Ross Kingston reflects on WWII

Boambee Gardens resident Ross Kingston, 95, is a World War II and D-Day veteran.

Boambee Gardens resident Ross Kingston, 95, is a World War II and D-Day veteran. He was involved in Operation Neptune, the largest amphibious landing in history, that saw 156,000 allied troops storm the French coastline on 6 June 1944 in the move to liberate France from Nazi Germany’s occupation.

Ross was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1924, and enlisted in the British Royal Navy at the height of World War II when he was just 19. He was posted to Portsmouth in May 1944, joining the crew of the HMS Bulolo. Here, he tells his story.

“I served under Commodore Douglas Pennant on the HMS Bulolo. I was 19 years old when I enlisted, 20 during D-Day. We had the choice to be either a steward or a cook and I ended up being an Officer’s Cook.

King George IV and Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill visited just before we sailed. We joined the ship the night before and then we sailed the next morning and were off the coast of France for two weeks. We got bombed a couple of days into it.

No planes were supposed to fly over the convoys, over the ships. This plane came over with the markings of a Spitfire from the English Air Force. It snuck in one day and took everyone by surprise. We were wondering what the plane was doing, we thought it was one of ours but it was a captured aircraft, piloted by a German pilot.

“We thought it was one of ours but it was a captured air craft, piloted by a German pilot.”

We were a combined operations ship so they wanted to put us out of action. Our ship was organising everything that was happening on the coast of France until the shore got established, organising the invasion. This surprise plane came over and dropped the bombs on the cabins and three officers were killed. I was sunbathing on the deck, not very far away. It frightened the life out of us.

There was not a lot of damage. They dropped sulphur bombs and it was meant to set fire to the ship but it didn’t work out. Luckily they put it out pretty quick.

There were plenty of ships around but we were the main ship and the only one bombed.

After the bombing, we stayed for almost two weeks. People were getting killed going to shore, there were bodies in the ocean. It wasn’t a very good sight.

After two weeks on the HMS Bulolo, I went to Portsmouth where I was put on another ship, a small ship. I was in Gibraltar when the war ended, on an LST, a landing craft. We were going out to pay the troops. It was marvellous when we found out the war was over.

It was a very strange time. You live from day to day but everyone was happy. You made the best of it. I’m glad I got through it. I’m 95 now, 96 in a month’s time.

After the war, I married Eileen, my teenage sweetheart. I went back to my old job at a paper mill but things weren’t the same. There wasn’t much money, and we were living with Eileen’s parents. When they were advertising for men to join the Australian Navy, Eileen rode away to apply. I didn’t know she was doing that, but five days later I was down in Portsmouth back in the navy again. I’m very happy Eileen applied. Moving to Australia was the best thing I ever did.

I joined the Australian Navy and served for six years in Nowra. When Queen Elizabeth II came to Sydney in 1954, we were the escort ship for the royal couple. We went to every port in different states, showing the flag. I was very proud. I’ve always loved the water and have always been happy at sea.

I became an Australian citizen in 1980 and received the French Legion of Honour 70 years after the end of WWII. Everyone who took part in the invasion got the French Cross. It was quite a surprise coming so long after the war.

I’ve been back to Wales a couple of times. I was there for the 75th anniversary of D-Day and we had a marvellous time. We went back to France and were treated like lords. The experience you can never explain. We were on the go all the time, one ship to another.

“It was a great life. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

I wear my medals every ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. I think people should reflect and remember every year. People [at the services] are very Australian. People are very proud to be Australian. I know I am.”

 

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