Keith was born on the 22nd December 1918 in Sydney, New South Wales. He enlisted in the RAAF in Sydney on the the 24th June 1940.
In May, 1941, Keith was one of the original pilots to form 452 Squadron with Truscott, Thorold-Smith and “Paddy” Finucane. He flew as Paddy’s No. 2.
As recorded in the London Gazette on the 17th Octber 1941: Sergeant Keith Bruce Chisolm Keith joined Squadron 452 in May 1941, after a period of training in Australia and Canada. He has participated in 29 operational sorties against the enemy and throughout he has shown a fine fighting spirit. Sergeant Chisholm has destroyed 6 Messerschmitt 109s. The photo is of Keith (centre) with Squadron Leader K.W. Truscott DFC (left) and the Squadron’s Intelligence Officer on the right. The other photo was taken at Kenley airfield, England September of 1941. It shows pilots of 452 Squadron on return from a fighter sweep over France. Facing the cameras, left to right: Flight Lieutenant B.E. Finucane RAF, Sergeant K.B. Chisholm, Squadron Leader R.W. Bungey. Finucane’s Spitfire is in the background.
According to official reports, Keith’s last operational flight was as follows:
On one day in October 1941, at 1135 hrs, 12 aircraft took off for Circus 107*, led by Wing Commander C. Ryder. 452 Squadron was forming the lower layer, 20,000 feet, and escorting 22 Blenheims to the Boulogne docks. Crossing the French coast at 12l6 hrs, they were engaged by enemy aircraft. Keith was believed to have been shot down and baled out over the sea. He was last seen five to ten miles south east of Le Touquet. All the others returned to the base by 1325 hrs. Later, Keith was picked up by Germans and eventually reported as a POW. At that time, he was credited with seven confirmed victories (two shared).
* A Circus is an operation by bombers or fighter-bombers in the day time escorted by fighters, usualy against short range targets. It was designed primarily to occupy enemy fighters and to keep their units in the area concerned.
A few days later, Keith was awarded the DFM. This was the first one to be awarded to an RAAF pilot in UK. While in his POW camp, he tried to escape at various times, and was eventually successful in August 1942. He then lived with the Polish underground for the duration of the War and was liberated in August 1944, when Paris was liberated. For his exploits, he was awarded the Military Cross.
The Sydney Morning herald wrote about the story in 1946:
An Australian flier, who twice escaped from the Germans and later fought with the French underground forces in the streets of Paris, has been awarded the Military Cross. He is Flight Lieutenant Keith Bruce Chisholm, DFM of Balgowlah, New South Wales.
Chisholm won the award in 1942, but an announcement could not be made until the authorities were assured of the liberation of an AIF prisoner, under whose identity Chisholm escaped from a prison compound. This man is now safe.
The citation reads: Flight Lieutenant Chisholm’s aircraft was shot down in October, 1941, and he was forced to abandon it when off the coast of France. He was picked up by a German rescue launch and removed to a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Almost immediately, he planned to escape, and his first actual escape took place seven months after his capture.
Flight Lieutenant Chisholm and two other prisoners of war made their way to Czechoslovakia. There they were betrayed by a civilian from whom they had obtained hospitality, and were subsequently arrested. A second attempt to escape was made in August, 1942. This was eventually successful. It involved some 18 months of constant movement on foot and by raft in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, Belgium and France.
During the latter part of his travels, he contacted various underground movements and eventually joined the Fighting Forces of the Interior and fought with them against the Germans in the streets of Paris until the arrival of the Allied armies. Throughout his experiences, Flight-Lieut Chisholm showed the greatest integrity and outstanding courage and determination. His dogged, persistence and careful planning were of the highest order.
Flight Lieutenant Chisholm was a dental student in civil life. He joined the RAAF in 1940, trained in Australia and Canada and reached Britain in March 1941. In May of the same year, he was posted to the Australian Spitfire Squadron 452, which was the first Australian fighter squadron to operate in Britain. It was commanded by the late Squadron Leader R.W. Bungey, DFC, and later by the late SquadronLeader K.W. “Bluey” Truscott, DFC and Bar. In this Squadron, he flew as No. 2 to the late Wing Commander B.E. “Paddy” Finucane, DSO, DFC and two Bars.
Flight Lieutenant Chisholm was the first Empire trainee to receive the DFM. In his first kill he shot down two Messerschmidts in 45 seconds, and had six kills and a probable to his credit when he was shot down in 1941.
Keith was discharged on the 5th March 1946. He then became a wool buyer, which took him to Paris and finally New York, where he eventually retired. Living in New York obviously precluded his participation in our Association, but it is fitting that his passing on the 23rd August 1991 is recorded in these pages. Keith died in New York, but was buried in the NSW Garden of Rememberance in Lidcome, NSW.
Bruce Read and Geoff Litchfield
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association