Victoria Cross won on the Kokoda Track

One of the biggest problems during the Kokoda campaign was supply. Douglas DC-3 transport aircraft became known as ‘biscuit bombers’ as they dropped supplies along the Kokoda Track. These supplies were then collected and carried to the forward lines by Papuan carriers. Supplies were dropped into clearings, although many supplies missed their target and fell into the surrounding jungle or were dropped from too high an altitude and were smashed when they hit the ground. Supply dropping improved as the battle along the Kokoda Track developed. Pilots and crews became better able to pinpoint the drop areas and fly at the optimum height for the dropping of packages, however the supplies then still had to be hauled for up to three days to the front line.
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Papuan carriers, drawn from the surrounding villages or brought into the mountains from coastal villages, carried the huge quantities of supplies and medical equipment necessary for the campaign. Sometimes they were also assisted by troops.
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High in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea, in treacherous conditions of ankle deep mud the battle for the Kokoda Track again intensified. The Japanese had been re-inforced and now outnumbered the Australian defenders five to one. They now sought to annihilate the remaining band of Australian troops barring their way along the Track.

They came very close to doing so but the actions of one man are considered to have turned the course of the battle, slowing the Japanese advance and enabling the remainder of his unit to make a fighting retreat.

Studio portrait of VX19139 Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury VC, Australian 2/14th Infantry Battalion.

From the Victoria Cross citation for Private Bruce Steel Kingsbury:

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 the 29th August, 1942, the enemy attacked in such force that they succeeded in breaking through the Battalion’s right flank, creating a serious threat both to the rest of the Battalion and to its Headquarters.

To avoid the situation becoming more desperate, it was essential to regain immediately the lost ground on the right flank.

Private Kingsbury, who was one of the few survivors of a Platoon which had been over-run 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 his Bren Gun from the hip through terrific machine-gun fire and succeeded in clearing a path through the enemy. Continuing to sweep the 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 a bullet from a sniper hiding in the woods.

Private Kingsbury displayed a complete disregard for his own safety. His initiative and superb courage made possible the recapture of the 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.

Group portrait of 9 Platoon, A Company, 2/14th Infantry Battalion on the Kokoda Trail on 16 August 1942. Victoria Cross recipient Pte Bruce Steel Kingsbury is in the first row.

Australian Veterans Affairs has a full overview of the battle at Isurava.

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