and was selected to become a fully trained Vickers machine gunner. I had to spend six months at Cowra, NSW to be trained as a fully-fledged machine gunner before I could be accepted by one of the Machine Gun Battalions. Cowra is a training battalion. Army life at Cowra is hard and tough but I like it. On completion of the course, I applied to join the 2/1 st Machine Gun Battalion. The adjutant, rank of captain interviewed me, and I was accepted to join them. The 2/1 st Machine Gunners were part of the 7th Division.

Whilst we were stationed in Sydney, the Jap subs came into the harbour and we got the job of guarding Bondi Beach, Coogee and Maroubra, having a wow of a time! I liked it, working two hours on duty and then 4 hours off. We were stationed at the beaches for a month, the most enjoyable time of my army career. When we were off duty, we would stroll down to the local pub and have a pint. We weren't bludgers or parasites, but sometimes the local chaps would buy us a noggin or two which was gladly accepted and appreciated, because they liked our efforts as guardians of their beaches. After about a month of this, we were on parade and were told by our CO that our services were required elsewhere: New Guinea.

So we hopped on to a troop train to Brisbane and waited in an army camp for a couple of days before boarding the troopship "Duntroon". Whilst on board, the Colonel of the outfit caught sight of me, Colonel "Knuckle" Fidock, a nice bloke but very strict. He'd told me before we left that I was underage and ordered me to stay back at base. I had forged my father's signature to join up, and Pop had caught up with him and told him all the true facts. So when he caught sight of me on the ship, in convoy, on our way to New Guinea, he told me off for disobeying army orders and then sent me down to the galley and do mess orderly duties, scrubbing pots and pans and peeling spuds all the way to the Green Hell. Some trip! However, we were six to a cabin and still managed to have a good time on board. Our escort was one frigate from the RAN for the whole convoy and that was all.

After four days we got to Port Moresby, having missed the Jap bombs and torpedoes, and going ashore, we saw how the Jap bastards had flattened it. There was hardly a building left that hadn't been flattened or badly damaged.

We were ordered to put up camp half a mile from "Jackson Strip". It took us a while to get used to the aircraft, the roar and noise as they took off and landed all day and all night. One of the worst accidents that we heard about happened to the 2/31st Battalion who were waiting to disembark from their trucks and board their aircraft. A plane came down to land, hit their trucks and 150 first-class infantrymen were killed. They were due to go to the front and fight the Jap monster.

In the evening we went to the movies, outdoors alongside "Jackson Strip". If the Japs didn't come over and bomb us, we would sit in the rain and see the whole show, but that didn't happen very often. Air Force boys would sometimes come and join us and that is where we had the honour and very great pleasure in meeting Squadron Leader Jackson Bluey Truscott and Group Captain Brian 'Blackjack' Walker. Blackjack asked us if we thought he was coming in low enough when strafing, we told him yes because on one occasion he had palm trees sticking out of his undercarriage. Crackerjack pilot and good fella, I met him again about five years ago at Dr Dennis Furniss's residence down the road from here. Pleasured and honoured to meet him again. Brian rose to the rank of Group Captain. Bluey Truscott had the best record of any fighter pilot in the RAAF in New Guinea, 14 Jap aircraft, an ex-Melbourne League footballer, champion bloke! Squadron Leader Jackson had the airstrip named after him; he always came up to have a yarn if we sighted him at the movies.

Whilst we were there, they called on the machine gunners to go down to the 2nd A.C.H and guard the Aussie nursing sisters. Somebody had been stalking around, upsetting the girls at night. At the time this didn't go down too well with us because we were all volunteers, fight the Jap was our priority, not to guard Aussie nurses from some pest. Anyhow, my gun crew fronted up, and down we went. Happy Jeffrey, our gun crew number 5 was on guard duty and back came the pest who had been annoying and upsetting the nurses. "Hap" was on duty, his turn, and he asked the bloke for the password. No answer, so the Darlinghurst man let him have it, half a mag of Owen sub-machine gun. Pest is no more….. Surrey Wallace, another of the lads who went with us, continued his friendship with one of the sisters and married her after the war.

We spent 15 months in the 'Green Hell' of New Guinea as we called it. They were the worst part of my army career; I try to forget that I was ever there.

After our time there, we were put on another troop ship and headed for home. We
were all given home leave passes, the second and we didn't know it at the time, our last one, in a total of five and a half years. I spent my two weeks at home with my wonderful parents and visited friends. One thing I do remember very well was Peter Brien, owner of the Alberton Hotel, gave us free beer and £1 before I went back, as a thank you for serving my country. £1 could get you a few beers in those days and it was greatly appreciated.
Two weeks were up. It was back to the army, and it was on again, we were back with part of the 7th Divi and training on the Atherton Tablelands. We trained there for three months, and it was mighty hard training, lots of route marches and more machine gun training.

After getting fitter than we were, and handling Vickers machine guns, we're told that we were off to Borneo to fight the Borneo campaign. We were duly informed that we were to go to Balikpapan. A big oil port in Borneo. The Japs are taking the oil and using it to bolster their war efforts, so the 7th Divi were to crack it for them….. capture Balipapen and cut off the oil supplies for the Jap monster.

So we landed in Balik 5am one Sunday morning, the 7th Aussie Gunners Division. My platoon of D Company, 2/1st machine gunners were attached to C company, 2/10 Battalion, 18th Brigade of the 7th Division B. We were told that our mission was to attack Hill 87 where there were a thousand Jap marines. C Company of 2/10th went up the hill with bare bayonets. We went with them, but we were firing Vickers machine guns!
They were the bravest and gutsiest men I have ever seen; C Company, 2/10 Battalion, 18th Brigade of the 7th Division.
After two days and two nights of much bitter fighting, we were successful, and the Balikpapan beach head was ours. After about ten days of fighting and cleaning up, we were told that the Big Chief wanted to talk to us, Lord Louie Mountbatten, Commander of all Forces in the Pacific. Lord Louie, drove around in a jeep on a tour of inspection, then he
stopped, grabbed a microphone, and told us that we'd done a first-class job in capturing Balikpapan and that we were to be the first allied troops to land in Tokyo Bay, Japan.

Kevin says little more. He notes that he waited a while for transport back to Australia.
Kevin was discharged from the forces on the 21st May 1946

After the war Kevin was accepted into university, to train as an architect. While he was waiting for the university year to start, he got a job at Port Adelaide as a Warfie. Kevin loved that job and the people he worked with. He worked on the Warf until his retirement.

Kevin died of natural causes in 2016 at the age of 93. He was survived by his wife May and his two sons, Kevin and Kym.

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Biography contributed by Carol Foster

RSL Information

Joined Alberton & Rosewater financial 1944

1954 - Transferred to Semaphore Port Adelaide 

1999 - Transferred to Largs Bay