Sold with original correspondence appertaining to the receipient's widow's claim for his Great War and 1939-45 campaign awards in May 1979, the Australian Army reply stating with regret that his B.W.M. and Victory Medal, lost in New Guinea, could not be replaced due to his subsequent death, and the Department of Defence (Navy Office) response stating that his 1939-45 War Medal and Australia Service Medal were 'originally issued on 17 October 1956 [but] were returned unclaimed. Consequently the medals are enclosed'; together with a Navy Office, Melbourne forwarding letter for the 1939-45 and Pacific Stars; a Great War period portrait photograph; and assorted A.I.F. badges.
[D.S.C. London Gazette 13.11.1945 'Lieutenant Kyle and Sub-Lieutenant Benham showed sustained fortitude in circumstances of great hazard in coast watching duties behind Japanese lines in the Pacific, providing intelligence to the conduct of operations': Kyle's D.S.C. was presented to the P.N.G. Government by his widow].
Temporary Lieutenant Alan Fairlie "Bill" Kyle, [D.S.C.], was born in Toowoomba, Queensland and enlisted in Sydney in February 1916, aged 18 years. Assigned to the 4th Divisional Signal Company as a Sapper, he proceeded to France in early 1917, soon afterwards being removed from the field suffering from 'strain and shock' as a result of active service. Returning to Australia in the transport Borda, he was discharged as unfit for further duty in January 1918. But this uninspiring introduction to military service belied the true bravery of a man who would ultimately become a byword among the clandestine world of the 'Coastwatchers'.
The advent of hostilities with the Japanese found Kyle employed as the Assistant District Commissioner at Namatani on New Ireland, a post which he had occupied for several years. Described by an old friend (and his future C.O.), Commander Eric Feldt, as a 'very short, rather plump man' but despite his size and shape 'a good athlete' and 'a first rate cricket player', Kyle reacted quickly to the arrival of a Japanese convoy off Rabaul. In company with his Patrol Officer, Gregory Benham, he moved off down the East Coast, collecting planters and missionaries en route. On arrival at Cape St.George, at the southern end of the Island, he obtained a boat for his growing party of refugees and requested instructions from Australia. The response requested him to stay behind in order to set up an observation post, while the remainder endeavoured to escape. Although ill, Gregory Benham insisted on staying with Kyle.
Thus ensued an epic chapter in the history of the 'Coastwatchers', Kyle being appointed, in absentia, a Temporary Lieutenant in the R.A.N.V.R. in April 1942, and Benham a Sub-Lieutenant. From the outset, in their hideout overlooking St. George's Channel, the gallant duo commenced a stream of intelligence. Just four weeks into their new found task, they were joined by ten refugee soldiers, an addition to their responsibilites in more ways than one - it was quickly apparent to Commander Feldt that his two 'Coastwatchers' would shortly run out of supplies. Consequently a parachute supply drop was organised. But no response was heard from Kyle for over six weeks, his seniors fearing the worst. In the event, when he did get back in touch, a remarkable story unfurled. Just a day or two before the supply drop, his hideout had been compromised by a local native and Kyle was compelled to take to the jungle, under fire from Japanese troops. Fortunately re-united with Benham, and seemingly none the worse for his hair-raising brush with the enemy, Kyle, and his fellow R.A.N.V.R. Officer, set off down the East Coast, stopping off at an old plantation house on the way. Here they encountered an 80 strong mobile Japanese force, scurrying out of the back door of the house as the first enemy troops entered through the front - that night the enemy got to within a few yards of their hastily found jungle hide. Fate was once more on their side, however, and they made good their escape, shortly afterwards setting up a new observation and transmitter post to the East. Once the new position was established to their satisfaction, Kyle and Benham sent a trusted native soldier to their old post to check on the fate of the refugee soldiers and their teleradio. Luckily all were safe and joined the R.A.N.V.R. Officers in their new hideout. Not long afterwards their numbers were increased by the arrival of a group of civilians under J.H. McDonald, another 'Coastwatcher' from the North of the Island. At length, Kyle secured an old plantation boat to speed up their escape, once again refusing an offer to get out with them. Inevitably tragedy now struck.
News was established that the Japanese intended to set up a Civil Administration at Namatani, an establishment that would undoubtedly weaken the resolve of the local natives keeping quiet about the work of the 'Coastwatchers'. And so it was. Although a submarine was sent to bring Kyle and Benham out on the night of 30.5.1942, nothing was ever heard from them again by radio. But Kyle's last written message offered an insight into the trials of the last week or so:
'We may get chased out again any time, and will probably lose the wireless. It is so dicky I am afraid to move it again; I think it would be the end of it. It is hidden in the bush - but not too far away - and the natives may give it away... Don't worry about us. With extra food and medicine we can last for some months unless there is more patrol activity than there has been up to date. However, I hope you can eventually get us out or we can counter-attack as they seem to murder anyone they find with teleradios... If any time you are dropping something, could you drop two coats and the appropriate rank rings? We have only trade shorts and shirts and it might make a difference if we should get grabbed...'
This message prompted a second attempt to recover Kyle and Benham, a submarine dropping off a fellow 'Coastwatcher', Cecil Mason, in a canoe, nearby their last known hideout on the East Coast. Mason ascertained that a Japanese post had recently been established virtually on top of the hideout but could gleam no information as to their fate from a local native - the latter was wearing a Japanese armband. He returned to the submarine that evening, only to disappear himself on another operation 24 hours later. Of his missing R.A.N.V.R. Officers, Commander Feldt later wrote:
'More than a year later, we found that Kyle and Benham had been captured just eighteen hours before they were to have been picked up by the first submarine. That the submarine had not been attacked at the rendezvous shows that they had kept silence in the face of questioning - doubtless savage questioning'.