Keeling, Warwick “Keelo” Alexander

Warwick, or Keelo as he was known to his mates, was born on the 29th January 1915 in Mosman, New South Wales. He enlisted in the RAAF in Sydney on the 23rd October 1940.

Keelo was a quiet man, and a little shy. After initial training, he embarked for England and joined 457 Squadron at RAF Andreas on the Isle of Man. There he became an instrument specialist with “A” Flight. . We know that Keelo was at RAF Andreas in 1941, so he probably was a foundation memeber of the Squadron. He would have left England in June 1942 when 457 Squadron was recalled to Australia. The Squadron arrived in Melbourne in August 1942, and re-assembled at Richmond on the 6th September 1942. It began refresher training there with a motley collection of aircraft, its Spitfires having being commandeered in transit by the Royal Air Force in the Middle East.

457 Squadron returned to front-line service on the 20th January 1943. It was based at Batchelor in the Northern Territory and joined 1 Fighter Wing, defending Darwin. The Squadron relocated to Livingstone on the 31st January 1943, where it remained until it transferred to the newly formed 80 Wing and moved to Sattler on the 13th May 1944. During the Squadron’s time as part of Darwin’s air garrison it detached aircraft on several occasions to Milingimbi, Drysdale, Perth and Exmouth. While at Livingstone, the Squadron was re-equipped with an updated version of the Spitfire, imported from Britain, which arrived in a grey and green camouflage scheme. This led to the squadron nicknaming itself the “Grey Nurse Squadron” and adorning its aircraft with a distinctive shark’s mouth on the nose.

Keeling Warwick A. picUnfortunately, we don’t know when Keelo was with 457 squadron when it returned to Australia. However, we do know that he flew in the North West area and that he went to No.4 Service Flying Training School at some stage.  No.4 SFTS was a flying training school and was formed in February 1941. It commenced flying the following month and was responsible for intermediate and advanced instruction of pilots under the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS). It was based at RAAF Station Geraldton, Western Australia, and operated Avro Anson aircraft. Of intersest is a book by Leslie R. Jubbs called No. 4 Service Flying Traing School, which can tell you more about Keelo’s life there.

Keelo left the Squadron in May 1944 so it was probably at the same time as when it was deployed to Sattler. He was discharged on 31st January 1946 from No.58 OBASU and subsequently bought a small cattle property at Bundanoon, NSW.

Keelo was always very supportive of The Spitfire Association and helped at all their “do’s”.

Editor’s note: It’s a thoroughly great photograph of Keelo on the wing of a Spitfire, so hats off to the photographer, who took it at RAF Andreas in 1941. The caption on the original photo was “Instrument Basher” so there must be a story behind that.

David Hamilton and Bruce Read
Updated by Vince Conant
The Spitfire Association