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Bugg, Leonard Frederick (1918–1989)

by Mark Johnston

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Leonard Frederick Bugg (1918-1989), soldier, labourer, miner and tree feller, was born on 11 May 1918 at Wynyard, Tasmania, third child of Tasmanian-born parents Frederick Henry Bugg, labourer, and his wife Laura Lavinia, née Williams. He worked as a labourer and miner before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 16 May 1940. At that time he was 5 ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, with a fair complexion, grey eyes and fair hair.

Arriving in Palestine in February 1941, Bugg served in Greece in March-April, probably with headquarters, I Corps. On 31 May he joined the 2/12th Battalion at Tobruk, Libya. The battalion left the fortress in August, but Bugg stayed until December. In March 1942 he returned to Australia with his unit. Sent to Papua in August, he took part in the battle of Milne Bay. He was hospitalised with malaria in October and with infected tinea in December. Brought home to Australia, he spent periods in hospital until April 1943, rejoining his battalion in Queensland in May. He embarked for New Guinea in August.

The high point of Bugg’s military career came during operations in the Finisterre Range in January 1944. On the 22nd he commanded a section in an attack on a feature known as Prothero 2. A Japanese machine-gun and snipers hidden in trees were holding up the advance when Bugg, a Bren gunner, ran forward to a tree just 30 yards (27 m) from the enemy. Their bullets set alight his magazine pouches. Undaunted, he removed the webbing and continued firing. At his instruction, his men went round a flank while he covered them. He shot dead the enemy machine-gunner. His section then rushed and occupied Prothero 2. For his inspiring courage and aggression he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

On 30 January Bugg was hospitalised with malaria. Two weeks later he was promoted to acting corporal. He returned to the 2/12th in March and that month his promotion was confirmed. Back in Australia, he was posted to the 24th Works Company in January 1945 and discharged from the army on 5 September. In 1946 he was a member of the Australian contingent for the Victory March in London.

Bugg’s postwar life was peripatetic. At first he lived in Hobart, where a perceived slight led him to refuse to join the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. He did not join his battalion association, and marched in only one Anzac Day parade. In Melbourne during the war he had met Johanna Regina Joan Kennedy, whom he later married in Tasmania. They lived for some time at Table Mountain and Waratah. He undertook varied jobs, including mining and tree-felling, and travelled around Australia, doing some prospecting, before returning to Tasmania. Survived by his wife, their two daughters and two of their three sons, he died on 30 May 1989 at Burnie and was buried in Wynyard lawn cemetery. He had spoken little of the war, and at his funeral people who had known him for years were surprised to learn of his decoration.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Dexter, The New Guinea Offensives (1961)
  • A. Graeme-Evans, Of Storms and Rainbows, vol 2 (1991)
  • series B883, item TX500138 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Mark Johnston, 'Bugg, Leonard Frederick (1918–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 26 May 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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