William (Bill) Kibby
Killed in action
William 'Bill' Kibby received his Victoria Cross for 'outstanding courage and tenacity' at El Alamein, Egypt, in 1942. He risked his own life over several days, facing German machine guns, tanks and artillery fire. Kibby was killed in action and never got to see his beloved wife and daughters again.
William Kibby was born in Winlaton, Durham, in England's north. He was 11 when he migrated to Australia with his 2 sisters and parents, John and Mary Kibby. The family lived in Adelaide where William went to school.
After finishing his education, Kibby worked at a local plaster manufacturer in Edwardstown. Kibby's job was to design and install plaster decorations in homes and buildings.
Kibby married Mabel Sarah Bidmead in 1926 when he was 23 and Mabel was 19. They had 2 daughters together.
Kibby was a talented amateur artist and enjoyed playing golf. His greatest joy was spending time with his family. According to biographer Bill Gammage, friends said Kibby had often told them all he wanted was to return home safely to his wife and girls.
Kibby enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 29 June 1940. He was 37 and had spent 4 years in the citizens' militia.
After basic military training, Kibby was promoted to acting corporal, then acting sergeant. Just before he embarked for war overseas, Kibby was confirmed as a sergeant on 17 November 1940.
Kibby joined the 2/48th Australian Infantry Battalion in Palestine in December. He did not see action for more than a year after he broke his leg falling in a trench.
Kibby rejoined the 2/48th Battalion in February 1942. He served in Syria and Tel el Eisa, where West Australian Private Arthur 'Stan' Gurney was also awarded a posthumous VC.
In October, Kibby and his unit took part in the Second Battle of El Alamein. More than 1,200 Australians died at El Alamein and 3 Victoria Crosses were awarded (all 3 were posthumous):
- Stan Gurney
- Percy Gratwick
- William Kibby.
Kibby earned his VC over several days of fierce fighting. He assumed command of his platoon when its commander was killed. Kibby was killed by machinegun fire on 31 October 1942. He died attempting to single-handedly attack the enemy.
He must have known that he would die, but he kept on, silencing with grenades gun after gun until a burst killed him
[Bill Gammage, 2000, Australian Dictionary of Biography]
Kibby was posthumously awarded a VC for his courage. His citation records:
Throughout the attack that culminated in the capture of TRIG 29 and the reorganisation period which followed, Sergeant Kibby moved from section to section personally directing their fire and cheering the men, despite the fact that the platoon, throughout, was suffering heavy casualties. Several times, when under intense machine-gun fire, he went out and mended the platoon line communications, thus allowing mortar concentrations to be directed effectively against the attacks on his Company's front. His whole demeanour during this difficult phase in the operations was an inspiration to his platoon.
[The London Gazette, 26 January 1943, Supplement 35879, page 52]
Commemorating William Kibby
Kibby's leadership lives on through the William Kibby VC Memorial Shed. Founded by Vietnam veteran Barry Heffernan, the Veterans' Shed was named in honour of the Glenelg VC recipient. It was set up to support veterans of all wars.
Kibby is also commemorated at William Kibby VC Memorial Rest Area at Yarra near Goulburn, New South Wales.
His medals are held by the Australian War Memorial and displayed in Canberra at the Hall of Valour.
- AWM (undated), Sergeant William Henry Kibby (undated), Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10676875, accessed 1 September 2020.
- CWG (undated), Sergeant William Henry Kibby Casualty Details, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/2116921/, accessed 31 August 2020.
- Gammage B, 'Kibby, William Henry (Bill) (1903–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kibby-william-henry-bill-10733/text19021, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 1 September 2020.
- National Archives of Australia: Department of Defence [III], Central Office; Soldier Career Management Agency; Second Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1939-1947; SX7089; KIBBY WILLIAM HENRY: Service Number - SX7089: Date of birth - 15 Apr 1905: Place of birth - WINLATON ENGLAND: Place of enlistment - ADELAIDE SA: Next of Kin - KIBBY SARAH; 1939-1948.